• Shingles is a condition where painful blisters or rashes appear on one side of the body or face. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus’ reactivation and is usually associated with complications like severe pain and inflammation(1).
  • Antiviral medications are used in treating shingles(2). Natural remedies like a cold compress, oatmeal baths, calamine lotions, and essential oils(3) may also help in pain relief and inflammation reduction.
  • Studies show that CBD oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate pain and manage inflammation(4). Another study suggests CBD may also have antiviral characteristics(5).
  • Current research is yet to determine CBD’s potential to help with shingles. Individuals interested in using CBD to manage the symptoms and complications of shingles are encouraged to consult a physician or professional health worker.

Why People Are Considering CBD Oil for Shingles

People with shingles may experience inflammation and severe pain, especially in areas where the rashes appear. Some benefits of CBD include having anti-inflammatory properties(6) and the potential to manage chronic pain(7).

Recent studies also show CBD to have promising antiviral properties(8). A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2020 states that CBD may have potential effectiveness as an antiviral drug.

Results suggest that CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic characteristics may help with shingles, oral and genital herpes, and Ebola.

How CBD Oil Works to Help With Shingles

People may use CBD to manage inflammation brought by shingles. CBD engages the cannabinoid receptors in the body, helping to suppress inflammation(9).

The Endocannabinoid System

The ECS is a neuromodulatory system responsible for the development of the central nervous system(10). The ECS also provides regulatory functions for the body’s health(11).

CBD products contain cannabinoids that interact with endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the ECS. These receptors play a role in the management of pain and inflammatory response(12).

CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are more prevalent in immune cells. 

However, recent studies suggest that these receptors are also present in the cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems(13).

CBD vs. THC for Shingles

CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are naturally occurring cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant(14). Both compounds interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS)(15)

The primary difference between CBD and THC is that THC is a psychoactive agent that gets the user high. Thus, hemp-derived CBD products may be a better choice for individuals with a low tolerance for THC.

What Research Says About CBD for Shingles

No study has been conducted on CBD’s potential to manage shingles. However, there has been a review of various CBD literature concerning the drug’s antiviral potential(16).

Individuals with shingles may also benefit from CBD’s potential to manage nerve pain. A 2008 review mentioned that the results of numerous clinical trials noted CBD’s safety and efficacy in managing neuropathic pain(17).

However, clinical evidence is still insufficient, and anecdotal reports on the internet still lack scientific backing(18).

CBD for Inflammation and Pain

Studies were conducted to examine CBD’s potential as a pain medication to help manage neuropathic pain(19)

Research results may be helpful in further studies on how CBD may help manage pain from shingles. 

Postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that affects nerve fibers and skin, is a common complication of shingles(20).

In individuals with shingles, inflammation may lead to nerve damage that can cause pain even after the blisters have disappeared(21).

Research shows that CBD may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain(22)

Pros and Cons of CBD for Shingles

Pros

  • CBD does not have any psychoactive agents that give humans a feeling of high. CBD also does not have properties indicative of abuse or dependence(23).
  • CBD is readily available in most U.S. parts. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, making CBD legal on the federal level(24). To date, all 50 states have enacted laws regulating CBD with varying restriction levels.
  • CBD has multiple pharmacological potentials, including anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, anxiolytic (antianxiety), and antiemetic (antinausea) properties(25).
  • High doses of CBD of up to 1,500mg per day are well tolerated among humans(26).

Cons

  • Multiple studies have been performed on human and animal subjects to examine the safety and efficacy of CBD. 

However, clinical trials are still lacking to make a definite conclusion on CBD’s effectiveness, especially for shingles.

  • The only use of CBD approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to date is for the treatment of epilepsy(27).
  • CBD may cause negative side effects, like diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, or loss of appetite(28).

How CBD Oil Compares to Other Alternative Treatments for Shingles

A review published in The AAPS Journal in 2009 suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) has anti-inflammatory properties(29).

This characteristic may be comparable to cold compresses and essential oils that act as traditional painkillers and help manage inflammation.

CBD may also be compared to other antiviral medications. A 2020 study suggests CBD may have potential effectiveness in managing viral diseases(30).

Safety and Side Effects of CBD for Shingles

CBD does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC that gets a person high. 

CBD also does not have the properties indicating the potential for dependence or abuse(31). More importantly, there has been no evidence of the drug causing public health problems.

However, taking CBD may have side effects like diarrhea, fatigue, dry mouth, loss of appetite, or drowsiness. If a person is currently on medication, CBD can also interact with certain medicines like blood thinners(32).

Persons with shingles must seek advice from a physician or professional health worker to ensure if taking CBD products is the best option for the disease.

CBD Dosage for Shingles

Individual factors like age, metabolism, cannabinoid receptor sensitivity, and severity of symptoms must be considered to determine the correct CBD dose for a specific medical condition.

