CBD oil for shingles
Shingles or Herpes Zoster (HZ) is a painful rash that develops in the body.
In the United States alone, one million people each year are prone to develop shingles says the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
If one in every three people are attacked by this condition, it is definitely a distressing number.
You might think that shingles are associated with a dermatological condition. Although it expresses itself as a painful red rash in various parts of the body, let us recall that in the article cbd oil for back pain we discussed in detail the different types of pain. And we understood that Shingles is a typical example of neuropathic pain that causes burning, shooting pain, nerve pain, accompanied by tingling or itching.
Having said that, the complexity of neuropathic pain in diagnosis and treatment is undeniable. Therefore to simplify the subject, this post aims to approach this inquiry keeping in mind the most common questions that one could possibly have in mind about shingles.
Of course, we would discuss to what extent cbd plays a role in such conditions and the applicability of cbd oil in providing relief from shingles pain.
Because studies have shown that the prevailing treatment options for neuropathic pain benefit only a few people as it often comes with more side effects that overshadow the benefits of the medication. This is the reason, there is a pressing need to probe into other options that could provide a better cure without contradictory after effects.
At this point, CBD oil or CBD-based products have been gaining strong advocacy from patient groups who have practically experienced relief and improvement from chronic pain.
Hence, affected patients and susceptible populations could benefit from this compilation as a reference guide to take precautionary measures and possible approaches for the cure. Let us explore further.
What is shingles or Herpes Zoster (HZ)?
Shingles is basically a viral infection that leads to a painful rash on the skin.
The NIH ( National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke) defines shingles also called herpes zoster as an outbreak of rash or blisters on the skin that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Do I have to get alarmed with the word ‘Herpes’?
The word herpes does trigger a chill. But herpes zoster is different from herpes simplex virus. The latter is the one that causes genital herpes or sexually transmitted diseases. (STD)
Herpes zoster and herpes simplex although look similar in terms of the lesions but the zoster virus presents itself on the skin in different parts of the body. And the underlying cause is the varicella virus.
On the other hand, the herpes simplex virus causes cold sores and multiple blisters in the mouth, or genitals.
Hence there is no reason to get alarmed with the term herpes.
Is shingles the same as Chickenpox?
No, they are not the same. Chickenpox is the initial infection and shingles is a post chicken pox condition that usually reactivates years later. People who have been already affected by chickenpox, are more susceptible to shingles.
In both conditions, varicella-zoster is the virus that causes the disease.
For example, once a person gets infected with the varicella-zoster virus, he suffers from chickenpox, with severe blisters that present themselves throughout the body and could last for a couple of weeks. Once the patient is out of the condition, the virus remains dormant in the body forever. In a shingles outbreak, the same virus gets activated once again after several years and expresses itself as shingles rash in one part of the body.
According to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology Association), the virus moves from the skin to the nerves once the chickenpox is cleared and in situations when it travels back to the skin, there is a shingles outbreak.
Chickenpox and shingles symptoms are different. Although both are skin infections. Let us understand more.
How do I know if I have shingles or just an allergic skin rash?
Sometimes, shingles could be mistaken for other skin allergies or conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Therefore looking at certain symptoms you can make sure that you have been affected and seek necessary medical intervention.
Shingles symptoms include:
that appears as a stripe on the left or right side of the torso
- Pain, itching, and tingling sensations begin to develop on one side of the body
- Fluid-filled blisters that appear in clusters and are red that develop in a stripe pattern
- It may also appear on the face, forehead, or sometimes around the eyes. In such a case, consulting an ophthalmologist is very important, because a severe rash around the eye could affect vision.
- People who have a weak immune system might develop a more widespread rash
- Fever, headache, fatigue, sensitivity to touch, sensitivity to pain, and stomach upset are some of the other associated symptoms.
Is it contagious?
Generally, people affected with shingles cannot spread the same to others. As a rule of thumb, whenever a person is affected by a viral infection they often stay isolated and follow hygiene in order not to spread to others.
However, according to the CDC, people with shingles cannot spread the virus before the rash or after the rash has cleared. On the contrary, people with chickenpox could easily transmit the varicella-zoster virus to another person.
At the same time, it is important to avoid contact with the fluid from blisters that could possibly pass on the varicella-zoster virus to people who have never had chickenpox.
