Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a condition that causes long-lasting burning sensations in the skin due to nerve fiber damage, even after the rash and blisters from shingles have healed. This condition can be extremely uncomfortable and cause extreme sensitivity to touch. Although there is no cure for PHN, several treatments can alleviate symptoms, including medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis has already proven to alleviate skin conditions such as eczema. The National Eczema Association reports that cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, represent an exciting prospect for treating eczema. Additionally, a 2018 Cochrane Library report shows how effectively cannabis-based medicines can deal with nerve issues, which are the cause of PHN. After performing up to 16 studies on 1,750 participants, researchers concluded that cannabis-based medicines may increase the number of people achieving 50% or greater pain relief compared with placebo.
Shingles cause PHN, but certain risk factors can bring on the condition, including age and if shingles were on the face. There are additional complications that arise from PHN, such as depression, fatigue, insomnia, weight loss, and confusion. To prevent PHN and shingles, two doses of Shingrix are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.
Other treatments for PHN include lidocaine or capsaicin skin patches or certain anti-seizure medications. However, topical cannabinoid receptor agonists have shown to be an effective and well-tolerated adjuvant therapy option in postherpetic neuralgia. The International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines reported in 2010 the effectiveness of medical cannabis on the condition in the report “Adjuvant topical therapy with a cannabinoid receptor agonist in facial postherpetic neuralgia.”
A study conducted by ClinicalTrials.gov evaluated the analgesic efficacy of vaporized cannabis in subjects who were experiencing neuropathic pain despite traditional treatment. The majority of participants experienced central and peripheral neuropathic pain. The study theorized that a low dose of vaporized cannabis could alleviate nerve injury pain. Participants completed a standardized procedure for inhaling medium-dose (3.53%), low-dose (1.29%), or placebo cannabis with the primary outcome being visual analog scale pain intensity.
Medical cannabis has a lot of potential to alleviate postherpetic neuralgia symptoms and pain, giving sufferers who have to live with chronic pain new hope for healing. With further research and clinical trials on medical cannabis efficacy for phn treatment and other chronic pain conditions, we may see more widespread use of this natural plant medicine as an alternative or complementary therapy option in improving patient outcomes and overall quality of life.