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Nerve Agent

Using cannabis to combat shingles

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Take That Papa & Barkley's "Releaf Balm" is very effective against pain.
  • Take That Papa & Barkley's "Releaf Balm" is very effective against pain.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and is related to the chickenpox virus. What triggers an outbreak is unclear, but stress, trauma and a compromised immune system seem to be culprits. I came down with a case two weeks ago.

The pain was uncomfortable, but not severe. It's going to get worse, my doctor warned me. Shingles is a potentially debilitating condition because it exposes nerve endings on your skin. It generally lasts two to five weeks, but pain and nerve damage can last indefinitely.

Endless nerve pain? My doctor prescribed an anti-viral medication which was supposed to shorten the duration of the disease, as well as Tylenol 3 for pain. Then I did what you're not supposed to do when you're sick: I went online. But rather than read worse-case scenarios, I researched what cannabis could do for shingles, since it seems to be prescribed for just about everything else.

Turns out there's a wide body of research that shows the efficacy of using cannabis to treat shingles. According to the United Patient's Group, traditional painkillers don't fight shingles pain well because shingles damages nerve receptors that would normally allow them to work. But the receptors for cannabis are located throughout the body and escape shingles' attack. That means cannabis can provide pain relief as well as reduce inflammation.

A 2011 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology ("Regulatory Role of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 in Stress-Induced Excitotoxicity and Neuroinflammation") found that our endocannabinoid system, which is activated by cannabis, has neuro-protective functions that can guard against nerve inflammation and damage.

Thus encouraged, I stocked up on a THC-rich salve and lozenges with equal parts THC and CBD. After a week of using both, I'm feeling better. Small, non-psychoactive doses of cannabis helped with the pain better than Tylenol 3 and my rashes are almost gone.

Do I have cannabis to thank? The anti-viral medication probably played a role, but my recovery was much faster than I anticipated. Cannabis might help you, too, if you're similarly afflicted.

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