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What Is Shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Shingles is a remnant from this virus that lays dormant in the body and reactivates later in life. It causes a painful rash that usually appears on the torso, sometimes progressing into blisters and boils. Shingles can be extremely painful and causes a variety of sensations from burning to tingling to numbness. It also causes other symptoms like sensitivity, fever, headache, and fatigue. Long term pain can also persist, even after the rash has cleared from the body.

Shingles attacks the nerve cells, making it extremely hard to get relief from pain. Shingles can also block certain receptors that usually allow people to get relief from medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and opioids. Due to the inability for the receptors to be properly targeted by these medications, doses prescribed for people with shingles are often higher. High doses of pain relieving products like opioids can cause addiction and dependence, often doing more harm than good.

Cannabis Provides Relief

Endocannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, so they are not blocked in the same way as other receptors, allowing for cannabis to provide pain relief in a way other products cannot. Cannabis also has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can greatly reduce the pain and long-term effects caused by shingles. A 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that cannabis had multifaceted nuero-protective effects. The study, which used animal models, found that this quality of cannabis was caused by the activation of CB1 receptors that helped prevent damage to nerves.

Cannabis is known for its effective analgesic qualities, especially in relation to neuropathic pain, which is the kind of pain most often caused by shingles. Neuropathic pain, which often doesn’t react to traditional pain relieving pharmaceuticals, can be greatly aided by THC, according to a 2009 study from Neurotherapeutics. A 2015 study from the Journal of Oral and Facial Pain and Headache also showed that cannabinoids were effective at relieving neuropathic pain that did not respond to other treatments. The study was a review of various randomized placebo-controlled studies conducted starting in the 1950s, which all added support to the conclusion made by the review. The review also noted an overall improvement of sleep, nausea, anxiety, and appetite by patients who consumed cannabis in the studies.

Topicals: A Great Option

Topical cannabis products are a great choice for people with shingles. Shingles pain is often located in specific areas, making it a great option for being targeted by topical cannabis medications. Cannabis topicals can come in the form of salves, creams, balms, or oils and they are absorbed through the skin. The topical products bond to CB2 receptors when they are absorbed into the skin and provide localized pain relief. There are many topicals on the market today, some favorites in California are Sweet ReLeaf, Flower Power and Xternal.

THC-infused topicals provide pain relieving properties without being psychoactive because they are not absorbed into the blood stream. CBD infused topical products can also provide people with anti-inflammatory medication to help decrease inflammation that causes pain and physical rashes on the body. Medical cannabis, no matter the form, is a great choice to help people with shingles find relief from their pain and suffering.

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s 100% online, private and efficient.

  • Pain
  • Pain Management
  • Shingles
  • Topicals
  • Virus

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What Is Shingles? Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Shingles is a remnant from this virus that lays dormant in the body and reactivates later in life. It causes a painful rash that usually appears on the torso, sometimes progressing into blisters and boils. Shingles…

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.

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.

Understanding 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.

Experiencing Shingles

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:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue

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

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.

Eye Conditions

If shingles develops around the eye, it can result in eye infections that could lead to blindness.

Skin Infections

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.

Conventional Treatment

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Find out if you can use CBD oil for shingles as well as other types of nerve pain and pain-related issues.