Did you know that one in every three people in the United States develops shingles at some point in their lives?
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a million people are diagnosed with shingles each year.
If you have had chickenpox, the virus, varicella-zoster remains in your body in a dormant state and could resurface anytime in your life with violent rashes, fluid-filled blisters, accompanied by severe pain. Even young children can get shingles. But, the risk of shingles increases among older people.
Shingles is an infection, caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) – the same virus that caused chickenpox in your childhood.
It starts with a sharp pain on one side of the body, accompanied by fever, followed soon after by red, fluid-filled blisters that resemble chickenpox. These blisters usually dry up with a week or so. But if you scratch them (because they’re mighty itchy), they reappear with a vengeance.
Shingles, or Herpes Zoster, as it’s also called, may also cause chills, headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue. In rare cases, the infection may spread to the eye(s), ear(s), as well as lead to other bacterial infections, which you must address immediately to prevent further medical complications.
Contagious or Not?
While most tend to suffer from such an episode only once in their lifetime, others may contract this disease more than once.
Shingles isn’t particularly contagious, but the varicella-zoster virus may get transmitted to someone who has never had chickenpox before.
This contagion is active until all the sores and blisters have crusted and fallen off. Until then, you will have to stay away from people with a weak immune system, who have not been vaccinated or have never had chickenpox before.
Prevention Has (so far) Been The Only Cure: Shingles Vaccine
The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved two vaccines to prevent shingles for adults over 50 years – Zostavax and Shingrix.
Zostavax is a live vaccine (contains a weakened form of the varicella-zoster virus) that fights against the virus if it attacks your body later in your life. Shingrix, on the other hand, is an inactive vaccine (contains a “dead” form of the virus or ingredients of the actual virus, but no virulence). The CDC recommends Shingrix as a more effective, safer, and has more lasting effects when compared to Zostavax.
But then, side-effects of these vaccines aren’t unheard of. Both of these vaccines tend to cause allergic reactions, headaches, inflammations, itching, dizziness, etc. Occasionally, a person may even develop chickenpox from the vaccination (especially Zostavax).
So what’s the solution?
Conventional vs. Alternative Treatments for Shingles
Firstly, and most importantly, you must know that there’s NO CURE for shingles. There are also no treatments to resort to other than painkillers. You will simply have to wait for the infection to subside on its own, which usually takes about 2 – 3 weeks.
The conventional approach to treatments is with prescription drugs, i.e. antivirals, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and analgesics. They can help you manage the symptoms, alleviate the pain, and reduce the spread of the infection, and lower the risk of further complications.
But these come with their set of side-effects too!
Even after the infection has blown over, a shingles patient may still experience intense neuropathic pain, which is not just excruciating, but can even last for a very long time, probably months or years in some cases.
It’s only natural one would wonder if there is a safer, more reliable, and side-effect-free remedy to relieve pain, without having to suffer the adverse consequences of prescription medications.
CBD (cannabidiol) has become a hot topic off-late, owing to several promising studies that suggested CBD can be a natural remedy for many ailments – from treating epileptic seizures and side-effects of cancer to managing acne and difficult-to-treat pain.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the two main ingredients found in hemp and marijuana (both cannabis) plants. It is extracted from mainly the flowers of the plant. Unlike THC [which is present in high levels in marijuana and very low levels (0.3%) in hemp], CBD is non-psychoactive and generally derived from hemp that is rich in CBD content.
Research indicates that CBD, if used in proper doses, doesn’t cause any side-effects.
If you are wondering how CBD can help reduce shingles related pain, you are in the right place!
Can CBD Help Manage Shingles’ Symptoms?
CBD & the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
CBD works naturally on the cannabinoid receptor sites in any vertebrate animals. These cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors) signal the endocannabinoid system (ECS), located mostly in the brain and central nervous system, to function normally. This maintains homeostasis or the chemical and physiological balance of the body.
Cannabis is a single plant that contains thousands of chemical compounds that work synergistically to get the desired result. And CBD has proven to be a potentially effective natural remedy for a myriad of ailments.
According to a survey by the Brightfield Group, more people are switching to CBD from traditional medicine every day.
According to a 2018 research, published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, over 62% of people using CBD confirmed that CBD was indeed effective in the treatment of their medical conditions. CBD is quickly becoming a viable alternative in many cases where patients have exhausted the potential of pharmaceutical drugs and other natural remedies.
Studies Suggest CBD Works for Shingles
While it’s true that there is still a lack of conclusive scientific evidence connecting CBD oil to shingles treatment, the available studies and clinical trials on CBD has shown promise.
- A 2006 study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,indicated that CBD influences the endocannabinoid receptors, located in skin cells to help relieve skin-related issues. However, this study mainly pertained to skin melanoma.
- A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology indicated that cannabinoids could help manage shingles, as it can reduce pain and inflammation due to the neuroprotective functions activated when CBD connects with CB1 receptors in the skin.
- A 2009 animal study, published in Neurotherapeutics, proves that CBD can help manage chronic neuropathic pain in shingles patients, besides being effective in other related conditions, like nerve injury, human immunodeficiency virus, viral hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis.
- Another way CBD can prove it’s benefit in managing shingles is by its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that suppress the reactivation of the virus. This study was published in the Pharmaceuticals (Basel) magazine in 2010.
When considering alternative therapies, such as CBD, you must be careful and do your research on the dosage and the medium of delivery. CBD, like any other substance, could have an adverse effect on the body.
While still inconclusive and largely indirect studies yield a promising result in favor of CBD, more research and clinical trials are required to make any headway towards accepting CBD as a potential part of anti-shingles treatments.
Also, you must remember that the FDA hasn’t approved of CBD use for most medical conditions, except for a few cases, like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (Epidiolex).
For now, patients should consult a certified medical practitioner before making any changes in their pharmaceutical regimen. Even though CBD is largely safe for human consumption, only a doctor, preferably one with knowledge of cannabis medicine, can be the best judge, depending on your condition.