Can CBD help with shingles, and if so, how?

  • Shingles is a viral disease characterized by the presence of red patches with fluid-filled bumps on the skin, similar to chickenpox. The varicella-zoster virus remains in the body after a person experiences chickenpox and can reactivate several years later to cause shingles (1).
  • During a shingles outbreak, patients experience moderate to severe pain in the general area, red and itchy patches of skin, and pus-filled papules. Antiviral medicine, along with traditional painkillers, is commonly used in helping treat shingles (2).
  • Numerous anecdotal reports are beginning to surface regarding the use of CBD (cannabidiol) for shingles as a potential remedy in alleviating its symptoms. CBD is said to have anti-inflammatory properties (3) while also being a possible treatment for neuropathic pain (4).
  • The cannabinoids present in CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex signaling structure in the body, by binding with receptors responsible for managing inflammation and pain (5). Although these studies were not explicitly applied to treat shingles, it is reasonable to believe that cannabidiol’s anti-inflammatory characteristics may help provide relief for the symptoms of the said condition.
  • People planning to use CBD for its health benefits should consult with a doctor before applying the extract in their daily regimen.

Why People Are Turning to CBD Oil for Shingles

Shingles is a painful, blistery rash that is caused by the virus varicella-zoster and is quite similar to chickenpox. It usually presents itself as a patch of fluid-filled bumps on the skin either on the left side or right side of the torso, but it can show up anywhere in the body.

After a chickenpox infection, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state and can reactivate several years later to cause shingles (herpes zoster). The painful condition is especially prevalent in older people and is contagious for those who have not yet had chickenpox (6).

The typical symptoms of a shingles outbreak begin two to three days after experiencing a slight fever and tingling sensation under the skin. A person with this disease can have moderate to severe stinging pain in the area, red patches of skin with bumps, and itchiness.

Antiviral drugs (acyclovir) are the most common treatments available to help shorten the length and severity of shingles. Over-the-counter pain medication (lidocaine) is also often included to help relieve the intense pain that can be caused by the illness (7).

Although shingles usually resolve in a few weeks, a person can still experience persistent pain that can last for years, even when the bout of the said disease is over. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is a painful complication that affects the nerves and skin (8).

A growing number of anecdotal reports are beginning to surface regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment for viral infections. Despite the lack of clinical data, CBD is said to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help tone down the inflammatory responses to certain viruses such as varicella-zoster, which causes shingles (9).

How CBD Oil Works to Help With Shingles

CBD is one of the main chemical compounds of Cannabis sativa that is said to have numerous therapeutic applications for various pathological conditions. Unlike its counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is mainly present in medical marijuana, CBD is free of mind-altering effects (10).

In the body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the parts that contribute to perceiving pain (11). The ECS is a complex signaling structure consisting primarily of receptors that affect one’s sensitivity to pain, mainly due to inflammation in the immune system.

A review published in 2009 states that the cannabinoids present in CBD contain anti-inflammatory properties potent enough to inhibit inflammation caused by a range of conditions (12). Upon intake, the cannabinoids present in CBD oil binds to the CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors in the ECS, thus helping suppress pain levels in the individual (13).

Although these studies do not specifically mention CBD oil for use in the shingles virus (and no scientific literature has specifically studied this), it is reasonable to believe that it can theoretically treat nerve damage caused by the illness due to how it affects the ECS.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Shingles

The Pros

  • Studies on both humans and animals have shown CBD to possess qualities that can be beneficial in treating neuropathic pain (14-15).
  • Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive side effects and does not cause a “high” on its users.
  • Several studies suggest that CBD has an excellent safety profile, with reports of high doses of up to 1,500 mg a day to be well tolerated in humans (16).
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the selling of CBD products so long as retailers meet the conditions stated in the 2018 Farm Bill and comply with other applicable laws (17).

The Cons

  • Despite the numerous studies suggesting that CBD is a viable treatment for neuropathic pain, there is still a glaring lack of clinical trials specifically on CBD use for shingles.
  • Regulations on Cannabis-derived products are not fully set. This scenario makes it hard to determine whether products like CBD tinctures, capsules, and balms contain what they claim or not.
  • Apart from Epidiolex, the FDA does not approve any other CBD product in the treatment of any condition or disease (18).
  • There is a high probability of CBD interacting with current medications, such as the antiviral drugs used in treating shingles symptoms (19).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Shingles

Besides providing antiviral medication to reduce the effects of symptoms caused by shingles, a doctor may also suggest natural remedies that can help with pain management and discomfort. Most of these alternative treatments involve the application of topical formulations on the affected area of the skin.

Cleansing the blisters with a bath of colloidal oatmeal, applying cornstarch paste, and using lotions can alleviate itching and increase comfort. Essential oils from plants such as eucalyptus, chamomile, and tea tree are also popular treatments for shingles rash.

Similarly, CBD oil in the form of salves, balms, lotions, and creams can be used together with these ingredients to provide natural relief from shingles. For instance, a combination of a CBD topical mixed with colloidal oatmeal can calm sensitive skin infections.