Other side effects associated with shingles
- As mentioned above, the possibility of vision loss if shingles affect your eye. If rashes appear in or around the eyes, side-effects may be adverse.
- For most patients, the symptoms reduce in two to four weeks, but in some cases, the shingles pain persists or tends to aggravate leading to a chronic pain condition that is called Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a common complication from shingles.
Moreover, clinical trials report that postherpetic neuralgia is common in elderly persons who are affected by sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and severe depression.
How to treat shingles?
such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are prescribed by dermatologists to shorten the severity period. If you notice symptoms of shingles in your body, it is highly recommended that you seek medical advice promptly.
- traditional painkillers that are sold across the counter, prescription drugs
- Self-care includes: cleaning the blisters with a cold compress, applying calamine lotion, oatmeal bath, covering the affected area with sterile bandages, wearing loose clothing. These self-care methods may help in providing temporary relief from sensitivity to pain or the severity of the painful red rash.
- A 2018 study 1 analyzed the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicines for chronic neuropathic pain in adults. And postherpetic Neuralgia and shingles are typical neuropathic pain conditions. One of the inferences from the study is that cannabis medications may increase the number of people achieving 50% or greater pain relief compared with placebo.
Besides traditional treatments, is there any other possibility to treat shingles? Let us discuss further.
Role of CBD in treating shingles pain?
After the US FDA approved cannabidiol (CBD) as Epidiolex to treat epilepsy in children and adults, the societal acknowledgment of cannabis-based products and cbd oil for putative use has been steadily increasing.
In the same lines, the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive potential of CBD or CBD-based products is being researched. Similarly, the ability of cbd to be applied in treating viral infection-related situations is gaining attention, although available conclusive studies are limited.
The endocannabinoid system is an essential part of the human body. It consists of numerous cell receptors that not only initiate physiological processes but also monitor essential body functions. Such as mood, stress, immune system, pain regulation, and the neurological system.
Research findings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse & Stony Brook University confirmed the involvement of the endocannabinoid system involvement in physiological processes that are essential in treating pain.
The latest study 2 reports that the use of cbd for conditions associated with viral infections shows effectiveness in preclinical studies but lacks clinical evidence.
Inferences from yet another 2020 study 3 reports that the available data is supportive to demonstrate that cbd can help in immune suppression, activation, and control of various immune cell types.
A 2010 study 4 points out that conventional therapies fail to reduce the burning nerve pain in postherpetic neuralgia conditions. Therefore, the clinical trial concluded that topical therapy is more effective and well-tolerated as an adjuvant therapy option in conditions of chronic pain. (post shingles) Because the nerve fibers that transmit the pain are expressed through cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system which in turn exert a modulatory role in nociceptive symptoms.
To sum up, the role of cbd in providing pain relief and pain management through the endocannabinoid receptors has been extensively discussed in several hemppedia articles. Moreover, the cb2 receptors are located primarily on inflammatory and immune-related cells, and hence their reaction to the inflammatory response is well defined.
How to use cbd oil for shingles pain?
Anecdotal pieces of evidence from studies have shown that taking cbd orally or topically applying cbd oil for shingles may help in pain conditions. Moreover, the use of cbd oil in pain management is generally well-tolerated in human and animal models. As a golden rule of thumb, while taking cbd keep in mind dosage. Dosage is key. At the same time, depending on the severity of your condition, especially if you have symptoms indicating shingles, seeking immediate medical consultation and advice is mandatory.
From a 2017 study 5 we can understand that CBD is often used as an adjunct therapy. This is because cbd has a better side effect profile compared to other drugs. That is why patients’ compliance and adapting to treatments is easy.
Therefore the topical application of cbd oil could provide localized relief and oral administration of cbd oil could provide overall therapeutic relief including suppressing pain and improved sleep.
Who is at risk for developing shingles?
- Since 2008, older adults have been showing rising trends in developing shingles. That is people who are 50 years and above are more prone. Although children under the age of 10 and middle-aged adults are also susceptible.
- Incidence increases with age, that is for adults over 60 years.
- People with impaired immunity are at risk.
Is there a relevance to herpes zoster and rheumatic diseases? Does cbd have a role?
Rheumatic disease is a condition that usually affects joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. And arthritis is a disorder that affects the joints.
And the relevance to the rheumatic diseases and shingles virus is chronic pain.
