Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, also called hemp oil, contains CBD 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. In this article, we examine whether CBD oil may be an effective treatment for arthritis and chronic pain.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is the oil derived from hemp, which is a type of cannabis plant.
CBD is a type of cannabinoid, which is a chemical that occurs naturally in cannabis plants. CBD is not a psychoactive chemical.
Cannabis contains several different chemicals. One of these, called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is psychoactive.
Unlike CBD, THC can change a person's mental state or produce a high.
There are many different 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.
It is important to note, however, that people making CBD tend to extract the CBD from hemp plants, rather than marijuana plants. Both plants are cannabis plants, but the selective breeding of marijuana plants has resulted in them containing high levels of THC. This is not the case for hemp plants.
Some people use CBD oil to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Recent research suggests that CBD oil may be useful for pain relief and other conditions.
CBD oil and arthritis pain relief
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting over 50 million Americans. The two most common types of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system attacks their joints, causing inflammation. RA commonly affects the hands and feet and leads to painful, swollen, and stiff joints.
- Osteoarthritis (OA): A degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. It often affects the hip, knee, and thumb joints.
Some studies on animals suggest that CBD could help to treat arthritis and relieve the associated inflammatory pain:
- A 2011 study found that CBD helped to reduce inflammatory pain in rats by affecting the way that pain receptors respond to stimuli.
- A 2014 review of the existing body of research on animals concluded that CBD may be an effective treatment for OA.
- A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment for OA joint pain.
However, to date, there 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 to relieve arthritis pain. However, the cannabis plant extracts that the company use to make the spray contain both CBD and THC.
While findings so far have been encouraging, more research is necessary to confirm that CBD oil is an effective treatment for arthritis pain.
CBD oil and chronic pain
CBD may help manage chronic pain by affecting the brain's response to pain signals.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person's brain and immune system.
One of these receptors, called a CB2 receptor, plays a role in the immune system by managing pain and inflammation.
Researchers believe that when CBD enters a person's body, it may attach to CB2 receptors. Alternatively, it may cause the body to produce natural cannabinoids that attach to the CB2 receptors.
Either way, scientists think CBD affects the way that these receptors respond to the signals that they receive, possibly helping reduce inflammation and pain.
A 2008 review of research into CBD and its possible mechanism of action suggested that CBD could play a role in chronic pain management.
Using CBD oil
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 affected by arthritis.
People can also take CBD may also be taken 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.
Small-scale studies have found that people generally tolerate CBD well, but some individuals may experience mild side effects.
- tiredness and trouble sleeping
- feeling irritable
Clinical trials of Epidiolex, the brand name of the CBD medication that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved to treat epilepsy, did not find any indications of physical dependence.
Risks and considerations
Cannabis products, including CBD oil, are not legal in all states. It is essential to check local laws before purchasing CBD oil.
The FDA do not currently approve CBD oil as a medical treatment for arthritis.
The only use that CBD has FDA approval for is to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy. It received approval for this use in June 2018.
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 pain. If it affects receptors in the brain and immune system in the way that researchers believe, it may reduce inflammation and pain.
However, 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. Work with your doctor to sort out the right balance of CBD oil, other medications, and self-care. This may work better than the medications you have been taking.Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.