CBD for Poison Ivy and Rash
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 05/17/2019 in Ailments and Conditions
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
About 85 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy, sumac and oak. It’s the most common allergic reaction in the United States, according to the American Skin Association, affecting 50 million people each year. Some people have found that a compound in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD) can help ease the redness, itching and swelling.
The Science Behind Poison-Related Rashes
Most people have a reaction to plants like poison oak and ivy. About 85 percent of people get a rash when the oil from poison plants gets in contact with their skin. You can get in direct contact with the plant or touch something that has the oil on it. Burning one of these plants also releases particles in the air that cause the rash when it lands on your skin. Poison causes redness, itchiness, swelling and hives.
Please keep in mind that you should seek emergency care right away if you experience certain symptoms. If your rash develops beyond a few spots in one area, you need medical attention. Severe swelling, a widespread or persistent rash and trouble breathing can all indicate a severe reaction.
The Science Behind Poison-Related Itchiness
Why do poison ivy, oak and sumac cause such an irritating rash in so many people? The answer is urishiol, an oily sap found in the leaves, stems and roots of these plants. It’s absorbed quickly into the skin and can also be absorbed into the lungs if the plants are burned.
Once the oil interacts with skin cells called Langerhans cells, these cells express a protein called CD1a that activates the immune system’s T lymphocytes (or T cells). The T cells view the urishiol as a foreign invader and send out inflammatory signals called cytokines to attack it. This in turn causes an allergic reaction, also called delayed hypersensitivity. Symptoms, including oil-filled blisters on the skin, develop within 12 to 48 hours and can last for weeks. The urishiol can spread to other areas of the body and to other people.
Allergic reactions to poison ivy, sumac and oak can be serious, and you should seek emergency care right away if you experience certain symptoms. If your rash is persistent or widespread or is accompanied by severe swelling or difficulty breathing, you need medical attention. If your symptoms are mild, however, CBD may provide relief.
How CBD Can Help Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
A receptor in the body’s endocannabinoid system called CB2 regulates the immune system. When a cannabinoid, such as CBD, activates the CB2 receptor, it reduces the immune system’s reaction by lowering the number of T cells and cytokines that create inflammation.
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the other primary cannabinoid in marijuana, CBD doesn’t directly activate these receptors. Instead, it boosts the power of endocannabinoids, which are the cannabinoids our bodies create. CBD increases anandamide levels, which in turn suppresses the immune response to decrease inflammation, itching and redness.
Why Use CBD Instead of Traditional Treatments?
In most cases, you can use home remedies to take care of your poison rash. But, some patients need to use steroid creams to soothe them. Using CBD has the following benefits over typical poison treatments:
- No Prescription Needed: Medications like prednisone require a prescription from a doctor, so you have to make an appointment to get treatment. CBD medicine can be obtained from a reputable store or a dispensary if you live in a state where it’s legal.
- Fewer Side Effects: Steroids and steroid creams have a long list of adverse effects. CBD causes fewer side effects, and many patients tolerate it well.
- Less Dangerous Side Effects: Steroid creams can cause infections, blood sugar problems and psoriasis, while CBD’s side effects are less serious. These include sleepiness, dry mouth and light-headedness.
How to Use CBD for Poison Rash
Another advantage of CBD over traditional treatments: There are more ways to administer it. While most types of CBD medication can relieve symptoms, some of them work better for skin conditions than others.
- Topicals: Creams, lotions and salves applied to the rash tend to work best because the CBD directly affects the cannabinoids and receptors in the affected skin cells. Test a patch of skin without a rash before you try a topical for the first time. CBD is safe to use but, as with other treatments, it can cause an allergic reaction.
- Oils: One of the most accessible forms of CBD medicine, oil can be ingested, dropped under the tongue, or rubbed into the rash. Taking it under your tongue or applying to your rash will give you the fastest relief.
- Edibles, Capsules and Pills: It takes longer to feel the effects when CBD is ingested, but the relief can last longer. Ingesting it can also be preferable for patients with cognitive disabilities or anyone who panics at the sight of medicine.
Where to Get CBD
You can find CBD at a natural health store or a dispensary. If you have a medical marijuana card, you can get CBD medicine at any dispensary in a state that has legalized medical marijuana. All adults over 21 can also get CBD items from a recreational dispensary in a legal state.
Federal and state laws surrounding CBD products are murky, so check a product’s content before buying. CBD from a retail store should contain less than 0.3 percent THC.