Today’s article seeks to answer a seemingly simple query. Will CBD oil work for shingles? And, more specifically, does CBD oil work for shingles pain? In order to successfully answer this query and determine the effectiveness of CBD oil and cannabis treatment for shingles, we must first understand what shingles are.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles are a viral infection that causes a painful rash anywhere on your body. Shingles commonly appear as a blistering-rash strip that wraps around either the right or left side of your upper body. Shingles are not considered a life-threatening condition but are characterized as being very painful.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles are caused by a virus called the Varicella Zoster virus. It’s the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox in the past, there’s a strong likelihood that the virus is still dormant in your body. The varicella-zoster virus can remain dormant and symptomless for decades. When the virus re-awakens, it travels along your nerve fibers to your skin to cause the painful blistering rash we call shingles. The varicella-zoster virus is also called Herpes Zoster, but it is not the same virus that causes genital herpes.
The first time a person is exposed to the varicella-zoster virus, it causes chickenpox. After the chickenpox episode, the virus settles in your nerve cells and reactivates decades later as shingles. Anyone that has had chickenpox can get shingles and the risk increases with age. It’s believed that people older than 60 are 10-times more likely to get shingles than younger people. Other factors, other than age, are known to increase your risk of getting shingles including chronic stress, long-term trauma, a weakened immune system from conditions like HIV or cancer, some cancer medicines, and steroid medicines.
Shingles are contagious but not in the basic understanding of contagion. Your shingles rash, for example, will not cause an outbreak of shingles in another person. However, your shingles rash can most likely cause an outbreak of chickenpox in a child. In addition, people who’ve never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can contract the virus from direct contact with open shingles’ sores. Hence, if you have shingles, it’s important to stay away from children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems like chemotherapy patients, for example.
What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles?
According to the medical community, the early signs and symptoms of shingles manifest 1 – 5 days before the rash develops. The early warning signs include itching, tingling, burning, and pain in the area where the rash will develop. Other symptoms include fever, chills, a headache, and an upset stomach. The most common location for the shingles rash outbreak is around one side of your waist. The second most common outbreak location is one side of your forehead, or around one eye.
The shingles rash is a distinctive cluster of fluid-filled blisters. Shingles blisters normally start to scab over in about 7 – 10 days. They can completely disappear in 2 – 4 weeks. Shingles blisters leave no scars in healthy people, and the pain and itchiness go away in a few weeks to a few months. However, if your immune system is weakened, your shingles and blisters take a lot longer to heal.
The pain and itchiness caused by shingles can linger for months or years after the blistering rash has healed. The ongoing pain and itchiness are due to damaged nerves in the skin and beneath it. This is known as Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) and is described as a neuropathic pain syndrome that persists after a rash has healed. In severe cases, ongoing pain and/or itchiness in the once rash-affected area can lead to insomnia, depression, and weight loss.
When the virus attacks the nerves that control facial sensations and movement, this is called Ophthalmic Shingles. When this happens a blistering rash appears around one of your eyes, and/or on one side of your forehead. Ophthalmic shingles are normally accompanied by a headache with other symptoms including redness and swelling of the eye, inflammation of your cornea or iris, a drooping eyelid, and blurred or double vision.
According to the medical community, about 20 percent of people with shingles develop a rash across multiple dermatomes. Dermatomes are described as separate skin regions that are supplied by separate spinal nerves. When the virus affects 3-plus dermatomes in form of a rash, it’s called a widespread (disseminated) zoster. In widespread zoster, the rash looks more like chickenpox than shingles and is more likely to occur in people with weakened immune systems.
What Are The Treatment Options For Shingles?
