Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes itchy scaling of the skin. It typically affects the elbows, knees, and scalp, but any skin-covered place will do.
About 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. For most, it will manifest only in patches. But if it extends over more than five percent of your surface area, then you are among the one-in-five who have a severe case.
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There are many faces of psoriasis. Lesions may be slivery or fiery red, pussy or merely bloody, small or expansive in scale. Fingernails may or may not discolor, crumble, and detach. As many as a third of people with this condition will receive the bonus gift of psoriatic arthritis.
Genetically inherited, psoriasis is yet another trauma we receive from our parents, but its appearance tends to be triggered by physical or emotional stress.
During an outburst, T cells that normally protect us from bacterial incursions mistakenly begin to attack our own skin cells. As white blood cells rush into the fray, the blood vessels dilate, causing inflammation. The body then goes into overdrive to replace the dead and dying skin. New cells push up, as much as ten times faster than normal, accumulating on the surface in thick mounds of dead skin and white corpuscles, intertwined like the corpses of ice-zombies and men of the Night’s Watch strewn across the plains of the frozen North.
Because of cannabis’s well known anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects, it’s a natch that it ought to have some ameliorating effect on the heartbreak of psoriasis. But the medical evidence is thin.
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One of the most intriguing findings comes from a 2007 study that tested the effects of five different cannabinoids (including everybody’s favorites THC and CBD) on skin cells that were induced to hyper-productivity in vitro. All five cannabinoids inhibited proliferation. (That’s good news!) But here’s something that flouted all expectation: Blocking both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors had no effect on the outcome. In other words, the cannabinoids were operating by some means other than the two scientifically recognized pathways.
What that means is, however, still unknown.