Approximately one million Americans develop shingles every year. It is a virus that causes a painful rash and can lead to various long-term complications.
Treatment options are limited, and some people are considering natural remedies like CBD oil for shingles. But is it a practical solution, or will it do more harm than good?
Here’s our complete guide to CBD and shingles, the potential benefits and risks, and how to choose a suitable product.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is also known as herpes zoster. It is a common viral infection caused by Varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles is a common viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
When a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in their system and can flare up later in life. The risk of developing shingles increases with age. Therefore, a shingles vaccination is available for over 50s.
The most common symptom is the classic shingles rash that tends to affect one side of the body. However, various other short and long-term issues can occur as a result of the infection.
The first symptoms of shingles include sensations of pain, tingling, or itching, usually affecting one side of the body. Between one day and two weeks later, painful blisters will develop in the same area.
Shingles generally appear in a single strip around the ribs or on the face. However, in people with compromised immune function, it could affect the entire body.
After 7–10 days, the blisters typically scab over, and they should heal fully within 2–4 weeks. Other possible symptoms include:
- Stomach upsets
After these early-stage shingles symptoms subside, some people go on to develop long-term nerve damage known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This condition can last months or years and occurs in 10–18% of cases. It causes severe pain, sensitivity, and itching.
Other serious complications include:
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- Temporary or permanent vision loss
- Temporary or permanent balance problems or hearing loss
- In rare cases, death
What Causes Shingles?
As we already mentioned, shingles is caused by the Varicella zoster virus. Many people already have this virus in their system due to having chickenpox earlier in their life. It can sometimes reactivate at a later date, causing symptoms to reoccur.
The causes of shingles transmission include someone who has never had chickenpox coming into contact with fluid from an infected person’s blisters. Although this will cause chickenpox rather than shingles, that person will be at risk of developing shingles later on.
But as long as affected individuals keep their rash well covered, there is a low risk of passing on the virus. It is also impossible to infect others before the rash develops or once the blisters scab over.
Even so, people with shingles should avoid contact with the following groups of people:
- Those with compromised immune systems
- Pregnant women
- Premature or small-for-dates babies
The best treatment for shingles is an antiviral medication, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir. This shingles virus treatment aims to shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. It is most effective when taken within three days of the rash appearing.
Some people recommend shingles alternative treatments such as acupuncture or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). However, the evidence to support these therapies is limited, and they could increase the risk of transmission if not performed carefully.
Aside from antiviral medication for shingles, several other options may help. They include medicines to relieve pain and topical applications like calamine lotion to reduce itching.
Shingles pain medication may also help with the long-term symptoms of PHN. However, nerve pain is challenging to treat, and regular painkillers may be ineffective. Therefore, doctors may prescribe anticonvulsant drugs, antidepressants, or anesthetic patches instead.
CBD for Shingles
Now that more people are searching for alternative remedies, some are considering cannabidiol (CBD). It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in both marijuana and hemp and has various purported benefits.
There is currently no research specifically on shingles and CBD. However, there is evidence that cannabis-based medicines could help certain complications, such as PHN.
A 2018 review looked at the effects of various cannabinoids on neuropathic pain. It included 16 clinical trials and 1750 participants, with study durations ranging from 2–26 weeks. The researchers investigated several neuropathic conditions, including PHN.
Although most of the evidence was low quality, the authors concluded that:
- Cannabis-based medicines may increase the number of participants experiencing at least 50% pain relief
- Cannabis-based medicines probably increase the number of participants experiencing at least 30% pain relief
The review included several consumption methods, including oral, oromucosal, and inhaled cannabinoids. However, it may be that topicals, such as CBD salve for shingles, are also useful.
A 2020 randomized controlled trial investigated topical CBD application for peripheral neuropathy. Its results showed that the cannabinoid significantly reduced neuropathy symptoms compared to the placebo. These symptoms included:
- Intense pain
- Sharp pain
- Cold sensations
However, individuals should be cautious when using CBD to treat infections. This is because scientists are still working to understand its effects on the immune system fully.
Some research suggests CBD has antiviral effects against some infections, including hepatitis C and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus. However, it is also possible that specific cannabinoids could suppress the immune system and speed up virus progression.
Therefore, until we know more, it may be wise to avoid CBD during the early stages of shingles. While it should be safe for treating residual symptoms once the initial infection clears, we recommend consulting a physician before use.
Best CBD Oil for Shingles
Individuals wishing to try CBD oil for shingles pain have several options. Popular consumption methods include:
- Vape products
Topicals such as creams and balms may be most appropriate for localized problems such as shingles. They ensure that the product’s active compounds get to exactly where they are needed, providing more direct relief. However, not all topicals are equally effective, and it is critical to choose a high-quality product.
Not all topicals are equally effective, and it is critical to choose a high-quality product.
Firstly, look for a brand that publishes third-party lab test results on its website. These reports tell consumers precisely how much CBD and other active ingredients the product contains. They also ensure it is free from contaminants such as pesticides.
Secondly, choose a full-spectrum topical rather than one made from CBD isolate. Full-spectrum products contain a wealth of other compounds in addition to CBD. They include other beneficial cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN, and various terpenes, which could have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
Next, check the manufacturing process. For example, does the product come from organic hemp, and what extraction process does the company use? Most experts consider CO2 extraction to be the best as it is a clean process that yields a pure and potent result.
Finally, read plenty of online reviews to find out how satisfied previous customers were with their purchase. We also have many CBD brand reviews available here at WayofLeaf. Learn about our favorite CBD topicals here.