Can marijuana be used to help with psoriasis symptoms?

Natural products and therapies


Yes, medical marijuana can be used to alleviate some symptoms of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, such as stress, pain and sleep disorders. However, no scientific evidence indicates that marijuana can have any beneficial effect on the underlying causes of the disease. There are obvious side effects of the substance that would not support its use during work hours, especially for people who need to handle machinery of any type. In any case, a patient should talk to his or her healthcare practitioner before engaging in any type of treatment.

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Expert Answers

Dr. Ron Vender:

Medical marijuana can certainly help with signs and symptoms of psoriasis. You can relieve the pain associated with arthritis as well as the pain that can occur in the skin. As you know medical marijuana is available in many jurisdictions. The exact indication for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in Canada is not known. In the United States there are two states that prescribe marijuana for psoriatic disease: California and New Mexico. In other states, medical marijuana for pain and psoriatic disease could qualify. One must be very cautious in believing that psoriasis can be cured from medical marijuana. This has not been proven using randomized scientific clinical trials.

There is no evidence that medical marijuana can help inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis directly but is more likely associated with the discomfort and chronic pain associated with these diseases. It is well known that stress can exacerbate psoriasis and therefore, medical marijuana may be helpful in alleviating stress, but it’s certainly not the only treatment available to relieve stress. Please speak to your medical practitioner in order to determine if you qualify in your jurisdiction.

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Carolyn Whiskin:

Medical marijuana has been used to relieve many medical conditions: from pain to severe spasms to improved sleep. There have also been reports that it can provide relief of psoriatic symptoms in some patients. Some of the reports of benefit found in using marijuana for psoriasis, may be due to its ability to cause relaxation and reduce feelings of stress, known to aggravate psoriasis flares. For those who have trouble sleeping, due to itchiness, marijuana may be helpful for both sleep and reducing itch when used before bed.

But before you jump on the bandwagon, there are a few pros and cons to consider. First of all, marijuana must be prescribed by a doctor for medical use and can only be supplied through a licensed government approved vendor. The current prescribing guidelines in Canada allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana at their discretion and no longer restricts access to a few limited medical conditions. As there are many approved prescription medications for psoriasis that are effective, marijuana would not be considered as part of our current first line suggested options for treatment. 

If you do decide to explore this option with your physician, it should also be noted that like all prescription drugs, marijuana may have adverse effects. Due to the substance known as THC, marijuana will cause psychotropic effects. Therefore it is important to note that using marijuana as a treatment during the day, while you are at work or when you need to operate machinery, including vehicles, can be extremely dangerous. Driving after using marijuana is considered impaired driving!! Many people using medical marijuana for various conditions, use their treatment at night to prevent a potential feeling of “fogginess” effecting their daytime functioning. There are many methods of using marijuana that have been to tried to reduce symptoms of psoriasis such as incorporating it in a topical cream, in edibles (brownies) and in a smokable form. Response to these different routes is individual. 

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Sandra Walsh:

There is no evidence that marijuana use can help psoriasis symptoms. However, some people claim that smoking marijuana helps the pain and discomfort that is associated with skin lesions and psoriatic arthritis and also helps them sleep. It is not uncommon for people with psoriasis to also suffer from anxiety and depression and use substances such as marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes to help them cope with these feelings. Even if these substances help to alleviate the discomfort from physical and psychological symptoms now, they may cause other problems further down the road. Rather than masking the symptoms with these substances, the best solution is to find the right treatment for your psoriasis.

Other people claim that cannabis oil applied directly to the skin can reduce the symptoms of scaling and itching. This may be due to the moisturizing effect of the oil, because as you know, applying any moisturizer consistently to your psoriasis can reduce these symptoms.

If you have psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis and you are experiencing pain, discomfort, itch, anxiety, depression, or trouble sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider. There are many treatment options that can help with all of these symptoms. By opening up, we can understand how psoriasis is impacting not just your ability to function with everyday activities but also how it is affecting your ability to enjoy life. It also gives you an opportunity to get involved in deciding the right treatment for you based on your treatment goals. Remember that it may take some time to find the right treatment for you. And, if your doctor does not use all of the treatment options for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, find one that does.

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