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Cannabidiol (CBD) has become a promising complementary remedy for various health issues, including anxiety, epilepsy, and pain management. Here, we review our favorite picks.

CBD is one of several cannabinoids naturally present in the cannabis plant. A vast range of CBD products, including oils, tinctures, balms, and candy, may help people experiencing physical pain.

This article discusses how CBD products may help relieve chronic pain. It also provides a list of potentially effective CBD products that have undergone extensive third-party testing for safety.

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.

There is some evidence that CBD can benefit pain. Read on to learn how effective CBD can be for inflammation, chronic pain, and arthritis.

CBD for inflammation

A 2020 review states that CBD can have a positive effect on inflammatory pain. However, many of the studies in the review were animal studies, and their results may not translate to humans. A 2018 study on mice found that CBD may interact with neurological receptors in the spinal cord that suppress chronic inflammatory pain. CBD may also increase levels of AEA, an endogenous cannabinoid that reduces pain.

CBD for chronic pain

According to another 2018 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s pain-relieving effects in seven people who experienced chronic pain after having kidney transplants. Six of the seven participants reported improvements in pain. One of the participants experienced more pain at higher CBD doses but achieved the best pain management at lower CBD doses.

CBD for arthritis pain

A 2022 study found that CBD improved pain in 83% of participants with arthritis. In addition, 66% also believed CBD improved their sleep quality and ability to move. The authors noted that participants with osteoarthritis found the most benefit in their movement and pain reduction when compared to those with rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune arthritis.

Authors of a 2020 study also wrote that CBD exhibited anti-arthritis activity. They found that it targeted inflamed cells in the synovial fluid in the joints and improved rheumatoid arthritis.

Learn more about CBD for arthritis.

While more research, such as large-scale, high quality clinical trials, is still necessary, these preliminary studies suggest CBD may help manage pain. A 2021 study also notes that participants in the research have positive attitudes toward CBD treatment options and report positive outcomes when using the substance for pain-related conditions.

Medical News Today chooses CBD products for pain relief that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: Products contain safe and high quality ingredients, and their labels state all ingredients clearly. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: Products contain or recommend a serving size of a safe CBD dosage. The label also clearly states the dosage.
  • Third-party labs: Products undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: The company demonstrates transparency and shares a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) following lab results.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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Medical News Today has tested some of the products below. Reviewers may have received some products from the manufacturers for free, which does not influence their review. All opinions are the reviewers’ own.

The table below compares each of the CBD products in this article.

FormType of CBDStrengthKey ingredientsPrice
CBDfxcreambroad-spectrum• 1,000 mg of CBD
• 3,000 mg of CBD
• caffeine
• menthol
• white willow bark
from $79.99
Joy Organicstincture• broad-spectrum
• full-spectrum
• 15 mg of CBD
• 30 mg of CBD
• 45 mg of CBD
• 75 mg of CBD
• organic CBD
• olive oil
from $49.95
Cornbread Hempoilfull-spectrum375 mg, 750 mg, and 1,500 mg of CBD• CBD
• coconut oil
CBDMEDIC Sport Stickstickbroad-spectrum600 mg of CBD• THC-free CBD
• menthol
• camphor
CBDMEDIC Arthritisointmentbroad-spectrum600 mg of CBD• THC-free CBD
• menthol
Charlotte’s Webgelfull-spectrum510 mg of CBD• CBD
• menthol
• arnica
PlusCBDbalmfull-spectrum100 mg of CBD• CBD
• almond oil
• beeswax

There are endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids. Endogenous cannabinoids are naturally occurring lipids that the body produces. Two of the most well-known endogenous cannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

The body does not produce exogenous cannabinoids — these compounds are part of the cannabis plant. Examples of exogenous cannabinoids include:

  • CBD
  • THC
  • cannabichromene (CBC)
  • cannabigerol (CBG)

Cannabinoids, both endogenous and exogenous, bind to endocannabinoid receptors attached to cells. These include cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors. This binding action stimulates different cell responses that influence pain signaling pathways.

CBD comes in several different forms, including:

CBD gummies and capsules are for oral ingestion. On the other hand, topical CBD products are for external use only. People can apply these products to specific body areas, such as sore muscles or aching joints.

CBD oils and tinctures are more versatile than other forms and usually come in tinted glass bottles with a dropper. People can either add a few drops of CBD oil to food or beverages or place them under their tongue, where they can hold the oil for up to 1 minute before swallowing. However, people may not feel the effects of CBD oil for one or more hours after using it.

Individuals should follow the directions and dosage information on the CBD product label.

Learn more about CBD dosages.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates one CBD-containing drug, called Epidiolex, for treating rare forms of epilepsy in children ages 2 years and older.

