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Shingles and Medical Cannabis

The National Institute on Aging details all facets of shingles and describes personal stories of sufferers who had so much skin pain that wearing clothes or having sheets over them caused extreme discomfort. The infection known as shingles is caused by a virus that impacts the nerves, causing burning, shooting pain, itching, rashes, and blisters. The condition is common, with one in three people developing at least one case in their lifetime.

The Mayo Clinic reports that the shingles virus is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes varicella (chicken pox). After contracting chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies inactive in nerve tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord; then, it lies dormant for years before being reborn as shingles.

While there is no cure for shingles, getting the vaccine and immediate treatment upon a breakout is critical to preventing long-term harm from the virus. Two primary drugs that treat the condition are Acyclovir and Valacyclovir; however, medical cannabis also soothes the symptoms of the condition, including headaches, pain, anxiety, and depression. 

Shingles Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

According to the Mayo Clinic, the reason for shingles is “unclear.” It is believed that those with weakened immune systems and those who are older are more susceptible to the infection. Furthermore, until the skin blisters caused by shingles scab over, a sufferer is contagious and could easily infect anyone near them with the virus, especially those with weakened immune systems. 

Along with burning, itching, and shooting pain, other symptoms of shingles may include fever, headache, sensitivity to light, and fatigue. As noted, shingles are treated with specific medication that is given during the infection. The healing properties of medical cannabis provide relief for these symptoms. 

Leveraging Cannabinoids for the Symptoms Associated with Shingles 

Sufferers of shingles report that extreme pain and discomfort are caused by the condition. Common treatments include painkillers, gabapentin, lyrica, and opioids. Unfortunately, medications like opioids can be addicting. Medical cannabis, on the other hand, is non-addictive and has proven to effectively treat chronic pain. 

Evolving understanding of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the human body sheds light on why medical cannabis is so effective for treating chronic pain and inflammation caused by conditions like shingles. The ECS regulates many functions throughout the body, including sleep, pain, mood, memory, reproduction, and more. Cannabinoids (compounds naturally occurring in the cannabis plant) bind to the receptors of the ECS. 

THC and CBD, for example, are cannabinoids that are shown to ease chronic pain. Additionally, the 2018 article “The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Terpenoids from Cannabis,” published in the journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, found that CBD “exerts prolonged immunosuppression” and inhibits chronic inflammation. 

There is more than one reason that patients can look to medical cannabis to help combat shingles, surely a welcome relief for such a painful condition. 

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Data Last Updated 11/07/2021

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