Some studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) oil could play a role in relieving arthritis. What are the benefits of CBD oil, and are there any side effects that people should be aware of before using it?
CBD oil contains extracts from cannabis plants. Some people use CBD oil to relieve pain associated with chronic conditions, such as arthritis.
This article looks at the scientific evidence behind the benefits, uses, and side effects of CBD oil. It will also discuss whether or not it may be an effective treatment for arthritis and chronic pain.
CBD oil is an oil that derives from the cannabis plant. Unlike other cannabinoids — such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — CBD does not produce a euphoric “high.” This is because CBD does not affect the same receptors as THC.
There are many CBD oil products available, and the amount of CBD in them may vary.
As many people use cannabis as a recreational drug, there is some controversy surrounding the medicinal use of products containing ingredients from cannabis plants.
Cannabis is sometimes known as hemp, depending on its level of THC. Hemp plants, which lawmakers legalized under the Farm Bill, must contain less than 0.3% THC.
Some people use CBD oil to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some research suggests that CBD oil may be useful for pain relief and other conditions.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting around 54.4 million people.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition wherein a person’s immune system attacks their joints, causing inflammation. It commonly affects the hands and feet and leads to painful, swollen, and stiff joints.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that affects joint cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. It often affects the hip, knee, and thumb joints.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some people with arthritis who use CBD report noticeable pain relief, improved sleep, or reduced anxiety.
That said, they also state that there have been “no rigorous clinical studies” in humans with arthritis to confirm this. The organization have urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to study and regulate CBD products.
Some studies in animals suggest that CBD could help treat arthritis and relieve the associated inflammatory pain. For example:
- A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment option for joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.
- A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- A 2014 review of the existing body of research on animals concluded that CBD may be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
- A 2011 study found that CBD helped reduce inflammatory pain in rats by affecting the way that pain receptors respond to stimuli.
However, to date, there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove conclusively that CBD is an effective arthritis treatment for humans.
A 2006 study found that a cannabis-based mouth spray called Sativex helped relieve arthritis pain. However, the cannabis plant extracts that the company uses to make the spray contain both CBD and THC.
Although findings so far have been encouraging, more research is necessary to confirm that CBD oil is an effective treatment for arthritis pain.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, interact with receptors that influence pain and inflammation in the body. CBD may block certain receptors that allow for levels of an endocannabinoid called anandamide to increase in the body.
Scientists believe that CBD affects the way that these receptors respond to the signals that they receive, possibly helping reduce inflammation and pain.
The National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health state that cannabis or CBD could have modest benefits for chronic pain.
Much of the research into CBD for chronic pain has looked at neuropathic, or nerve-related, pain. For example, a 2017 review found that CBD helped with chronic neuropathic pain in humans.
A 2020 review reports that CBD could have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation, but that these effects are condition specific.
The researchers also say that using CBD may come with risks, such as drug interactions and harmful ingredients in unregulated products.
CBD is available as an oil or powder, which it is possible to use to make creams or gels that people can apply to the skin of the areas that arthritis affects.
People can also take CBD in capsule form or as an oral spray.
It is a good idea to speak to a doctor before using CBD oil. A person should also educate themselves on the local laws regarding CBD oil, as the use of cannabis products is not legal everywhere.
The FDA do not regulate CBD products in the same way that they regulate drugs, so companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. This means that it is especially important to do some research to find quality products.
Small-scale studies have found that people generally tolerate CBD well, but that some individuals may experience mild side effects.
There are also concerns that CBD might interfere with an enzyme called cytochrome P450 complex. This enzyme supports the liver’s ability to break down toxins. CBD may therefore increase the risk of a rise in liver toxicity.
People should talk to their doctor before taking CBD. It may interact with certain over-the-counter dietary supplements, aids, and prescribed medications.
Taking CBD alongside medications that warn about possible interactions with grapefruit warrant particular consideration.
The FDA have approved one form of CBD, Epidiolex, to treat two rare forms of epilepsy and to treat seizures caused by a rare condition called tuberous sclerosis complex.
The Arthritis Foundation caution that CBD could interact with certain arthritis drugs. They recommend talking to a doctor before trying CBD when taking any of the following drugs:
- corticosteroids, such as prednisone
- naproxen (Aleve)
- tofacitinib (Xeljanz)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- tramadol (Ultram)
- some antidepressants, including amitriptyline (Elavil), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), and sertraline (Zoloft)
- some medications for fibromyalgia, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica)
People should exercise caution when taking CBD products by mouth alongside high fat meals. High fat meals can dramatically increase the blood concentrations of CBD, which can increase the risk of side effects.
CBD is legal in some states in the U.S., but not all of them. Therefore, people should check the laws in their area before purchasing or taking CBD oil.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to CBD oil, so it is best to try applying the oil to a small area of skin first.
As with any alternative treatment, people should speak to a doctor before trying CBD oil.
CBD oil shows promise as a treatment for arthritis-related pain. If it affects receptors in the brain and immune system in the way that researchers believe, it may reduce inflammation and pain.
There is limited evidence from human studies to support the benefits of CBD oil, as the use and research of cannabis are restricted. As cannabis is becoming legalized in various regions, however, research is gaining momentum and showing some promising results.
That said, more studies are necessary before researchers can say with certainty that CBD oil is an effective treatment for arthritis pain.
Will CBD help with arthritis, and will it be better than the drugs that are currently available?
At a time when we are trying to reduce the use of pain relievers, CBD oil can be an effective approach to managing the pain of arthritis. Researchers have also recognized the role that CBD could play in reducing the pain-causing inflammation of arthritis.
However, its effectiveness will vary from person to person. People should work with their doctor to determine the right balance of CBD oil, other medications, and self-care. This may work better than the medications a person is currently taking.Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHTAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.