CBD for chronic pain relief
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid compound derived from cannabis plants, also known as marijuana or hemp. Taking CBD may correct the lack of endocannabinoids, which is thought to be the root cause of chronic pain syndromes (1).
When ingested, CBD interacts with the CB2 receptors in the body, which helps reduce inflammation, diminish refractory pain, and improve sleep and overall comfort in patients with chronic pain. CBD is also shown to counteract the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in people with chronic pain (2).Furthermore, a 2015 review on the use of cannabinoids for various chronic pain conditions reports that they may be useful for treating some types of chronic pain(3).
CBD isn’t psychoactive, which means it doesn’t cause the euphoric “high” sensation commonly associated with cannabis. In essence, this high is caused by another cannabinoid compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Hence, CBD is a good option for people who:
- Are uncomfortable using mind-altering substances
- Do not want to experience a high
- Want to abstain from marijuana use
- Have a history of adverse reactions to marijuana
Overall, CBD may offer a viable alternative for people who rely on habit-forming pain medications, such as opioids. However, more research is needed to validate the pain-relieving benefits and safety of CBD products.
CBD for fibromyalgia pain relief
People living with fibromyalgia may experience pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, and cognitive issues, among other symptoms. There’s currently no known cure for the condition. However, CBD may relieve some of the symptoms.
Anecdotal studies postulate that taking CBD oil may alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms by changing the way that pain is processed. A 2011 study investigated 56 people with fibromyalgia (4). Participants of the study, mostly women, are divided into two groups – those who were cannabis users and those who weren’t (4). Two hours after using cannabis, cannabis users experienced benefits such as:
- Reduced pain and stiffness
- An increase in sleepiness
- A slight increase in mental health scores
In a 2019 study, hundreds of people with fibromyalgia, mostly women, were observed over at least six months (5). The participants are started on a low dosage of cannabis, which is then gradually increased throughout the study. The median approved dosage of cannabis began at 670 mg a day (5). At six months, the median approved dosage of cannabis was 1,000 mg a day (5). The median recommended dosage of THC was 140 mg, and the average recommended usage of CBD was 39 mg a day (5).
CBD for arthritis pain relief
CBD oil could potentially relieve arthritis pain and inflammation.
The topical application of CBD gel on rats with arthritis for four consecutive days is shown to reduce overall pain and inflammation in the rats’ affected joints (6). There were no apparent side effects. Rats who were given low doses of 0.6 or 3.1 mg didn’t improve their pain scores, whereas 6.2 mg/day was adequate to reduce pain and swelling (6). Also, receiving a substantially higher dose (62.3 mg/day) did not result in the rats having less pain compared to when they received 6.2 mg/day (6). A research study in the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to investigate if CBD could help manage arthritis pain (6). Researchers applied a topical CBD gel to rats with arthritis for four consecutive days (6). They note a significant decrease in inflammation and signs of pain, without additional side effects (6).
However, more human studies are needed to confirm its efficacy.
CBD for migraine relief
Existing studies examine the combined effects of CBD and THC on migraine, but not when CBD is used alone. It is nevertheless worth considering if you have yet to find an effective migraine treatment.
In a review published in 2017, researchers demonstrated that CBD and THC could reduce pain intensity in people with migraines (7). Another study in 2016 showed that the use of medical marijuana for migraines found that of the 48 participants, 39 percent reported fewer migraine attacks (8). Drowsiness was the most significant side effect, while others had trouble figuring out the right dose (8). People who use edible cannabis experienced the most side effects compared to other forms (8).
CBD for IBD
Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is a collection of inflammatory diseases affecting the digestive tract – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of IBD include:
- Severe bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stools
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
The use of CBD may alleviate some of these symptoms. In one study of patients with ulcerative colitis, 50-250 mg of CBD twice daily is shown to improve the quality of life significantly (9). However, more clinical research is necessary to determine its efficacy.
CBD for multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the entire body via the nerves and brain. Painful muscle spasms are one of the most common symptoms of MS.
One report found that short-term use of CBD oil could reduce the levels of spasticity a person feels (10). The results are modest, but many people reported a reduction in symptoms (10). More studies on humans are needed to verify these results.