A 2014 study 6 records that the frequency of HZ in the general population has increased in rheumatic arthritis in recent years. And the severity of rheumatic arthritis is associated with the development of HZ.
A 2020 study 7 asserts that cannabinoids have an inflammatory modulating quality that could have a therapeutic effect in conditions such as chronic pain and rheumatic diseases.
We can sum up that from the available clinical studies and pieces of evidence from internet research, cannabinoids do have a role in pain and in pain management. However specific reference to the applicability of different cbd products or cbd oil for shingles needs more attention and study.
Vaccines help prevent shingles or at least in reducing their severity.CDC recommends the recombinant zoster vaccine, Shingrix® and Zostavax in two doses, given in 2 to 6 months apart.
Studies say that there is no cure for the shingles virus and the vaccines that are recommended or mandated are preventive therapy only and not a treatment for shingles or postherpetic neuralgia.
It is noteworthy to mention a reference from a 2020 study 8 that highlights the need for a warranting review of the current vaccine recommendations. Because the incidence of HZ continues to increase.
Conclusively, cannabis enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting evidence from clinical studies. So that they could access supportive reports to prove the applicability and efficacy of cbd and cbd based products such as CBD oil, CBD creams, CBD tinctures, CBD vapes, CBD capsules, CBD edibles, etc to treat various diseases and conditions.
What does the research say about the future of the disease?
A 2010 study 9 recommends a prompt intervention to address the growing numbers in the elderly population affected by HZ and there is a mounting economic burden due to the disease.
CBD Oil for Shingles Pain: Effectiveness of Cannabis Oil (from Hemp & Marijuana)
Shingles are a painful condition similar to chickenpox, which is a type of rash on the body that typically affects children.
Many people are probably unaware that they have the shingle virus in its inactive form in their bodies.
Chickenpox is caused by the same virus as shingles — varicella-zoster. The virus stays dormant in the body after the chickenpox has disappeared and can be triggered at any time in your life.
What’s worse, doctors don’t know what exactly activates the virus.
So, how do you cope with those painful blisters? Pharmaceutical treatments often include a range of side effects, not to mention that a severe form of shingles can be debilitating on its own. That’s why people are turning to natural remedies, such as CBD oil.
This article will give you a deeper insight into the problem of shingles and the pain that comes with it.
We’ll also discuss the efficacy and safety of CBD for shingles, how to use it to get the most out of your shingle treatment, and whether you can use other natural remedies to relieve this condition.
What You Need to Know About CBD and Shingles?
The telltale symptoms of shingles include a painful, blistery rash that is caused by the virus varicella-zoster and can be mistaken for chickenpox. It typically occurs on one side of the torso, but can actually show up anywhere on the body.
After a person goes through a chickenpox infection, the virus transforms into its inactive form and can get activated several years later to cause shingles — also referred to as herpes zoster.
Shingles can spread to those who haven’t had chickenpox yet and are more likely to appear in older people (1).
Shingles outbreak features a tingling sensation under the skin, which can be confused with a slight fever at first. People with shingles suffer from moderate to severe pinching pain in the problematic area, red patches of skin, and itchiness.
Doctors usually prescribe antiviral drugs like acyclovir to tackle shingles. People also try to reduce their duration and severity with over-the-counter painkillers such as lidocaine (2).
Even when a person has successfully treated shingles, they can still experience persistent pain lasting for years. That’s because shingles trigger a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is an annoying condition that irritates the nerves and skin.
There’s a growing body of anecdotal reports from CBD users that have used CBD products to relieve shingles. Despite the lack of shingles-specific studies, CBD is known to have, antiviral, and painkilling properties, all of which can help stop the growth of viruses, including the varicella-zoster virus (3).
Does CBD Help with Shingles?
CBD is one of the two significant cannabinoids in cannabis plants; it occurs both in hemp and marijuana in various concentrations.
This cannabinoid has been touted for its multiple therapeutic effects for various health concerns. Unlike its cousin, THC, CBD doesn’t cause intoxication, so you won’t get high off of it.
Once ingested, CBD signals the endocannabinoid system (ECS), our master regulatory network, to produce more of its own endocannabinoids. These endogenous molecules modulate the activity of the cannabinoid receptors by exerting certain actions of them. The ultimate role of the ECS is to maintain internal balance (homeostasis) between all biological functions in the body (4).
