PLANT DIARY: Cannabis Is My Secret Psoriasis Weapon

Photo by Anna Duckworth

You only need to flip on an hour of cable TV—yes, the kind with commercials—to know that conditions like psoriasis are a huge part of convos around treatments and healthcare. But even though ads for supposedly revolutionary treatments for the autoimmune disease abound, those with the condition—like Miss Grass co-founder and CEO Kate Miller—are well aware there is no magic pill to make it go away.

Because the truth is, even after decades of traditional medical research, there is still no cure for the disease. Psoriasis symptoms range from severely irritated patches of skin, to arthritis, and even depression. “I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was about six years old,” Miller says. “At that point, it was on my scalp, my elbows, knees, and eyelids."

After the initial diagnosis, she tried to treat the disease through conventional methods like topical steroid creams — the go-to treatment prescribed by most dermatologists to treat conditions like psoriasis and eczema. And as she got older, she graduated to bigger guns, including an injectable shot she would administer to herself twice a month and light therapy sessions, which she would squeeze in at her derm’s office three times a week before work.

“Some of these treatments sort of worked, but they didn’t completely cure my psoriasis,” she remembers. “Plus, doing the injectables and exposing my body to steroids was crazy. I hated it.” So, when a girlfriend suggested she try a topical cannabis treatment after she moved to Los Angeles for college, she decided it couldn’t hurt to give it a go. “I was completely blown away by the results. It worked so well for me that I became really fascinated with all applications of the plant, and did a deep dive into cannabis.”

It was a discovery that led her to work in a dispensary during her junior year, and ultimately laid the foundations for the very website you're on right now. “I had smoked recreationally before, growing up in New Jersey,” Miller says. “But this was really the start of integrating cannabis with intention into my life.”

“Cannabis has worked better to treat my psoriasis than anything I was ever prescribed by a doctor,” Miller explains. She uses a combination of topical and ingestible cannabis products to keep her symptoms (which have largely retreated to her scalp) at bay — consuming a daily CBD tincture like 2Rise Naturals CBD Oil Tincture with turmeric, and applying CBD oils and creams like the Dr. Kerklaan Natural Skin Creme and Apothecanna’s Everyday Face and Body Oil.

As is par-for-the course with many medical uses for the plant, very few studies have been conducted to provide scientific evidence that cannabis can specifically be used to treat the disease (thanks largely to the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, which limits its availability for research). That said, preliminary studies from doctors in Colorado and Massachusetts do back up Miller’s experience. It turns out, those same anti-inflammatory and deeply hydrating properties that treat arthritis and glaucoma are also highly effective in treating skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

So far, Connecticut is the only state to have approved medical cannabis as a treatment for severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. But don’t despair: CBD products are federally across the board, so you can easily start there.

When it comes to finding products that will work for your specific version of psoriasis, Miller’s top tip is to take things slow. “Even though I am a true believer in the power of this plant, I am still very much on a cannabis safari to find what works best,” she admits. “The tricky and amazing thing about this plant is that it interacts with everyone’s bodies differently. What works for me may not work for you, so I’d encourage you to be really conscious and in-tune with your body as you are experimenting and trying new things. That way you can be aware if a specific product is working, or if some other aspect of your life has changed. I’d also recommend dabbling into products other than topicals—find a way to consume cannabis daily that works for you, that way you can combat the inflammation from within.”

Consider approaching incorporating cannabis into your treatment routine in the same way you would change up your skincare. If you do a complete overhaul and start using 10 new products at once, you’ll likely have a hard time telling which (if any) are really making a real impact. The same goes for treating your psoriasis — so mellow out, and pay attention.

Miller also notes that all of the ways you incorporate cannabis into your life could impact your symptoms. “It’s likely that the flower I smoke to stoke my creativity and connect with my friends also helps by reducing stress — which can cause my psoriasis to flare up — even if that’s not what I specifically use it for.”

“I’ve pretty much been a confident woman throughout my life. Even when I was younger I was a take-no-shit kind of person. And even when my psoriasis was really bad and highly visible, I still lived my life," Miller says. "But there was still a stigma about it and I was embarrassed.”

“Cannabis was definitely the catalyst for me to be more open about my psoriasis. Now that I’ve found a plant that has helped so much and started a platform like Miss Grass, I feel like it is my responsibility to share the message.”

Phoebe is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica. When she's not covering health, wellness, fashion, and travel, you can find her curled up with a true crime podcast, plowing through a novel, or asking to pet strangers dogs. Her work has appeared in Robb Report, Yahoo, Business Insider, and C Mag.