Types of CBD
There are three different types of CBD oil products available, with varying amounts of CBD in them.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds from cannabis, including THC, in varying amounts. It usually comes in oils, tinctures, vaping oil, edibles, and creams.
By law, full-spectrum CBD products can contain only 0.3 percent THC. However, CBD products aren’t as tightly regulated as standard medications, so the actual amount of THC may vary considerably from product to product.
Like full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD contains other compounds from the cannabis plant. However, all THC has been removed. This type is less popular and is usually sold as an oil.
CBD isolate is pure CBD. It’s usually derived from hemp plants and contains no other compounds. It comes in oil or tincture form, as well as small powdery products that can be eaten.
Delivery methods of CBD
You can consume CBD in several ways, including:
Smoking and vaping
Smoking or vaping CBD-rich cannabis is the fastest way to relieve pain. This method allows you to inhale CBD directly, absorbing the chemical into your bloodstream and lungs quicker than other methods. Effects can last up to 3 hours. Hence, it is helpful for sudden acute pain.
There may be respiratory risks of smoking or vaping CBD. You should not use this method if you have asthma or lung conditions.
Oils and tinctures
CBD can be infused into a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil. You can then place the CBD oil under your tongue with a dropper so that it is absorbed quickly into your bloodstream.
Soft gels or capsules
Daily use of CBD pills could help keep painful symptoms at bay. CBD pills contain a capsulated version of an oil or tincture. The time from ingestion to the effect onset can take a while.
CBD is also infused into gummies, lollipops, mints, chocolates, and other candies. It’s a good option for those who have trouble swallowing pills. Like capsules, the effect can take a while after ingestion. It’ll take longer to experience symptomatic relief, but the effects can last for up to 6 hours.
CBD edibles offer a convenient way to take CBD, but the effects of edibles can be difficult to predict.
CBD oil can be infused into topical creams, balms, or salves before being applied directly onto the skin. These topical products may be useful for reducing external pain and inflammation.
Most topicals do not enter the bloodstream. Instead, they target local cannabinoid receptors in the skin.
Transdermal patches typically penetrate the skin barrier to reach the bloodstream. They may have an advantage over creams or lotions by providing a steady and potent infusion of CBD for localized treatment.
CBD risks and side effects
CBD doesn’t pose significant risks for users. CBD is thought to be safe and to have minimal side effects. The long-term dangers of CBD use have yet to be established, though researchers are collecting data every year.
Interactions with other medications
CBD may interact with certain medications and supplements – especially those that carry a warning against consuming grapefruit. CBD and grapefruit both interfere with drug metabolism enzymes known as cytochrome P450s (CYPs). This disruption can affect the ability of the liver to break down toxins, increasing the risk of liver toxicity. Hence, take precautions if any of your supplements or medications contain a “grapefruit warning.”
What are the potential side effects of CBD?
CBD appears relatively safe for most adults. However, some people have experienced some side effects, such as:
- Appetite changes
- Weight fluctuations
Furthermore, one study suggested that the anti-inflammatory effect of cannabinoids may reduce inflammation too much (11). A significant reduction in inflammation could diminish the lung’s defense system, increasing the risk of infection.
You should discuss with your doctor if you are considering using CBD oil. Doctors may want to monitor you for any changes and make adjustments accordingly.
Is CBD oil safe for children or pregnant women?
Experts do not recommend CBD oil for use in children, as there is little research on the effects of CBD oil on a child’s developing brain. Almost all research on CBD oil for pain relief comes from adult clinical trials.
CBD oil is also not recommended while breast-feeding or during pregnancy.
The Bottom Line
While anecdotalevidence suggests that CBD oil is helpful for pain management, more research is necessary.
If you decide to use CBD oil for pain management, be sure to consult with a doctor first. They can help you avoid adverse side effects or harmful interactions with your current medications and treatments.
Is CBD legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are legal under some state laws but are illegal on the federal level. Hemp-derived CBD products (less than 0.3 percent THC) are still illegal under some state laws but are legal on the federal level. Check your state’s laws. Also, keep in mind that over-the-counter CBD products are not approved by the FDA, and might be inaccurately labeled.