These functions include mood, memory, emotional processing, cognition, sensory perception, immune response, reproduction, neuroprotection, body temperature, sleep cycles, and more.
A 2009 review of the existing studies on the therapeutic qualities of cannabis suggested that CBD and other cannabinoids are remarkable anti-inflammatory compounds. The authors of the review concluded that these properties can be used in targeting a broad range of health conditions.
When it comes to shingles, CBD signals the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS, reducing inflammation and decreasing one’s sensitivity to pain.
Although no study has yet investigated the effectiveness of CBD specifically for shingles, the said interaction between CBD and the ECS can allow it to ease nerve damage caused by the condition.
CBD vs THC for Shingles: Which Is Better?
Both THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids in cannabis. Similar to CBD, THC also has remarkable anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. Whether applied through the vapor, sublingual consumption, or in a topical product, cannabis delivers THC and CBD to the rash site, helping alleviate the swelling. Topical cannabis products also offer localized pain relief, so they may come in particularly handy for coping with painful blisters or sores. In addition, THC may prevent these areas from becoming infected.
Another potential benefit of using THC for shingles is the protective effect on the nerves against the damage from the shingle virus. This particular feature can prevent the development of postherpetic neuralgia, the aforementioned condition that causes the patient to experience severe pain in the area of the shingles rash long after it has healed.
However, when you take THC through smoking, vaping, or any sort of internal administration, the compound can get you high, and the higher you get, the higher the chances it will impact your functioning throughout the duration of effects. If you have a low tolerance for THC, it may be better to use hemp-derived CBD products.
Hemp-derived CBD is also more widely available. While marijuana — the primary source of THC — is legal in 17 U.S. states, products sourced from hemp are legal on the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill.
How to Use CBD for Shingles?
CBD oil comes in many forms; you can choose between sublingual drops, capsules, edibles, vapes, concentrates, and topical products such as salves, balms, and gels.
The two most popular choices when it comes to using CBD for shingles are CBD oil and CBD topicals.
CBD oil is administered sublingually with a dropper that allows for accurate dosing. Once you’ve squeezed up the desired amount in the dropper, transfer that dose under the tongue, hold it there for up to 60 seconds, and swallow. The CBD will absorb through the tiny blood vessels in your mouth, avoiding the liver and the first-pass metabolism. As a result, the effects of CBD oil take hold faster than with oral forms (e.g. capsules and gummies) and last relatively long, up to 6 hours.
If you dislike the taste of CBD oil and don’t mind waiting several extra minutes for the effects, you can try CBD capsules or gummies. These products provide a premeasured dose of CBD per serving and are better suited for people who travel a lot and live a busy lifestyle.
Another way to take CBD oil is through vaping. Vaporization delivers the highest concentrations of CBD to your system and provides the fastest onset, but at the cost of some duration. The effects of vaporized CBD last for up to 4 hours.
The method to target localized problems is through the use of CBD topicals. These products provide relief in areas where they are applied. Using a topical formulation can effectively reduce inflammation and pain associated with red rashes caused by shingles. Using CBD cream is easy; you just need to make sure that the skin stays clean and dry during application. Massage the product gently for a few seconds into the affected area for better absorption.
Should You Use CBD Orally or Topically for Shingles?
From our experience, it’s best to take both. Doing so provides an all-around approach to shingles. The condition is triggered by the activation of the varicella-zoster virus, so if you want to benefit from the antiviral properties of CBD and speed up your recovery process, using CBD orally is the best option for the job.
On the other hand, shingles manifest themselves as red swollen rashes on the skin, so the use of topical may provide localized relief and reduce the redness, size, and painfulness of your blister.
In either case, make sure that you always choose high-quality, third-party lab-tested products from a reputable company.
CBD Oil Dosage for Shingles: How Much to Take?
No study has yet tested different CBD doses for shingles, so finding the right dose for your individual situation will require some trial and error. Everyone is different, and so will be their response to a certain amount of cannabidiol. Factors such as age, gender, metabolism, the sensitivity of cannabinoid receptors, and severity of symptoms should be taken into consideration when trying to determine the right dose.
According to anecdotal evidence, an oral dose of 20–25 mg of CBD daily works well to ease the painful symptoms of shingles. We suggest that you start low and gradually work your way up to the point where you feel the desired relief. You can use a ratio of 1–5 mg CBD for every 10 pounds of your weight for starters.
