Cannabidiol (CBD) is an oil that derives from cannabis. A growing body of research suggests that CBD may help people with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic pain. Studies suggest that CBD may help relieve pain and inflammation, so researchers are looking into its effects on the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

For example, one 2020 review concludes that although current evidence is still limited, the emerging data suggest that cannabis can have a positive effect on fibromyalgia.

Also, although CBD shows promise as a remedy for this condition, research has not yet proven that it is safe and effective, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved CBD for treating fibromyalgia or other forms of pain.

Nonetheless, CBD remains a popular choice. This article will explore why CBD may be able to relieve the pain of fibromyalgia. It will also examine its most effective uses and some potential side effects.

In short, CBD is not the same as cannabis.

CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant. Another compound in cannabis, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is responsible for producing a high.

In most cases, the CBD oil on the market is made from a type of cannabis called hemp, which legally must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Concentrated CBD oil could offer greater benefits with fewer risks than using medical cannabis.

Learn more about hemp oil vs. cannabis oil here.

Researchers cannot decisively say why the compound appears to reduce some fibromyalgia symptoms, or why it works for some people and not others, but researchers are currently testing some theories.

The pain relieving effects of CBD are likely down to its effects on the brain. It may interrupt the nerve pathways that send signals of pain between the brain and the rest of the body.

CBD and other cannabinoids attach to specialized receptors in a person’s brain. One of these receptors, called a CB2 receptor, plays a role in managing pain and inflammation.

When CBD enters the body, it may attach to CB2 receptors, or it may cause the body to produce natural cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) that attach to these receptors. This may then result in reduced pain and inflammation.

One 2016 study suggests that a lack of endocannabinoids may be at the root of chronic pain syndromes, including migraine and fibromyalgia.

Using CBD may correct this deficiency, explaining the compound’s success in alleviating chronic pain.

Research is still limited, however, so more studies are needed before researchers can fully understand this process.

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Scientists are now conducting quality research on this treatment method. In the past, research has focused on medical cannabis rather than CBD in particular. New studies are finding benefits linked to this compound.

According to the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health, some evidence suggests that cannabis or CBD could have modest benefits for chronic pain.

For example, a 2020 review concludes that CBD could, in some contexts, have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation.

Learn more about using CBD for chronic pain here.

Anecdotal data also suggest that using CBD oil may alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia for some people.

Studies also suggest that CBD can relieve pain, improve sleep, and reduce refractory pain in people with various conditions linked to chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome.

People who use medical cannabis are likely to consume some CBD, but exact quantities are unknown. There is a debate about whether CBD is more effective when a person uses it alone or alongside medical cannabis.

A combination of other chemicals in the plant may intensify the positive effects of CBD and provide additional benefits. For instance, one 2006 study suggests that CBD works best in combination with THC.

More evidence is necessary for researchers to know the true effectiveness and safety of CBD for pain and chronic health conditions.

What do the studies say?

A 2020 review concludes that the emerging data suggest that cannabis can have a positive effect on fibromyalgia. The researchers also say, however, that the current evidence is still limited.

A 2019 randomized study looks at the effects of Bediol, a drug that contains both CBD and THC, in people with fibromyalgia. It suggests that more people who took Bediol reported a 30% decrease in pain scores compared with those who took a placebo.

However, other results in this study were inconclusive, and it is unclear whether the effects were due to THC or CBD.

A 2017 study concludes that CBD might counteract the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in people with chronic pain, including those with fibromyalgia. However, it also points to the need for more research in this area.

A 2015 review analyzes existing research into cannabinoid usage for chronic pain, though not specifically pain linked to fibromyalgia. Seven of the 11 studies included in the review suggest that CBD relieves pain.

A different 2015 review looks at the results of 28 randomized, clinically controlled trials of medical cannabis as a treatment for pain. Many of the trials focused on pain linked to multiple sclerosis. The review suggests that high quality evidence supports the use of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain in some contexts.

Does synthetic cannabis work?

One 2016 review assesses the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid called Nabilone on fibromyalgia. The researchers say that the participants tolerated it poorly, and that it had no significant benefits, compared with a placebo.

On the other hand, a 2020 review states that “synthetic cannabinoids are one of the most promising classes of drugs in pain medicine.”

Research into the effects of synthetic cannabis is limited, so researchers are still investigating its effectiveness.

Why has finding evidence been difficult?

There is limited evidence from human studies to support the benefits of CBD oil, as the use and research of cannabis are still restricted.

As cannabis is becoming legalized in various regions, research is gaining momentum and starting to show some promising results.

Many studies of CBD have limitations, including the following:

  • very small participant numbers
  • conflicting results
  • a lack of control groups or placebos
  • a lack of objective measures, relying instead on self-report measures

Other challenges that researchers face include sourcing high quality CBD or medical cannabis (due to a lack of regulation) and controlling the dosage and potency of CBD products.

Although a small group of studies suggests that CBD is effective for fibromyalgia, the data remain mixed and inconclusive.

A variety of websites offer instructions for using CBD oil, but there is little expert insight into usage or dosage. Some people use the oil topically, while others use it orally.

If possible, people may benefit from talking about dosages with a doctor who is knowledgeable about CBD and fibromyalgia.

As with any drug, it is advisable to start with a low dosage and carefully observe the body’s reaction.

Learn more about dosages for CBD here.

The FDA do not regulate CBD products in the same way 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.

People generally tolerate CBD well, but some have reported side effects. Some common side effects include:

People should talk to their doctor before taking CBD. CBD may interact with certain over-the-counter aids, dietary supplements, and prescription medications, especially those that warn against consuming grapefruit.

There are also some concerns that CBD might interfere with the liver’s ability to break down toxins by disrupting an enzyme called cytochrome P450 complex.

Although hemp and hemp-derived products that contain less than 0.3% THC are legal under the Farm Bill, there is still some confusion over the specifics.

Research is ongoing, and the legal status of CBD and other cannabinoids varies by state.

If a person in the United States is thinking of trying CBD, they can check their local laws here.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. Although CBD will not cure it, some people find that it can help them manage their symptoms, and research in this area shows promise.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.