CBD and Arthritis: Can It Help?
There are over 100 known types of arthritis known today. Most of us have probably heard of only a handful of them, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. But, “arthritis” is actually an umbrella term covering a wide range of ailments. Technically, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Kawasaki disease and even Raynaud's phenomenon are forms of arthritis.
This new and broader understanding of arthritis means that many more people have arthritis than realize it. According to the much more comprehensive understanding of the disease, younger and younger people may have some form of it. Perhaps this is why there is now exploration of new natural alternative therapies for treatment, including hemp-derived CBD oil.
What Exactly is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD), one of many non-psychoactive components of cannabis, is a novel approach to arthritis treatment. It may have the potential for treating not just one type, but most of the various diagnoses. Unlike traditionally prescribed medicines, CBD is non-addictive, safe to use over the long term, and has almost no serious side effects. CBD arthritis therapy may be the all-natural way forward in fighting the progressive disease.
Cannabinoids such as CBD work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. All mammals have such a system that constitutes an entire network of receptors and chemical transmitters. When functioning correctly, our endocannabinoid maintains a well-balanced inner environment. In response to stressful stimuli, it releases specific chemicals meant to turn receptors on and off.
The system manages a multitude of vital physiological functions, including pain sensation, inflammatory response, mood, memory, and appetite, to name just a few. It's an essential regulatory system tied to many common illnesses and diseases. But, our understanding of these connections is poorly understood.
The Endocannabinoid System and Arthritis
Even with only a basic understanding of the function of the endocannabinoid system, we can start to understand the connection to arthritis. As detailed below, most forms arthritis involve some sort of inflammation and progressive chronic pain. Research demonstrates that the system could be a new area for the treatment of arthritis.
We know the endocannabinoid system manages pain sensation, joint function to some extent, and the body’s natural inflammatory response, but we also should know that all are linked directly to arthritis management.
Authors of a paper published in the European Journal of Neuroscience declared that “Increasing evidence from preclinical studies supports the interest of the endocannabinoid system as an emerging therapeutic target for osteoarthritis pain.”
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis?
Despite the fact there are dozens of different forms of the disease, there are few common signs and symptoms experienced across the board. The latest numbers suggest that 50 million people have some form of the disease, including hundreds of thousands of children. Another interesting statistic is that arthritis most commonly affects women.
- Signs and Symptoms
- Chronic pain
- Physical changes to joints (knobby fingers)
- Chronic inflammation
- Swelling of joints
- Reduced range of motion
The joints are the primary targets for arthritis, but some forms affect skin, eyes, and many vital internal organs such as the heart and lungs.
What Can CBD do for Treating Arthritis?
Based on current research, there are a few avenues through which CBD might help treat the signs and symptoms of this painful disease. The research is preliminary, but results so far show remarkable potential.
A primary cause of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis is the proliferation of inflammatory cells. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized as an autoimmune disease. A healthy immune system should only fight off infection and disease, but in rheumatoid arthritis, it also mistakenly targets the joints.
During a study of the therapeutic potential of CBD for arthritis, researchers at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in Hammersmith, London concluded that it had positive effects. According to their study, CBD promoted a reduction in lymphocyte proliferation. Lymphocytes are white blood cells whose main purpose is to trigger an inflammatory response. According to their results, the optimal dosage for oral administration was 25 mg/kg per day.
Other results from the study demonstrated that CBD protects joints from progressive damage. A different study, by the Department of Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine in Nova Scotia, Canada, supported those results. Its research showed that local CBD application reduced joint inflammation.
The results further indicated that CBD therapy allowed laboratory animals to increase the bearable weight on the affected joint, and it increased mobility and raised their pain threshold. The Canadian researchers concluded that CBD reduced osteoarthritis pain. Preliminary results from both studies show CBD osteoarthritis is a compelling area for future research.
Quality of Sleep:
As the arthritic condition worsens with age, it increasingly disrupts sleep patterns. Aches and joint pains make it more difficult to fall asleep at night and maintain a healthy sleep cycle. In a 2013 animal study, researchers explored CBD as a possible sleep aid. Considering that THC is a known sedative with sleep-improvement characteristics, the study sought to determine CBD’s relationship to the human sleep cycle.
It administered CBD during light and dark periods, and made two interesting discoveries. First, when CBD was given during simulated daylight, it increased alertness or wakefulness. Second, when it was administered systemically, CBD increased the length of sleep.
Although the study was limited to sleep, and not arthritis, it is another avenue through which CBD could benefit arthritic patients. Further research is required.
A small trial was conducted using cannabis-based medicine on 58 arthritic patients. It used an approved sativa plant pharmaceutical extract, which contains a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD. It is approved for use in dozens of countries across Europe, and for some specific applications in the United States.
In the 2006 study conducted over a five-week period, patients were given the commercial Sativex in the evening, and results were measured in the morning. The results demonstrated substantial benefit for arthritic pain. The authors concluded, “a significant analgesic effect was observed, and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment.”
Final Thoughts on CBD and Arthritis
The research on CBD and arthritis remains frustratingly in the very preliminary stages. While many patients are still in the dark about what CBD could offer them, others have decided to strike out on their own. Fortunately, CBD is one of the safest alternative therapies out there. Its side effects are low-risk and rare. If you decide to self-prescribe CBD for your own arthritis pain, read up on how to dose CBD for arthritis safely and efficiently (and for other health issues). As with all new therapies, speak with a doctor before use.