Jenny of Palo Alto, CA has Psoriasis. And, over the course of her life it’s taken her on an emotional roller coaster ride – from embarrassment to frustration to a loss of hope. She’s turned to me seeking more information on using medical marijuana for her Psoriasis. Here’s her story…
I’m writing to you at 4:00 am! The itching from my Psoriasis has kept me up tossing and turning all night.
I was diagnosed with Psoriasis in my early 20s. But, I started having symptoms as a teenager.
As you can imagine, having Psoriasis as a teenager was absolutely devastating. There was no end to the teasing and bullying.
I tried everything to cover up the unsightly red, scaly, flaky patches on my elbows, on my knees, and even on my face.
I absolutely refused to leave the house in anything but pants and full-sleeved tops. And, I avoided pool parties like the plague.
My mom finally dragged me to the dermatologist when the patches started to spread all over my body.
When it came to finding a treatment, I’d the say #thestrugglewasforreal. At one point, my bathroom was chock full of topical creams. Some worked for a bit and then stopped working. Some caused my skin to peel and even bleed. Most of them burned a hole in my wallet.
We then tried a bunch of different prescriptions meds. Some of the ones I remember trying were Methotrexate, Humira, and Enbrel.
One day I decided to actually read through the pamphlet that the pharmacy gives. And, I was completely shocked to read that these medications could cause serious infections and even cancer. That left me feeling really scared, which is when I decided to stop taking the meds all together.
Over the years I started to notice that the psoriasis got worse when I got stressed out. So I took up yoga, meditation, and regular exercise, which helped a lot. At the same time, I even changed my diet (by eliminating gluten and dairy) and started taking supplements. All in all, I’d say that the psoriasis didn’t go away completely, but all these things combined prevented the psoriasis from getting really, really bad.
You know I have to say that at this point you name it and I’ve tried it. I’ve tried ultraviolet light therapy. I’ve tried laser treatments. I even took the risk of participating in a clinical trial at Stanford University.
Every time my doctor discussed a new treatment option, it brought so much new found hope. Naively, I would think think to myself this is it – this is going to be the treatment that’s going to resolve my psoriasis. Only a few weeks later I’d be so incredibly let down by the results.
I feel like I’m at the point where I’m running out of options, which in and of itself makes me really anxious. I have a problem for which I’m desperate for a solution and I can’t seem to find a treatment that works.
I actually heard you mention how you’ve treated patients with Psoriasis on a podcast you were on. I’m interested in learning more.
I have to say that given a lot of the past treatments I’ve used have failed, I I’m cautiously optimistic. But, I dream of the day I can go out in public without having to fret about people thinking I have a contagious disease or that I don’t have good hygiene.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Palo Alto, CA
Great question. It’s actually one that I don’t get asked that often. So, I’m glad you asked.
Of course, I like to back up what I see clinically with research, so let’s start there first and then, I’ll move on to the results I’ve seen in my patients with Psoriasis who’ve used medical marijuana as a treatment.
Medical Marijuana for Psoriasis: The Research
Now, before I dive into the research, I want to give you some background as to why the researchers decided to do the research in the first place. It wasn’t random. There was actually a lot of careful thought that went into it.
So there are a couple components to Psoriasis.
- One, obviously, is that it impacts the skin.The researchers knew from previous research that we have receptors for the chemicals in marijuana in our skin.
- The specific way in which Psoriasis impacts the skin is that it speeds up the replication of skin cells. It becomes impossible for the skin cells to be removed quickly enough. So they start building up and that’s why you see the characteristic scaly, flaky patches.Again, from previous research, the researchers knew that anandamide – a chemical like the chemical in marijuana but one that our own body makes – prevents the body from making too many skin cells.
- Now, the third component of Psoriasis is inflammation.It’s a given considering that Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. In other words, it’s a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacking healthy skin cells. On top of this, the body is also producing a whole lot of chemicals that increase inflammation in the skin.The researchers knew that cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties.
So, all in all, given that Psoriasis impacts the skin by accelerating the production of skin cells and causing inflammation, they figured marijuana fits the bill in terms of what they’re looking for in terms of a treatment….and decided to test their idea out.
The study was published in 2007 and was done in the United Kingdom.
The researchers tested out a bunch of psoriatic skin cells from humans against marijuana.
Basically, they put a bunch of these psoriatic skin cells in petri dishes and then, if you can imagine, created a solution containing marijuana which they then mixed into the petri dishes with the psoriatic skin cells.
The results showed that the cannabinoids stopped the skin cells from making lots and lots of copies of themselves. This showed that marijuana does have the potential to treat Psoriasis.
Medical Marijuana for Psoriasis: The Results
So, now, what have I seen in my practice when treating patients with Psoriasis with medical marijuana?
As I mentioned before, one of the most common symptoms of Psoriasis is inflammation of the skin, which shows up as scaling and flaking of the skin with redness of the underlying skin.
Patients have reported that medical marijuana helps to reduce both the scaling and flaking as well as the underlying redness.
The other most common symptom of Psoriasis is painful joints. The underlying inflammation of the autoimmune conditions leads to stiffness and swelling in the joints throughout the body. As you can imagine this causes patients a whole lot of pain.
I’ve had patients report that medical marijuana helps to reduce the pain associated with their joints.
Overall, the pain relief does improve the patient’s quality of life. I’ve had patients tell me that they’re able to perform everyday tasks – from buttoning a shirt to opening bottles to gripping golf clubs – with greater ease.
Jenny I hope you found this information helpful. I hope this information was also helpful for other folks out there with Psoriasis.
Would you like my help? Head on over to the GET HELP page, I’ll step-by-step walk you through how to safely use medical marijuana to help manage your Psoriasis symptoms.