According to the medical community, there is no cure for shingles. However, medical professionals believe that quick diagnosis and early treatment with antiviral medication can stop the attack. If your shingles are not stopped, doctors still believe antiviral medication can make your case shorter and milder. Doctors generally prescribe patients with Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir), or Valacyclovir (Valtrex). Due to shingles causing severe pain, your doctor may also recommend:
- Capsaicin; a topical patch used to relieve pain
- Gabapentin; an anticonvulsant used to treat neuropathic pain
- Amitriptyline; a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) used to treat depressive and anxiety disorders
- Lidocaine; a numbing agent delivered via cream, gel, spray, or skin patch
- Codeine; an opiate used to treat pain
- Corticosteroids; used to treat skin conditions
Medical professionals in the US recommend that healthy adults 50 years and above get a shingles vaccine. However, they warn NOT to get the vaccine if you have severe allergies to the ingredients, and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Home remedies such as taking a cool bath or using cool and wet compressions on your blisters may help relieve pain and itching. Another recommended solution is to reduce stress in your life as stress increases the risk of triggering shingles.
Does CBD Oil Work For Shingles Treatment?
Yes, CBD oil does work for treating Shingles. More specifically, CBD oil will help treat any pain and inflammatory symptoms, and postherpetic neuralgia associated with shingles. Cannabis is scientifically proven to be effective for treating neuropathic pain, which is the type of pain Shingles is characterized as.
How Effective Is CBD Oil For Treating Shingles Pain?
To answer this question, we need to look at the results of a 2015 peer-reviewed journal, a 2009 peer review journal, a 2018 peer review journal, and a 2010 facial postherpetic neuralgia patient study. The results from these studies and journals will help you understand how effective cannabis therapy is for treating Shingles pain.
In 2015, researchers set out to assess the effectiveness of cannabis therapy in the management of chronic non-malignant neuropathic pain. The researchers rated and reviewed 13 studies using the Jadad Scale to measure the level of bias in pain research. The Jadad Scale is a procedure used to independently assess the methodological quality of a clinical trial.
Upon evaluating the results, the researchers found that cannabis provides effective pain-relief effects in chronic neuropathic pain conditions that were unyielding to other forms of treatment. They concluded their review by stating that cannabis therapy provides effective pain-relief effects in a large variety of neuropathic pain conditions. Examples of neuropathic pain conditions include but are not limited to the following:
- Chronic alcoholism
- Limb amputation
- Herpes zoster infection (shingles)
- Spinal surgery
- Cancer and Chemotherapy drugs
- Viral infections (i.e. HIV/AIDS)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Facial nerve problems
In 2009, a peer-reviewed journal defined neuropathic pain as…
… a debilitating form of chronic pain resulting from nerve injury, disease states, or toxic insults. Neuropathic pain is often refractory to conventional pharmacotherapies, necessitating validation of novel analgesics.
The researchers reviewed 183 clinical and pre-clinical studies to evaluate and validate the usefulness of cannabinoids for neuropathic pain management. In this review, neuropathic pain was associated with nerve injury, diabetes, chemotherapeutic treatment, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), multiple sclerosis (MS), and herpes zoster infection (shingles or chickenpox).
The researchers reviewed the effects of smoked marijuana, synthetic THC (e.g. Marinol, Cesamet), and cannabis-based medicines containing both THC and CBD (e.g. Sativex, Cannador) in human neuropathic pain patients. Objective and subjective models of pain and quality of life measurements were both considered for the review.
The authors discovered that the research and data published in the various trials pointed to an overwhelming agreement that neuropathic pain patients gain therapeutic benefits from cannabinoid treatment. The researchers concluded that…
In 2010, researchers set out to investigate whether topical therapy with a cannabinoid receptor agonist helps provide pain relief in patients with postherpetic neuralgia caused by herpes zoster (shingles). An agonist is any substance that initiates a physiological response when combined with a receptor in your body. Postherpetic neuralgia is a difficult-to-treat common negative effect in shingles patients. It affects your nerve fibers and skin causing a burning pain that lasts long after your blistering rash has disappeared.
The open-labeled study trialed 8 patients with postherpetic neuralgia caused by herpes zoster. They each received a cream containing a cannabinoid agonist called N-palmitoyl-ethanolamine (PEA). Results from the study revealed that 5 out of 8 patients (62.5%) saw an average pain reduction of 87.8%. The topical therapy was tolerated well by all patients and no negative side effects or unpleasant sensations were experienced. The study concluded that…
These results suggest that cannabis therapy in topical form may provide pain relief effects in patients with postherpetic neuralgia caused by shingles.
