Does CBD Oil for Shingles Work?

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CBD for Shingles

If you have shingles, you know how painful it can be. If you had chickenpox when you were younger, you also know the pain of a boily rash, but did you know you probably have the shingle virus dormant in your body? Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella zoster. It remains dormant in the body after a case of chickenpox and can be “activated” at anytime and doctors don’t what triggers it.

So how do you deal with the pain and rashes? Medications usually have side-effects and a case of severe shingles can be debilitating. That’s why some people are turning to CBD for shingles to avoid negative side-effects that come with many shingles medications. Studies show that CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, may help improve the symptoms of everything from anxiety and depression to nerve pain and skin cancer. Now there is preliminary evidence that shingles can be improved by CBD too.

CBD for Shingles at a Glance

  • What the claims are: CBD can help with rashes and pain.
  • What the studies show: Research shows that CBD connects to receptors in the body and helps properly regulate cell function, which may help with symptoms of shingles.
  • What the facts say: Because most studies on CBD have been done on mice and rats, concrete evidence that CBD can treat shingles directly is lacking. However, studies have shown it could possibly help with shingles indirectly through the natural mechanisms of CBD.

About Shingles

Shingles is a rash with shooting pain that usually shows up only on one side of the body. It’s caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster. Usually people who experienced chickenpox earlier in their lives can have shingles in the future because the virus remains dormant in the nerve tissues near your spinal cord and brain after the body experiences chickenpox.

A weakened immune system usually “wakes up” the varicella zoster virus, causing shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster. A person who has cancer, HIV, is 50 or older, is under severe stress, or is taking medicines that weaken the immune system is more likely to get shingles.

Symptoms of shingles are raised dots on your body or face that eventually turn into painful, red blisters. They start to dry out over 7 to 10 days, but you’ll feel a stabbing or shooting pain, a tingling feeling in the skin, and you could have fever, chills, and an upset stomach. The shingles virus is contagious to people who have never had chickenpox and haven’t been vaccinated.

Antiviral medications may slow down the progression of shingles rash and lower your chances of having complications. Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex) would be something your doctor would prescribe. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be used for the pain and inflammation. Lidocaine or calamine lotion can be used topically to numb the pain of the rash.

Using CBD for Shingles

CBD for Shingles

Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, has been shown to help improve many ailments, from anxiety and depression to epilepsy, pain, and even some cancers. Recent studies have shown that it may help lessen symptoms of shingles as well.

CBD affects our bodies because of our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate physiological functions in mammals in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs. CBD compounds attach to endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies which regulate cell function in many tissue types.

That means CBD for shingles can help in the same way. CBD connects to CBD receptors called CB1 found in cells on the skin, according to a study published in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2006.

CBD comes in many forms, like oil, cream, sprays, edibles, and more. Since shingles occurs on the skin, CBD oil for shingles could reduce pain and inflammation because when CBD links to CB1 receptors in the skin it can activate neuro-protective functions that can fight nerve inflammation and damage.

The Hartford Courant reported in 2017 that a Connecticut panel of physicians proposed to expand Connecticut’s medical marijuana laws to cover more types of conditions that could be treated by the drug, such as shingles, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy and rheumatoid arthritis.

The paper reported that the daughter of a 95-year-old World War II Navy veteran spoke in a public hearing urging the panel to approve medical marijuana for severe cases of shingles. “Shingles is the one thing that is taking him down,” Regina Walsh said. She read a letter from her father, who wrote shingles “left me with nerve pain that has plagued me ever since” and that medications “had no effect on the nerve pain, or they had unacceptable side effects.”

The panel concluded that shingles should be added to the list of marijuana-treatable illnesses, but rejected eczema, osteoarthritis, and severe emphysema.

Medical Studies

One study found that CBD activated CB1 receptors in mice with stress-induced excitotoxicity (death of neurons induced by stress-activated amino acids) and neuroinflammation and improved their symptoms. Because exposure to stress induces excitoxicity and neuroinflammation in the brain, just like how the shingles virus is somehow “activated,” CBD for shingles could prove helpful. The researchers concluded that the CB1 activation by CBD could be a new therapeutic strategy against neurological and neuropsychiatric pathologies caused by excitotoxicity or neuroinflammation.

Another study published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy states that CB1 receptors are more frequently found in the nervous system, particularly in the cerebellum and basal ganglia where the shingles virus remains dormant. Activating the CB1 receptor caused significant reduction in neuroinflammation in their study, reaching a similar conclusion to the study published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Downsides of Using CBD for Shingles

Despite millions of people already using cannabis and CBD for many different reasons, as with any drug, there are side-effects. CBD is usually well-tolerated because it’s non-psychoactive, it doesn’t get you “high” like THC, another component found in cannabis. However, the more common side-effects are diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue. CBD can also interact with other medications.

CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so dosage may not be as accurate as stated in labeling. There have been cases of CBD oil containing THC, which would give an intoxicating effect, instead of the non-psychotropic effect of CBD.


People are already using CBD for shingles and for a multitude of other ailments due to its healing properties, however there is no concrete research that proves CBD will help lessen symptoms of shingles other than possibly improving pain and being properly absorbed by the body, as research suggests.

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Last modified: June 12, 2019