Skin Care

CBD as a Potential Treatment for Shingles

Judith Culp Pearson

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a reactivation of a previous infection—chickenpox.

It results in a painful rash that normally appears on one side of the body. It shortly blisters and fills with fluid, breaks, oozes then scabs. It is only after scabbing that CBD should be used since the oil from the extract could actually delay healing. Hydrating skin with CBD products and their rejuvenation and healing properties is the treatment in question. This article is purely theoretical, so talk to your doctor before using new products, particularly those with CBD, on shingles-affected skin.

CBD, theoretically, looks and sounds helpful

According to a recent study published in March of 2019 on the NCBI government website, CBD demonstrated antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. These properties can be helpful in coping with the symptoms of shingles, promote comfort and healing. [1]

A report in the European Journal of Pain, July, 2016 and republished on NCBI showed CBD was able to reduce pain using a transdermal patch for arthritis. They recommend more studies, but the message was clear. Hemp/CBD can reduce discomfort. [2]

Skin structure

John Hopkins Medicine website shares a useful overview of nerves in the skin. [3] Sensory nerves pervade the epidermis. They allow us to be ultra-aware of anything that comes in contact with our skin. They trigger us to let go of a hot pan. They allow us to feel the most delicate caress.

That’s because they are so superficial.

When impacted by shingles, they don’t function properly causing numbness, pins-and-needles sensations, pain, tingling, burning or itching. Sensory nerves proximity to the surface is why some medical professionals will prescribe a lidocaine patch for topical pain.

These nerves may be ideally located for impact by topical calming, soothing, analgesic agents like cannabinoids.

Formulation is the key…

It’s not just having hemp components there as calming, soothing agents. It’s about the entire product including quality, sourcing and making sure you are getting what you think you are buying.

It’s about what else is in the formula. For shingles irritated skin, a fragrance-free formula with no stimulating additives may offer the most comfort. Many skins won’t tolerate any form of mint, menthol, camphor, or essential oils.

Essential oils are far stronger than botanicals. It may be that this traumatized skin is hypersensitive to their penetrative abilities.

A non-irritating moisture enhancer like hyaluronic acid or certain peptides may help replenish the skin. The oil from hemp supported by other neutral oils can help keep moisture where needed and enhance barrier function. Keep in mind that products with thick oils/sealing properties or even heavy creams can delay healing.

The blend needs to be super gentle and all work together. Consider this skin more like you would think of a freshly healing burn.

Other options

You may want to look beyond CBD. More evidence is pointing toward cannabigerol (CBG), the precursor of CBD and THC. While beyond the scope of this article, you can check out this NCBI scientific review and this Hemptown review, respectively, to learn more about the benefits of CBG in formulas.

The biggest challenge

Finding the right formula and getting quick access to it may be the biggest challenge.

A calming, soothing water-based hemp gel might help with the initial rash. To promote and support the healing process, look at a formula with the protective attributes of oil.

Always test in a tiny area to see how the individual’s skin responds.

Disclaimer: Talk to your doctor before implementing CBD into your treatment routine.



[1] Tóth, Kinga Fanni, et al. (March 2019) Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System

[2] Hammell, D.C. et al.(July 2016) Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Pain Journal.

[3] John Hopkins Medicine, Neurology and Neurosurgery Center. Patient website.

About the author

Judith Culp Pearson

Judith Culp Pearson

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