As for the topicals, people usually apply them to the rash once a day or as recommended by their doctor. A consultation with a healthcare professional experienced in cannabis use can help you increase the efficacy of your skin treatment.
Other Natural Remedies for Shingles
If you’re among the growing number of people affected by shingles, you may decide to supplement other natural remedies too. Here’s a list of natural products that may help alleviate shingles:
- Essential oils – people have used essential oils to relieve topical problems for many years. Some essential oils that reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and improve skin cell regeneration include chamomile oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Those looking to try essential oils for shingles should make sure they are not allergic to them.
- Cold compresses – A cool cloth or compress may assist you in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. It’s best to lightly soak a natural cotton cloth with cool water and wire it out before placing it on sore, itchy areas. Keep in mind not to expose the skin to extreme temperatures.
- Witch hazel – According to researchers, witch hazel is more effective for reducing itchiness and inflammation than chamomile. You can buy witch hazel in different forms, including creams or witch hazel water.
- Cool baths – Taking a cool bath or shower every day, with gentle scrubbing, will help to keep the blisters and sores clean, reducing the risk of infection. Cool water also helps relieve sore and itchy spots.
- Oat baths – Some studies point to oat extracts as an effective moisturizer and soothing agent for sensitive and inflamed skin. The FDA has approved colloidal oatmeal as a safe and effective treatment. The active ingredients in oath help reduce inflammation, pain, and itchiness.
- Gentiana scabra – this purple flower occurring throughout North America has a positive effect on pain perception in shingles and reduces the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia. By curbing inflammation in the skin, Gentiana scabra minimizes pain and speeds up healing. The plant has been used for many years by Chinese medicine practitioners.
- Vitamin supplements – Using supplements is a good idea when a person has a compromised immune system or has passed the age of 50. There’s a vivid link between immune function and vitamin D. Individuals with low vitamin D levels have lower immunity than those without deficiencies. Taking vitamin C, selenium, and zinc supplements can also improve immune function in adults.
Foods that Make Shingles Worse
People with shingles should avoid certain foods where possible. The worst type of food, in this case, is the one that contains the amino acid arginine that actually facilitates the spread of the herpes virus.
Here are some of the foods to exclude from your diet if you have shingles:
- Soy products
- White and whole-wheat flour
- Coffee and other high-caffeine products
- Saturated fats (processed foods with empty calories)
Finally, remember that the food should be served not too hot, not too cold — just right. Extreme temperatures in foods, such as scalding soups or icy treats are jarring to the nervous system.
Understanding Shingles: FAQ
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles are caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. Usually, people who have had chickenpox early in their lives can develop shingles in the future because the virus gets activated in the nerve tissues near your brain and spinal cord after remaining in a standby mode.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
The symptoms of shingles include raised dots on one side of the body or face that eventually become painful, red blisters. The blisters usually dry out after 7–10 days; their duration is characterized by stabbing pain as well as tingling in the skin after the shingles virus goes into its inactive form again. Singles are often accompanied by chills, fever, and upset stomach.
Who Is More Likely to Suffer from Shingles?
The varicella-zoster virus is more likely to get activated in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, HIV sufferers, and people in their 50s and up. Chronic, severe stress is another risk factor for developing shingles. If you take immunosuppressants — medicines that weaken the immune system — you’re more likely to get shingles too.
Can People Spread Shingles?
People don’t spread shingles per se, but they can spread the varicella-zoster virus that triggers the condition. The virus is highly contagious, so individuals that get in contact with people who have shingles can catch the chickenpox virus and get shingles later in their lives.
What Are the Potential Complications of Shingles?
Shingles usually run their course within 4–5 weeks, but there are instances where complications may show up. People with a weakened immune system may need more time to recover from the shingles episode. Also, some individuals may develop postherpetic neuralgia, which includes sleep problems, chronic pain, and depression. Other complications of shingles include eye conditions and skin infections. If you experience the said complications, it’s a sign you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Final Verdict: Is CBD a Viable Option for Shingles?
Shingles are a viral condition that manifests in painful, red rashes on the body. They are caused by the same virus as chickenpox; most of the time, the virus remains dormant, but it can get reactivated later in life as shingles.
