CBD as a Treatment Option for Osteoarthritis?

With Roger Clemens DrPH

CBD for osteoarthritis

CBD, the non-psychotropic cannabinol of marijuana, is becoming an increasingly popular treatment option and may offer unique benefits for osteoarthritis. It has been shown to attenuate symptoms of pain and inflammation. Considering CBD for osteoarthritis pain? We asked the experts for their advice to help you make an informed decision.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than twenty million Americans. OA is a degenerative joint disease, defined by loss of joint smoothness and range of motion due to increased bone density and bone growths (osteophytes). OA is further defined by:

  • Join degeneration
  • Intermittent inflammation
  • Peripheral neuropathy

What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased movement within the joint
  • Swelling

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound that is found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, which is another compound from the same plant, CBD is not psychotropic, and therefore does not create the "high" that the plant is more typically known for.

CBD has been shown to be:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidative
  • antiemetic
  • antipsychotic
  • neuroprotective

Can CBD help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis?

The symptoms experienced with OA encompass inflammatory, nociceptive, and neuropathic pain. CBD is an exogenous (out of the body) cannabinoid that acts on our endogenous (in the body) cannabinoid system to function in an antioxidant capacity, decrease inflammation and act as an analgesic.

Historically, osteoarthritis has been thought of as a non-inflammatory arthritis, however, recent evidence showcases the role of inflammation in the symptoms of OA, as well as in the condition’s progression. Intervention with CBD may offer an opportunity to slow the progression of OA by decreasing inflammation, both systematically and locally. The interaction of CBD with your immune system and its potential antioxidant affect may help to decrease symptoms associated with OA and improve quality of life.

What research is there about CBD and pain relief?

  • Ingested CBD has been shown to block pain signals from reaching your brain by binding to specific pain receptors.
  • Ingested CBD has been shown to attenuate central sensation and neuropathic pain development.
  • Applied topically, CBD has been shown to decrease pain sensations locally by reducing mechanosensitivity of your joint nociceptors.
  • Applied topically, CBD has been shown to reduce joint swelling and decrease immune cell infiltration, inflammation, and thickening of the connective tissue that lines your joints.
  • Applied topically, CBD has been shown to reduce acute, inflammatory changes.
  • Ingested CBD has been shown to reduce production of inflammatory cytokines.
  • CBD has been shown to help relieve anxiety and sleep disturbances associated with chronic pain conditions.

CBD is not addictive and has minimal known side effects. Extracted from cannabis satvia, CBD belongs to a family of plants that have long been used for their medicinal properties. According to Roger Clemens DrPH, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and Associate Director of the Regulatory Science Program at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, more research is needed to prove the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for arthritis. However, he says: “Studies among humans indicate CBD, when administered by injection or in topical transdermal forms, may have antiarthritic effects independent of cannabinoid receptors. In addition to helping to control inflammation, cannabinoids reduce pain by activating central and peripheral CB1, peripheral CB2 receptors, and CBD-sensitive non-cannabinoid receptor targets.” 

How do you use CBD for pain relief?

  • Topicals are best used for immediate pain relief and seem to be particularly helpful for people with OA. They don’t enter your bloodstream, so they'll only affect the site where they're applied. Topicals come in creams and oils that are absorbed by your skin and can have anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive (pain inhibiting) effects.
  • Ingestibles do enter your bloodstream and cross your blood-brain barrier, inducing more whole-body systemic effects. Ingestibles also pass through your digestive system, which means it will take longer for you to feel their effects, but they are also likely to last longer. 

The American Arthritis Foundation recommends administration of CBD using topical application, tinctures, oral sprays, or capsules. They do not recommend edibles, because the dosage is a bit unpredictable. Vaping is also not advised because of the possible negative affects to your respiratory system, as well as potential inflammation.

  • Oral Sprays and tinctures are taken under your tongue, where they are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream.
  • Capsules are a pill form of CBD. 

If you're interested in trying CBD for the first time, start at a low dose, such as 5 milligrams, and go from there. It’s important to remember that you will not feel the effects of ingestibles immediately. Even if you don’t notice anything in the first few hours, don’t consume more on the first try, as you can always increase your dosage later, but not reduce it once you have already ingested it. 

Is CBD legal?

The legality of CBD in the United States has caused some confusion regarding CBD’s relation to marijuana. Let's break it down: 

  1. Hemp is the male version of the cannabis plant that must contain .3% or less THC, and was officially legalized nationally in 2018 thanks to the Farm Bill, although it had not been illegal before that, and has long been found in innocuous products such as towels, necklaces, clothing, and sheets.
  2. CBD can be extracted from both hemp (the male version of the cannabis plant which cannot make you "high"), and from marijuana (the female version which is known for just the opposite).
  3. CBD extracted from marijuana is federally legal, however it is not legal in every state. CBD extracted from hemp is legal in every state, the same as the hemp that it is sourced from.

Lord Jones is a reputable supplier of CBD that ships different products depending on your zip code to ensure that the CBD you are receiving is legal in your state, whether marijuana is legal there or not.

Should you take CBD for osteoarthritis?

Your health is personal, and how you choose to manage osteoarthritis will depend on several lifestyle factors. The American Arthritis Foundation reports that CBD may be a beneficial option for people with arthritis and recommends discussing all treatments with your healthcare provider. For many people, this non-psychotropic, mild cannabinoid can offer relief from the chronic pain of osteoarthritis with minimal side effects. If you think it might be helpful for you in dealing with your OA, remember to start at a low dose to evaluate if it is something you want to use to supplement your individualized treatment plan.

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