CBD is hot right now and it apparently will help any ailment. While that is obviously not true, one consistent claim we have seen is its benefit for inflammation and chronic pains. It is estimated that in the United States, over 55 million American have been diagnosed with arthritis or another rheumatic disease and this number is expected to grow. The more common arthritis symptoms include joint pain and stiffness. Sometimes these also can lead to other issues such as depression and anxiety. While studies are still in their infancy we are seeing some promising indication that CBD can help arthritis sufferers find pain relief.
What is CBD?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. There are in fact over 100 known cannabinoids found in the plant with the two most popular being Cannabidiol or CBD and THC. THC, which is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol is what produces the psychoactive effects the plant is typically known for. While CBD does seem to have side effects, none have been shown to produce any kind of “high”. They do however interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. This system has shown to be involved in regulating physiological and cognitive functions.
How does it work?
CBD interacts with two receptors that are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. As mentioned this system may be involved with various functions such within the body. Some of these include mood, memory, appetite, immune activity, stress response, sleep and pain sensation among others. CB1 receptors are found in the brain and throughout the body while CB2 are primarily found in the immune system. The receptors react with cannabinoids found naturally in the body or introduced to the body through cannabis.
Is CBD legal?
Because of its relationship to cannabis and the variance of medical marijuana laws many people still question the legality of CBD products. So here is the deal: most CBD products on the market are technically derived from hemp. Hemp is a strain of cannabis that has been cultivated for specific purposes. In order for the plant to be classified as hemp it has to contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Since there are still trace amounts of THC in the plant many people still questions its legal status. These concerns were put to rest when hemp was made legal federally in the 2018 US Farm Bill. It is important to note that although most states allow CBD products some of the laws vary. For questions regarding your specific state check out this map.
Is it safe?
Another very common question with CBD pain management is wether or not it is a safe substance. Side effects are always a valid concern. At this time the general consensus among health professionals is, yes, it is safe. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “CBD appears to be a safe drug with no addictive effects.” The Food and Drug Administration has also approved CBD in one drug that is used to treat patients with rare forms of epilepsy. And while CBD has not received FDA approval as a dietary supplement it is likely that the FDA will begin to regulate companies who make CBD products in order to provide a level of safety to consumers. Unfortunately because it was just recently legalized there really aren’t enough definitive studies on long term safety or even efficacy. And because CBD can possibly interact with other medications it is important to speak with your health care professional before beginning any CBD treatment.
What does research say?
Back in 2006 a controlled trial took place to evaluate cannabis and its effects on rheumatoid arthritis. People with arthritis were given a cannabis based medication for five weeks. At the end of the trial researchers recorded reduced inflammation and improved pain. Patients also noted better sleep and a lack of negative side effects.
Another study was done in 2015 with a topical CBD solution on rats. Here again researchers noted reduced inflammation with no side effects.
Although there isn’t a ton of research and humans are not rats, what information we do have looks promising. We should be seeing much more research into understanding CBD and its effects on RA and its symptoms.
What do experts say?
In 2019 the Arthritis Foundation issued a statement regarding the use of CBD for arthritis pain and inflammation. Here they said: “CBD may help with arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain, insomnia and anxiety.” They address the lack of current research data and invite those that suffer from the autoimmune disease to speak with their doctors about CBD treatment. They also warn potential users to buy from reputable companies who use independent lab testing to ensure product safety. So although their statement doesn’t really promote or discourage CBD use for arthritis, the suggestion does imply that with further research we could see a viable remedy emerge.
How should you use it?
If you’re are looking for relief from arthritis symptoms what are your options for taking CBD? There are a couple of choices to consider. Depending on your symptoms, you may want to look at ingesting CBD or possibly a topical solution. Ingesting CBD can be accomplished in a few forms. Tinctures are the most popular. Here the hemp extract is put into a carrier oil which is usually a medium chain triglyceride oil from coconuts. By placing drops of this oil under your tongue it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Other ingestible options are softgel capsules, vaping and gummy treats. Keep in mind that different methods have different bioavailability, which is just the amount of CBD that will actually be absorbed. Anything that needs to go through the stomach will have a lower availability than vaping or tinctures placed under the tongue. If you’re dealing with chronic joint pain from inflammation this is the option you will want to try.
If you’re looking at CBD as a pain reliever due to acute pain in the joints or muscles than a topical product is worth a look. These are applied directly to the sore region to be absorbed into the skin for almost immediate relief. They generally also contain moisturizing and other soothing ingredients.
Although research is still pending, CBD extracts have shown some promise in treating arthritis symptoms with minimal side effects. Talk with your doctor about adding it to your current routine. When choosing a product, be sure to find a trustworthy company that is willing to share independent lab tests.