Common risk factors for shingles include a weakened immune system, nerve damage, skin infections, and older age. Before the shingles outbreak, a person may experience symptoms reminiscent of fever aside from a tingling sensation in their skin. Then, the skin becomes inflamed and itchy, developing red, painful blisters.
If you’re flirting with the idea of taking CBD for shingles, we have some good and, say, neutral news for you. The good news is that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and painkiller whose health benefits are well backed by studies. Since shingles are caused by a compromised immune system, and their symptoms involve inflammation and pain, it only seems within reason to try out CBD oil as a natural remedy for this condition. The neutral news is that no study has yet investigated the effects of CBD specifically for shingles.
Therefore, we suggest that you consult a doctor experienced in cannabis therapies before adding CBD oils and topicals to your routine. Doing so will help you establish the right dosage and regimen. Undertaking necessary lifestyle changes and avoiding certain foods described in the article may also help improve your symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Have you tried taking CBD for shingles? Do you use CBD oil or topicals — or maybe both? Let us know in the comments!
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Chickenpox: Overview. 2014 Jun 30 [Updated 2019 Nov 21].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279621/
- CDC.gov [Internet]. United States: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Treating Shingles. 2019 Jul. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
- Tagne, A.M. et al. (2020). Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope? Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2019.0060
- Pavlovic et al. (2018). Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint, and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules, vol. 23(5).
- Russo, E.B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, vol. 4(1), pp 245–59.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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CBD Oil for Shingles: Fact or Fiction?
CBD is all the rage these days, and it’s being used for everything from reducing anxiety to pain. But can you use CBD oil for shingles and the pain that comes with it? We took a dive into finding out what the condition really is, how it’s treated, and whether or not you can effectively use CBD oil for shingles.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Shingles?
- Understanding Shingles
- Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts
- Experiencing Shingles
- Common Symptoms of Shingles
- Risk Factors for Shingles
- Is Shingles Contagious?
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia
- Eye Conditions
- Skin Infections
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
- The Endocannabinoid System
- Inflammation and Pain
- What the Research Says
- CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain
- Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD
- A Summary of What the Research Says
What Causes Shingles?
As children, many of us experience chickenpox, an itchy rash caused by a virus that that lasts a couple of weeks from exposure to completion. Chickenpox is caused by the highly contagious varicella-zoster virus and spreads easily, especially among those who haven’t previously been infected by the virus or been vaccinated against it. Once you have had chickenpox, your body creates an immunity to the virus, preventing you from getting chickenpox again.
However, once you are exposed to the varicella-zoster virus, it remains in your system, essentially hiding inactivated in nerve cells. This virus can later become activated and cause you to develop the condition called shingles.
Shingles affects about 1 million adults in the United States each year. Currently, we do not have very effective treatments for this painful condition or some of its possible complications, such as post-herpetic neuralgia. As such, people are reaching out for natural ways to treat shingles in an attempt to find some pain relief. Some are using CBD oil for their shingles symptoms.
Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts
Shingles is a painful red rash caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. This reactivation is also called herpes zoster (not to be confused with other herpes viruses). Research shows that CBD is effective in treating various types of nerve pain, due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system. Although there are not any studies on the use of CBD oil for shingles directly, it is well within reason that it could help manage shingles pain.
The shingles rash typically affects one area of the body. Because the virus hides in nerve cells, the rash forms along the area of the body that those nerves control. This is known as a dermatome.
Common Symptoms of Shingles
The most common symptom of shingles is severe pain. Burning pain in one area of the body is usually the first symptom people notice. In some cases, people confuse the pain for other conditions, like a kidney infection or lung issue, depending on what area of the body the shingles affects. The tingling, burning pain generally lasts for a few days.
Next, a red rash develops. After a couple days, the rash forms small clusters of fluid-filled blisters that are terribly painful and itchy. Some people also experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Sensitivity to light
In most cases, the blisters scab over after 10 days or so, and after 3 to 5 weeks the rash clears.
Risk Factors for Shingles
Not every person who has had chickenpox develops shingles. Approximately 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Although we do not know all the reasons why some people develop shingles and others do not, there are some common risk factors. These include:
- Being an older adult (over 50)
- Lowered immune system
- High amounts of stress
- Medications such as steroids
Is Shingles Contagious?