In 2018, researchers set out to evaluate the usefulness of medical cannabis treatment for neuropathic pain. The researchers examined the current scientific research and data from recent randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The studies reviewed had patients with a wide range of causes of neuropathic pain. The review included forms of cannabis therapy with varying cannabinoid concentrations and routes of administration. Many of the RCTs reviewed demonstrated the effectiveness of medical cannabis with the number-needed-to-treat (NNT) values in line with current pharmacotherapies.
According to the researchers, there is evidence that supports the safety and effectiveness of short-term, low-dose cannabis vapourization and oral-mucosal delivery for the treatment of neuropathic pain. The results point to medical cannabis being as tolerable and effective as current neuropathic agents.
The authors conclude that though their findings are mostly positive, further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of medical cannabis use, optimized dosing requirements, cannabinoid ratios, and alternate administration routes. Uncovering this information will help refine the therapeutic role of medical cannabis.
Cannabis therapy such as CBD oil is effective and useful for the treatment of Shingles. Specifically in regards to providing effective pain relief, and anti-inflammatory effects. The studies and journals highlighted in today’s article clearly show how effective cannabis therapy is for treating neuropathic pain symptoms brought on by Shingles.
Moving forward, there should NOT be a doubt in your mind that you will be able to achieve effective treatment results from CBD oil use for pain and potential inflammation. In addition, you will also be able to derive benefits from topical cannabis therapy to treat postherpetic neuralgia caused by Shingles.
Your challenge now lies in finding a suitable CBD oil solution that will assist you in getting positive results. Regarding inflammation, CBD alone has been scientifically proven to provide anti-inflammatory effects. However, regarding pain, the best scientifically proven solution is CBD and THC in a 1:1 ratio. This will be challenging to find commercially as current regulation limits the amount of THC availability to either 0.3% or 0.2% in a given CBD oil product based on your location.
Some researchers have stated that high enough doses of CBD-dominant solutions can provide pain relief effects. Yet, what those dose levels look like is unknown at the moment. Hence, it is best to work with a pro-cannabis medical professional to guide you through the process of finding your optimal dosage levels so you can achieve your desired results.
If a pro-cannabis medical professional is inaccessible to you in your area, then you may need to consider micro-dosing as your next option. As an example, micro-dosing marijuana is the practice of taking small amounts in order to reap the medical benefits of THC while avoiding its psychoactive effects. However, instead of micro-dosing marijuana, you may look into micro-dosing CBD oil to find your optimal dosage that produces the desired effects.
You would need to keep an active journal on hand to take note of a few variants such as:
- The type of cannabis product purchased (oil, vape, flower, edibles, etc)
- The CBD and/or THC concentration levels (number of mg’s per bottle)
- The date of treatment commencement (start date)
- The times of treatment administration (times of day, AM and PM)
- The frequency of treatment administration per day (number of times per day)
- The dosage amounts per administration (number of milligrams or drops per dose)
- The noticeable effects after administration (positive, negative, or neutral)
- Phan NQ, Siepmann D, Gralow I, Ständer S. Adjuvant topical therapy with a cannabinoid receptor agonist in facial postherpetic neuralgia. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2010 Feb;8(2):88-91. English, German. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2009.07213.x. Epub 2009 Sep 10. PMID: 19744255.
- Boychuk DG, Goddard G, Mauro G, Orellana MF. The effectiveness of cannabinoids in the management of chronic nonmalignant neuropathic pain: a systematic review. J Oral Facial Pain Headache. 2015 Winter;29(1):7-14. doi: 10.11607/ofph.1274. PMID: 25635955.
- Rahn EJ, Hohmann AG. Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: from the bench to the bedside. Neurotherapeutics. 2009 Oct;6(4):713-37. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2009.08.002. PMID: 19789075; PMCID: PMC2755639.
- Lee G, Grovey B, Furnish T, Wallace M. Medical Cannabis for Neuropathic Pain. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2018 Feb 1;22(1):8. doi: 10.1007/s11916-018-0658-8. PMID: 29388063.