Derived from cannabis plants, cannabidiol, or CBD, is just one cannabinoid of more than 100 discovered by science. All have medicinal value, but CBD is particularly special. Most compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids, but unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means that it cannot make you “high.” Flavonoids and terpenes, other cannabis compounds, are also buzz-free.
Over the last few years, researchers have been studying the effects of CBD on chronic pain conditions, including and especially rheumatoid arthritis. Results are extremely promising, and anecdotal evidence exists aplenty too, with millions of folks around the world swearing by its ability to relieve their pain and, in some cases, even reverse some of the damage caused by it, such as degenerating joints.
A CBD-rich joint can literally help your joints. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the first controlled study investigating the effects of CBD therapy on arthritis occurred back in 2006. It concluded that Sativex, a cannabis-derived medicine, reduced inflammation significantly and improved pain immensely in just five weeks of treatment. Participants also slept well, reporting mild to no side effects.
Then, in 2008, the U.S. National Library of Medicine published another study showing the use of CBD effectively treating chronic pain, with patients also reporting notable pain relief, improved sleep, and no nasty side effects. In 2016, another study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine supported these findings. Using CBD gel on rats, results showed reduced joint pain, lower inflammation, and no side effects.
Despite the abundance of promising research, existing studies had limitations, most notably federal restrictions on illegal substances and small sampling of the population. Currently, research is underway to study a larger percentage of the population, including its various demographics, in an attempt to understand the mechanisms of action in using CBD and other cannabinoid therapies to treat arthritis.
CBD works within the brain and the immune system to exact healing. However, its effects on these systems differ from THC and other cannabinoids. CBD interacts with two specific receptors from the body’s own endocannabinoid system, called CB1 and CB2, to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and numb perception. In arthritis cases, the immune system itself starts attacking joint tissues.
This causal relationship between the immune system and arthritis gives CBD an opportunity to fix it, by effectively stopping the body from attacking itself. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD slow the progression of arthritis, which, over time, does significant and permanent damage to your joints. These effects also diminish the symptoms of other inflammatory issues, such as fever and fatigue.
CBD comes in a variety of forms. You can find CBD-rich flowers, either with or without THC, or you can buy it in liquid or capsule form. If using soft gels, simply swallow them. If using CBD oil, drop it under the tongue, add to food and beverages, or apply it topically to painful joints. There are many salves, lotions, and other therapeutic options available for topical application.
However, it is imperative that you discuss CBD treatment with your doctor before starting it. He or she can help you work out the correct dosage for you, as well as mitigate any interaction it may have with current medications you might be taking, since CBD can influence the efficacy of some, for better or worse. Ideally, you should start with minute doses and gradually work your way to your ideal dose.
When shopping for CBD products, make sure they come from trusted, licensed, and reputable suppliers. You want to see its full list of ingredients, as well as its cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid percentages. You can find this information in the product’s test results, as all must go to an independent laboratory for analysis before becoming available to consumers. If you cannot see this data, look elsewhere.
CBD oil is legal in the United States, but only for medical use and only in states that specifically allow its use. Most states will require a letter of recommendation from your doctor before you qualify to buy it, but if you live in a recreationally legal state, then this is not necessary, as you can purchase it at most retail outlets. If you want to buy it from a medical dispensary, you may still need this doctor’s letter.
Currently, all studies, both past and emerging, show immense promise for CBD as a therapeutic option for those suffering rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative joint disorders. Having said that, there is still a huge need for bigger studies on humans, including official clinical trials, to understand fully its effects and mechanisms of action. For now, CBD remains unapproved by the FDA, but not for long.