You cannot catch shingles from someone else; however, the varicella-zoster virus is highly contagious. This means people who are exposed to people with shingles cannot catch shingles, but they can catch chickenpox.
Complications of Shingles
Although most cases of shingles run their course within about five weeks, there are instances where this is not the case. In people with lowered immunity, the episode may last longer than five weeks. This warrants medical attention from your doctor. Furthermore, shingles can produce other complications. These complications include:
Post-herpetic neuralgia is when pain continues in the area of the shingles rash, even after the rash has cleared. This is due to damage having been done to the nerves. People who experience post-herpetic neuralgia may also become depressed or have issues sleeping due to their chronic pain.
If shingles develops around the eye, it can result in eye infections that could lead to blindness.
Skin infections are also possible with shingles. If the rash is scratched and the blisters are broken open, bacteria can enter the open skin and create an infection.
Currently, there is no cure for shingles. The typical course of treatment includes anti-viral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications can help shorten the duration of the outbreak, however, they do not provide pain relief.
The conventional treatment for shingles pain is prescription medications like opiate painkillers, lidocaine numbing cream, or capsaicin topical patches. In addition, on some occasions, medications like gabapentin or anti-depressant drugs are recommended.
Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
Post-herpetic neuralgia is difficult to treat. The most common treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia pain are steroids, traditional painkillers, and anti-depressants. These drugs are not particularly effective, and they also come with a host of side effects. For example, pain killers can be addictive.
Using CBD for Shingles
Because shingles is such a painful condition, and treatment options are limited and are only somewhat effective, people are turning to CBD products to help relieve their shingles pain.
CBD products are available as oral supplements, including gummies, pills, and oil, as well as topical salves.
The History of CBD Use for Pain
CBD is derived from the industrial hemp plant, otherwise known as cannabis sativa. There is anecdotal evidence to support cannabis’s use for pain management as far back as 2000 B.C.
There are numerous accounts of people using medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) for nerve pain. Medical cannabis contains the same cannabinoids as CBD oil. However, medical marijuana also contains THC, which is a psychoactive component not found in CBD products.
How CBD Can Relieve Shingles Pain
The Endocannabinoid System
The way we perceive pain is controlled in part by our endocannabinoid system. This is a signaling system in our bodies that influences our sensitivity to pain, especially pain due to inflammation. The cannabinoids in CBD oil activates the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors, which suppress our perception of pain levels.
Inflammation and Pain
The cannabinoids in CBD have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Research supports that CBD reduces the number of inflammatory chemicals in the body, including TNF. These inflammatory chemicals are part of our pain pathways, and reducing inflammatory mediators in the body can help lower pain levels.
What the Research Says
To date, there have not been any research studies specifically regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, CBD’s effects have been studied in relation to a variety of other pain conditions, including joint pain, other types of nerve pain (including chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain), and trauma-induced nerve pain.
CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain
A review of the efficacy of CBD oil on several types of nerve pain found that CBD products are overall effective for nerve pain. Although the study did not assess CBD oil for shingles itself, it is reasonable to consider that CBD may be effective for treating shingles pain due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system.
Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain
A recent study found that CBD products were effective at reducing the neuropathic pain, which is pain that comes from nerve damage, in people treated with chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can negatively affect nerve cells, much like a shingles outbreak can, resulting in chronic nerve pain. Given that CBD was able to reduce pain in this condition, the possibilities of using CBD oil for shingles pain are optimistic.
Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD
As previously mentioned, a complication of shingles is chronic nerve pain—or post-herpetic neuralgia. Animals studies support that CBD is helpful for post-herpetic neuralgia. However, there have not been human studies to confirm this. Therefore, more research is needed.
A Summary of What the Research Says
To date, there have not been any human studies regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, the use of CBD for shingles as well as post-herpetic neuralgia is promising.
Several studies on the use of CBD for other types of nerve pain show it is effective for pain management.
A shingles outbreak is a painful medical condition and can disrupt many aspects of your life. Current treatment medications are only somewhat effective and come with numerous side effects.
CBD products are shown to be capable of reducing nerve-related pain and can also help with post-herpetic neuralgia. However, it is always recommended to consult with your physician before making any changes to your medications or trying new natural supplements.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate CBD products. When purchasing CBD in any form, ensure you are using a product that has undergone third-party testing. This helps ensure that the product you buy meets certain quality and purity standards.