Cannabidiol, by way of tinctures, can also be used along with these oils during massages to provide relief from itchiness. Many CBD oil products are infused with natural herbal extracts that increase their therapeutic effects against various skin diseases.

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Shingles

CBD is available in three forms: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

Full-spectrum CBD provides all of the organic compounds that are naturally present in the medical cannabis plant. This range includes cannabinoids like THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and various other minerals.

CBD sold as broad-spectrum is quite the same as full-spectrum, except for not having THC present. This type of CBD product can be beneficial to users that can do without the tetrahydrocannabinol content.

Meanwhile, CBD isolates are the products that consist of pure cannabidiol and are ideal for people that are allergic to specific components in the hemp plant.

Whichever the form of CBD selected, users must know how to choose the right product for their needs. The following are tips to ensure the buying of good quality CBD oil:

  1. Look for a CBD product with a certificate of analysis (COA) or laboratory reports concerning its contents. This label ensures that the buyer knows what to expect from the CBD oil they wish to purchase.
  2. Research about the legal stipulations and laws that come with possessing CBD in the state where it would be obtained and consumed.
  3. Users should purchase only non-GMO and organic CBD products from reputable brands. Most of the significant CBD companies grow their hemp or acquire it from licensed producers.
  4. Read product reviews concerning an online store before making a purchase. Before buying from a physical shop, make sure that they are authorized by the federal government to sell CBD products.
  5. It is essential to consult with a doctor that is knowledgeable with CBD before deciding to use it for shingles.

CBD Dosage for Shingles

There are no established clinical guidelines on the proper dosage for CBD oil, particularly for shingles. However, many experts suggest starting with a low amount of CBD and gradually increasing it until the desired effects are felt.

Patients with shingles can use CBD extract either as a topical or oral dose. It is also possible to administer both at the same time.  

For oral consumption, many patients find that 20 to 25 mg of cannabidiol daily is ideal for shingles pain relief. A ratio of 1 to 6 mg for every 10 pounds of body weight can also work for starters.

With regards to topical CBD, users can administer the product to the affected area at least once a day or as recommended by their doctor. Applying CBD creams or lotions on the skin can help alleviate the pain and itchiness that comes with shingles.

How to Take CBD Oil for Shingles

Although CBD oil is available in different forms, topical formulations of cannabidiol extract are perhaps the best for shingles. CBD is available as lotions, salves, creams, balms, and even as bath salts containing the chemical compound.

A topical that is infused with CBD can potentially provide targeted and immediate relief in areas where it is applied. Using this type of CBD product can be especially useful in reducing the itchiness and overall inflammation of painful red rashes caused by shingles.

Applying CBD creams is pretty straightforward. Users need to ensure that the skin is dry, clean, and free of other substances for the topical to be as effective as possible.

Massaging the CBD product as gently as possible for a few seconds is highly encouraged for deeper absorption.


The shingles condition is a painful rash caused by the virus varicella-zoster, which is also the same infectious agent of chickenpox. This virus stays dormant in the body and can restart years later in the form of shingles.

The condition is common in older people (20) with symptoms of shingles, including severe pain, red patches with bumps, and itchiness. Prior to the outbreak, a person may experience a slight fever and tingling sensation in their skin.

Despite resolving in a few weeks, an individual can still experience chronic pain in the form of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). This type of condition is a painful complication that affects the nerve cells in the body.

CBD is said to have properties that can help regulate the pain caused by viruses, including varicella-zoster. Several studies have shown that CBD extract contains anti-inflammatory properties while also being a potential treatment for neuropathic pain.

  1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Shingles: Overview. 2014 Nov 19 [Updated 2019 Nov 21]. Retrieved from:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019 July). Treating Shingles. Retrieved from:
  3. Tagne AM, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, Cosentino M, Marino F (2020, January 15). Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope? Retrieved from:
  4. Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245‐259. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928
  5. Rahn EJ, Hohmann AG. Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: from the bench to the bedside. Neurotherapeutics. 2009;6(4):713‐737. doi:10.1016/j.nurt.2009.08.002
  6. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. op. cit.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. op. cit.
  8. Mallick-Searle T, Snodgrass B, Brant JM. Postherpetic neuralgia: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and pain management pharmacology. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2016;9:447‐454. Published 2016 Sep 21. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S106340
  9. Tagne AM. et al. op. cit.
  10. Pavlovic R, Nenna G, Calvi L, et al. Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules. 2018;23(5):1230. Published 2018 May 20. doi:10.3390/molecules23051230
  11. Russo EB. op. cit.
  12. Burstein SH, Zurier RB. Cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and related analogs in inflammation. AAPS J. 2009;11(1):109‐119. doi:10.1208/s12248-009-9084-5
  13. Rahn EJ, Hohmann AG. op. cit.
  14. Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. J Exp Med. 2012;209(6):1121‐1134. doi:10.1084/jem.20120242
  15. Russo EB. op. cit.
  16. Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Curr Drug Saf. 2011;6(4):237‐249. doi:10.2174/157488611798280924
  17. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from:
  18. Ibid.
  19. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139‐154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
  20. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. op. cit.
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