People suffering from chronic and arthritic discomfort are increasingly turning to CBD oil for pain management. But what types of pain can cannabidiol treat, how does it work, and why does it differ from traditional addictive pain medications?
Understanding CBD Oil for Pain
CBD oil, otherwise known as a tincture, contains a compound called cannabidiol. Though referred to as a cannabinoid—a compound found in cannabis—cannabidiol is extracted from hemp plants, which is legal in all fifty states.
Like other cannabinoids like THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol interacts through the body’s endocannabinoid system: a biological network of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids are naturally-occurring cannabinoids within the human body.
In other words, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD produce effects within the human body because it already has endocannabinoid receptors that have evolved to work in conjunction with cannabinoids.
Common Types of Pain
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This accounts for over 20 percent of the population. Some of the most common types of discomfort include:
- Neuropathic Pain
- Back Pain
- Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Consistently and effectively treating these issues on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge. Many who don’t want to risk dependency on addictive-medications and cannot find effective, all-natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals.
Common Pain Medications Have Side Effects
Most chronic pain requires a long term solution, one which is not often met by over the counter pain medication. Even when these medications are effective, their long-term use is often ill-advised:
- Studies show that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) raise blood pressure. These include Aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage with extended use, large doses, and when paired with drinking, according to Harvard Medical Publishing.
Stronger Pain Medications Are Highly Addictive
There is a significant risk of addiction with many commonly prescribed pain medications. Today, more than 130 Americans die of an opioid overdose daily, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Since the late 1990s, prescriptions for opioids increased as pharmaceuticals assured patients and doctors that opioids were non-addictive. It takes approximately 30 days for people to become dependent on opioids and suffer withdrawal symptoms according to some sources.
For people suffering from chronic pain, this means that stronger medications like OxyContin, Codeine, Methadone, and Percocet are not sustainable long-term solutions.
CBD Oil for Pain Management: What the Research Says
Compared to traditional pharmaceuticals, how does CBD oil for pain work? Though the original date of cannabis consumption is debated, some evidence suggests that cannabis was in used around 2900 BCE in Ancient Chinese civilizations.
A Brief History of Cannabis Medicine
Famous Chinese Botanist Hui-lin Li explains in An Archaeological and Historical Account of Cannabis in China, “The use of Cannabis in medicine was probably a very early development. Since ancient humans used hemp seed as food, it was quite natural for them to also discover the medicinal properties of the plant.”
China is far from the only instance of hemp and cannabis medicine in the ancient world. Similar techniques existed in Ancient Egypt, India., Greece, Romania, and the Netherlands.
More recently, Queen Victoria allegedly used cannabis to cope with menstrual pain. Until they were effectively outlawed with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, all-natural cannabis and hemp medicines were commonly used to assuage pain, insomnia, discomfort, and nausea.
Modern Research on CBD Oil for Pain
The body’s endocannabinoid system is responsible for how we feel pain. Since CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it has the potential to affect this process, among others.
A comprehensive review of multiple studies found that cannabidiol can provide pain management without negative effects. It specifically found that cannabidiol was most effective in pain management in cases of people suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Arthritis also shows signs of improvement when cannabidiol is used as a treatment. Though cannabis-based pharmaceutical Sativex is typically used in multiple sclerosis cases, it has also been shown to reduce overall pain for arthritis patients.
Another study of animal models found that a cannabidiol topical gel relieved arthritis symptoms.
Can CBD Oil for Pain Produce Side Effects?
Research shows that cannabidiol does not typically cause adverse effects—especially in contrast with the medications for which it is a substitute. In a study that found that CBD treated 36 percent of surveyed users’ medical conditions, only one in three reported a minor side effect.
According to a clinical review, potential side effects include:
- Change of appetite
On the subject of cannabidiol side effects, Harvard Health Publishing explains, “Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label.”
In other words, CBD’s potential side effects are typically minor. Additionally, there is not enough research to show whether they’re associated with other ingredients within the product or with cannabidiol itself.
Common Illnesses Treated by Cannabidiol
CBD edibles, topicals, and tinctures can assuage a number of medicinal and medical conditions. The following are common examples of CBD oil for pain use.
Cannabidiol reduced pain and nerve damage in osteoarthritis, according to several studies in animal models. Specifically, local application of cannabidiol reduced neuropathic pain, which is also called chronic pain.
Another new trial cited by the Arthritis Foundation demonstrates that cannabidiol alone can treat osteoarthritis in the knee.
An overview of scientific work concerning CBD for pain surmises: “The evidence from current research supports the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain in adults.”
However, research on hemp’s medical and medicinal benefits is in the early stages. This is due to the restriction placed on hemp farming prior to the 2018 Farm Bill. The same overview adds that, as a result of these limitations, earlier studies on cannabidiol have been short, small, and observe the responses of various doses.
Cannabidiol for chronic pain is another increasingly common application of the compound. A review of sixteen other studies regarding chronic neuropathic pain and CBD asserts that cannabidiol may reduce pain intensity. It can also assuage related conditions like sleeping difficulties and stress.
The review emphasizes that negative effects could come from synthetic forms of cannabidiol rather than from the compound itself.
Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Cannabidiol has also shown promise as a treatment for IBD, or irritable bowel diseases. Research finds that CBD possesses THC’s anti-inflammatory effects without the psychoactive effects, making it an ideal compound for IBD medication.
More specifically, another study found that cannabidiol can treat ulcerative colitis in animal models and human biopsies. This indicates cannabidiol’s potential to treat various kinds of IBD.
CBD Reduces Inflammation
Many of today’s most pervasive illnesses have been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. These include:
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Heart Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
More generally, inflammation is the immune system’s response to external factors. Inflammation is a part of daily life for almost all adults and necessary bodily response. However, the impacts of chronic inflammation on the body can be severe, resulting in conditions ranging from Arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease.
Two studies have found that people who take anti-inflammatory medication (also referred to as NSAIDs) experience degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, at lower rates. These medications are typically taken to cope with arthritic pain.
Like an NSAID, CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties, meaning that it can help reduce inflammation-linked pain and protect against these conditions.
How to Choose CBD Oil for Pain
How do you choose high-quality cannabidiol for managing discomfort?
The first consideration should be the type of cannabidiol you’re interested in. For topical relief targetting joint and muscle pain, lotions and creams are best. CBD gummies and oils can provide more general relief. By contrast, CBD vape oil is the fastest way to experience cannabidiol’s effects.
Overall, however, the most important thing to consider is product quality:
- Where was this CBD sourced?
- Is it full-spectrum or isolate?
- How much CBD and THC does it contain?
The only way to experience the desired effects is to choose a full-spectrum product without artificial additives and with the appropriate dosage.