To date, studies have not yet been conducted to determine the proper CBD dosage specific for shingles.

A review was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research in 2020 showing varied formulations and doses of CBD for a range of diseases(33).

Since there is currently no universally accepted dosage, physicians or professional health workers cannot prescribe CBD products..

CBD Usage for Shingles

CBD oil may take the form of various product types, including tinctures, vapes, gummies and other edibles, and CBD creams, balms, and salves

In choosing the best CBD oil for shingles, CBD consumers must consider the following tips to maximize the benefits of CBD products for their needs.

  • CBD is among the essential components of medical marijuana. However, CBD is usually extracted from the hemp plant, a close relative of marijuana(34)
  • CBD products that contain other cannabinoids, including THC, are called full-spectrum CBD. On the other hand, CBD products that have other cannabinoids except for THC are called broad-spectrum CBD.
  • Full-spectrum CBD contains terpenes that provide a wide variety of medicinal benefits.
  • Consumers should buy only from legitimate CBD manufacturers to ensure high quality and safety.

Oral vs. Topical CBD Intake for Shingles

Individuals with shingles may take CBD through oral ingestion. This method may be preferred to take advantage of CBD’s antiviral properties, which may have more long-lasting effects when ingested orally(35).

Alternatively, topical application may be more effective in relieving shingles pain and reducing skin rashes(36).

What Is Shingles?

Shingles, also named herpes zoster, is a viral infection that appears as painful red rashes or blisters on one side of the body(37). These blisters take about 7 to 10 days to scab over and two to four weeks to clear up.

The shingles virus impairs the nerves of the skin. Those with shingles usually experience an itching, tingling, or severe pain in the area where the rashes develop before the blisters appear. These signs usually occur days before the rashes manifest on the skin.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles may manifest all over the body among individuals with weak immune systems and make a similar appearance as chickenpox. Blisters that develop around the eyes may cause vision impairment(38)

Other symptoms of shingles include fever, headaches, chills, and stomachache(39).

Causes and Risks of Shingles

The reactivated varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in the body usually causes shingles. VZV is the same strain that causes chickenpox(40).

VZV becomes dormant in the nervous system of an individual that recovers from chickenpox. The virus usually does not reactivate unless the person’s immune system weakens(41).

Complications of Shingles

Shingles can cause complications(42) like:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia – Some people may continue to experience painful conditions even after the blisters have disappeared. Shingles can cause neuropathic pain where the damaged nerves keep sending pain signals to the brain.
  • Vision loss – Ophthalmic shingles form in and around one eye that can cause eye infections and lead to vision loss.
  • Skin infections – Improperly treated blisters may cause bacteria to infect the skin.
  • Neurological problems – Nerve damage caused by shingles can cause encephalitis (brain inflammation), facial paralysis, hearing problems, or balance difficulties.

Is Shingles Contagious?

An individual affected by shingles may pass the VZV to another person who has little or no immunity to the virus(43).

A person does not get shingles from someone with VZV. That said, an individual who did not yet have chickenpox or was not vaccinated for VZV can get chickenpox from someone with shingles.

Should the Word “Herpes” Cause Alarm?

Another name for shingles is herpes zoster, caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus(44).

However, people may associate the word “herpes” with genital herpes, a type of sexually transmitted disease. The herpes simplex virus is the cause of genital herpes.

The herpes zoster and herpes simplex viruses are transmitted in different ways. However, they come from the same herpes virus family.

Is Shingles Similar to Chickenpox?

Shingles and chickenpox are medical conditions caused by the varicella-zoster virus(45). However, chickenpox usually manifests on various areas of the skin, while shingles usually appear on one part of the face or side of the torso.

What Foods Make Shingles Worse?

Arginine, an amino acid, can cause the spread of the herpes virus(46). To lessen or prevent further growth of the virus, a person with shingles must avoid foods containing arginine.

Some foods containing high amounts of arginine are legumes, nuts, and whole grains(47).

Preventing Shingles

To prevent the VZV transmission to others, a person with shingles must cover the areas with rashes and avoid touching or scratching those rashes. Handwashing can also help mitigate the spread of the virus(48).

To avoid a shingles outbreak, persons with VZV must avoid contact with the following individuals until the rashes crust(49):

  • Pregnant women who did not get chickenpox or were not vaccinated for chickenpox
  • Infants with low birth weight or delivered preterm (premature birth)
  • People with weak immune systems

Natural Remedies

Some natural methods to manage shingles include cold compresses, oatmeal baths, calamine lotions, and essential oils.

Cold compresses may be used for pain relief and itch reduction(50).

Oatmeal baths are approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a skin protectant(51).

Calamine lotions relieve itchiness and discomfort caused by skin irritations brought by shingles rashes(52).

Essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil may also be used to help fight bacteria and manage inflammation and skin regeneration(53).

