CBD Against Pain
There’s a safe, all-natural, non-addictive way to treat those cranky joints. Whether you’re a woodworker battling arthritic fingers, a yogi with a balky back, or a hiker with achy knees, CBD (cannabidiol) has been shown to be effective at addressing inflammation and pain.
Choosing between a tincture, capsules, or ointment largely depends on the relief you’re seeking. As a general rule, an ingestible—anything that goes in your mouth—is best for systemic relief. A topical—anything spread on your skin—is best for localized pain and inflammation. Topicals typically act faster, while edibles often last longer. Both come in a range of concentrations.
How Does CBD Help?
CBD can improve pain management, mobility, focus, and sleep. Consider its anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, CBD isn’t known to be hard on your kidneys. Eighty million Americans suffer from pain that lasts longer than three months. Modern medicine has gone to great lengths to develop pharmaceuticals to treat this seemingly omnipresent condition. But prescription drugs have many known side effects, including potential gastrointestinal irritation, liver damage, increased risk of heart disease, even death. Over-the-counter NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen, also have negative side effects.
People are looking for science-backed alternatives to pharmaceuticals to relieve their symptoms. There’s evidence that the concentrated compounds in the cannabis plant may be able to help reduce pain, inflammation, and the general discomfort many health conditions can cause—without dangerous side effects. Research shows that CBD (cannabidiol) is well-tolerated, even at doses as high as 1,500mg to 2,000mg a day. Some people, though, do experience side effects such as fatigue, intestinal issues, nausea, and changes in appetite.
CBD is one of more than 100 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that create drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. These compounds are called cannabinoids, and unlike its well-known counterpart THC, CBD does not get you high.
Why Is CBD Effective Against Pain?
Cannabinoids work so well because they mimic naturally produced compounds our bodies called endocannabinoids. These compounds help regulate other bodily systems to maintain internal stability and health. When your system is out of whack, endocannabinoids go to work, communicating between cells to get things back in balance. CBD is particularly effective at working with your endocannabinoid system to influence receptors that regulate inflammation and pain. It may even encourage the body to produce endocannabinoids that attach to these receptors to ease symptoms.
According to cannabis researchers at the University of Colorado, several high-quality studies show that cannabinoids like CBD provide relief from chronic pain. (Though they’re not sure if it’s because cannabinoids have a direct, analgesic effect on the intensity of the pain, or if they work by changing how we perceive and interpret pain or both.) And in a recent report published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that patients with chronic pain who were treated with products containing cannabinoids were more likely to report significant pain relief than untreated patients.
A growing body of research suggests CBD is also the perfect antidote to neuropathic pain. Caused by nerve damage (anything from the brain to the spinal cord to your pinky toe), neuropathic pain usually feels like a burning sensation. It’s similar to the pins and needles feeling we’re all familiar with when you cut off circulation to an area. In studies done at the Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry in Naples, Italy, CBD directly influenced TRPV1 receptors, a family of nerve channels that influence how you perceive pain. In their research, the Italian scientists discovered CBD desensitized these neuroreceptors and reduced pain levels, specifically the prickling, tingling, and burning sensations associated with neuropathic pain.
CBD vs. Inflammation
Inflammatory pain can run the gamut from arthritis to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis to more mundane hurts like headaches, cramps, and muscle aches. This kind of pain also takes place after tissue injury.
CBD is good at calming inflammation, no matter what the root cause. Some recent research has shown the potential for CBD to reduce specific markers of inflammation in the body. While this was shown in an animal study, the mechanism by which CBD reduces inflammation (targeting specific neurotransmitters) indicates it is possible for similar results to occur in human studies. Some studies have also shown that CBD is up to 20 times more potent at relieving pain and inflammation than ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, without causing any major psychoactive side effects. Taking CBD preemptively can also limit soreness from working out.
Scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, observed that treatment with topical CBD relieved joint pain in rats with osteoarthritis. Another study published in the European Journal of Pain in 2016 found that topical CBD gel significantly diminished joint swelling and pain in arthritic rats, along with reducing pro-inflammatory biomarkers.
What About Migraines?
There hasn’t been much research yet on CBD and migraines, but what has been done suggests CBD helps all forms of acute and chronic pain, including migraines.
Plant-based pain relief without significant side effects: What’s not to like?