Typical Shingles Treatments

Antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir can be used to treat shingles and reduce the severity and length of the illness(54).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that, for best results, these medications must be taken as soon as the rashes begin to appear(55).

Lidocaine skin patches are another medication used for pain management. Pain relief is achieved by applying the patch on the affected area caused by the shingles virus(56).

Individuals who encounter the first signs of shingles must immediately contact a physician or professional health care provider for the proper treatment procedure.

FAQs

1. Is CBD good for shingles?

CBD may provide some anti-inflammatory reduction and pain relief. However, one important disclaimer is that the FDA has not yet approved CBD as a treatment medication for shingles.

2. Is it advisable to put CBD on shingles?

CBD can be taken orally or topically, depending on an individual’s preference. Topical CBDs, like balms, creams, and salves, are applied to the skin. In terms of relieving pain and reducing skin rashes, topical application may be effective(57).

3. What is the best pain reliever for shingles?

Currently, there are antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir available for treating shingles(58). For pain relief, Lidocaine skin patches are available for application on the affected area(59).

Meanwhile, research shows that CBD may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain(60).

4. What essential oils are good for shingles?

Some essential oils, like tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil,  may help alleviate inflammation and fight bacteria(61)

Individuals with allergies should seek help from a physician or professional health worker to ensure these oils are safe to use.


  1. Shingles: Symptoms and causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  2. Treating shingles
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
  3. Efficacy of Essential Oils in Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Preclinical Evidence
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.640128/full
  4. Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  5. Cannabidiol for viral diseases: Hype or hope?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347053/
  6. Ibid.
  7. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/
  8. Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347053/
  9. An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.biopsych.2015.07.028
  10. Ibid.
  11. The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1124%2Fpr.58.3.2
  12. An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.biopsych.2015.07.028
  13. Phytocannabinoids: Useful drugs for the treatment of obesity? Special focus on cannabidiol
    https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffendo.2020.00114
  14. CBD & THC: Myths and misconceptions
    https://www.projectcbd.org/cbd-101/cbd-misconceptions
  15. Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: From the bench to the bedside
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurt.2009.08.002
  16. Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347053/
  17. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain
    https://doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S1928
  18. Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347053/
  19. Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: From the bench to the bedside
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.nurt.2009.08.002
  20. Postherpetic neuralgia
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postherpetic-neuralgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20376588
  21. Shingles: Symptoms and causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  22. Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids, and Related Analogs in Inflammation
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1208%2Fs12248-009-9084-5
  23. CANNABIDIOL (CBD)Pre-Review ReportAgenda Item 5.2
    https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf
  24. Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  25. The therapeutic aspects of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) for cancer and their development: From nature to laboratory
    https://dx.doi.org/10.2174%2F1381612822666151211094901
  26. Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  27. FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy
    https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms
  28. What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
  29. Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids, and Related Analogs in Inflammation
    https://doi.org/10.1208/s12248-009-9084-5
  30. Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7347053/
  31. CANNABIDIOL (CBD)Pre-Review ReportAgenda Item 5.2
    https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf
  32. What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
  33. Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7092763/
  34. Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  35. Best way to take CBD
    https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/best-way-take-cbd
  36. Ibid.
  37. Signs & symptoms of shingles (herpes zoster)
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/symptoms.html
  38. Ibid.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Shingles: Symptoms and causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid.
  43. How shingles spreads
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/transmission.html
  44. Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
  45. Shingles: Symptoms and causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  46. Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture
    https://doi.org/10.1159/000237979
  47. Assessment of dietary intake of lysine and arginine in patients with herpes simplex
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3117869/
  48. How shingles spreads
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/transmission.html
  49. Ibid.
  50. Shingles: Symptoms and causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353060
  51. Colloidal oatmeal: history, chemistry and clinical properties
    https://nebula.wsimg.com/97eb5904fd1c312d4c580a740da0bf16?AccessKeyId=424EC4B3280015FB20E8&disposition=0
  52. Calamine (topical route)
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/calamine-topical-route/description/drg-20062463
  53. Essential Oils 101: Do They Work + How Do You Use Them?
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/essential-oils-101-do-they-work-how-do-you-use-them/
  54. Treating shingles
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
  55. Ibid.
  56. Lidocaine (Topical Application Route)
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/lidocaine-topical-application-route/precautions/drg-20072776?p=1
  57. Best way to take CBD
    https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/best-way-take-cbd
  58. Treating shingles
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
  59. Lidocaine (Topical Application Route)
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/lidocaine-topical-application-route/precautions/drg-20072776?p=1
  60. Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids, and Related Analogs in Inflammation
    https://dx.doi.org/10.1208%2Fs12248-009-9084-5
  61. Essential Oils 101: Do They Work + How Do You Use Them?
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/essential-oils-101-do-they-work-how-do-you-use-them/
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