This means that the FDA does not regulate commercially available CBD products. People should look for high quality products from reputable manufacturers and retailers when shopping for CBD. These companies test every batch of their products via an independent third-party lab for purity, showing that the product does not contain harmful metals or toxins.

High quality products undergo third-party testing by laboratories without affiliations to the manufacturer. They test CBD products for:

  • pesticides
  • heavy metals
  • microbes
  • harmful chemicals

Products that undergo third-party testing will have a COA, a document containing information about the product’s CBD potency, THC and other cannabinoids, and safety test results.

A person can also consider the following when buying a CBD product for pain management:

  • Strength: CBD products come in a range of strengths. People who have not used CBD products before should start with a low-strength product and build up until they get the needed effects.
  • THC content: Hemp products with less than 0.3% THC are legal on a federal level. A person should check the THC content before making a purchase.
  • Hemp source: People can consider CBD products from companies that responsibly source their hemp. Many companies use hemp that grows in the United States.
  • Form: CBD products can come in oils, ointments, creams, patches, or gels. People can consider how convenient their chosen product will be to apply, whether it suits different skin types, and how long the product will last.
  • Cost: Some CBD products can be expensive. People should consider how often they will need to use their CBD product and choose a product that will fit their budget and be cost-effective.
  • Unproven medical claims: A person should research the medical claims from CBD manufacturers. The FDA has only approved one CBD prescription drug for medical use. The FDA states that people who buy CBD products claiming to treat serious conditions such as cancer, mental health conditions, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease should not delay receiving care from a healthcare professional.
  • COA: A person should consider products from companies that provide a COA detailing the ingredients in their CBD products. A person can find COAs on a brand’s website or by contacting the brand directly.

Read our complete buyer’s guide to CBD.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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Side effects of CBD include:

More severe side effects include:

  • liver damage
  • fertility problems in males
  • potentially severe interactions with alcohol and certain medications

Manufacturers of CBD products say they may help relieve muscle, joint, and nerve pain. However, there is limited scientific evidence to confirm these claims.

Some alternative treatments for pain include:

People who experience persistent or worsening pain despite trying OTC and at-home treatments may wish to discuss alternative treatment options with a doctor.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional to understand their pain and get advice on how to manage it.

A doctor can help pinpoint the reason behind the pain and suggest workouts and strengthening exercises or prescribe medication that can help minimize or eliminate the pain.

While there is supporting research that CBD can help with pain, scientists need more evidence to understand its long-term effects and the appropriate dosages a person should take.

A person should not use CBD products to replace support from a doctor, especially if they have health conditions that cause pain.

If people react to topical CBD products or experience side effects, they should stop using them and talk with a medical professional for advice.

The two main cannabis strains are sativa and indica.

An older 2014 study reporting on the results of an online survey found that a majority of people prefer the indica strain for pain management.

Read more about the best cannabis strains for pain.

People should always start at the lowest possible dose of CBD, then increase the dosage gradually until they reach their desired effect.

Research is still to determine what CBD dose is most effective for pain management.

Full-spectrum CBD products contain up to 0.3% of THC. This THC may be delta-9 or a mix of delta-9 and delta-8.

Several CBD products in this article contain delta-8 THC in small amounts underneath the federally legal limit.

A 2022 study found that a majority of the over 500 participants preferred delta-8 THC to the more common delta-9, especially regarding pain relief.

However, it is important to note that the authors of this study found the participants through delta-8 retailers and online forums dedicated to this type of THC, so responses may be disproportionately favorable to delta-8.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service states that while there is some evidence that CBD can help relieve pain, there is not enough to recommend it.

People who wish to use CBD for pain relief should do so after contacting a doctor. There may be other, more effective treatments available.

Early research suggests CBD may offer pain relief, such as opioids, without addictive properties. A survey of over 1,000 people found that the average daily opioid use was reduced by 78%, with similar reductions in other prescription pain medication use. The participants also reported improvement in quality of life within 6 months.

However, it is important not to discontinue pain medication without talking with a healthcare professional.

Many variables, such as the underlying health condition, CBD product, and dosage, can affect how quickly CBD can relieve pain. For example, the American Arthritis Foundation suggests that a person may feel the effects of a CBD spray or tincture in 15–45 minutes.

When buying CBD oil for pain, people should consider the type of CBD and its potency. A stronger oil may have more noticeable effects but may not be suitable for beginners. People should also research brands to see if they recommend their CBD oils for pain.

Researchers have found CBD effective for treating pain. Hemp is more likely to provide benefits to the skin and brain.

While preliminary clinical studies and animal studies suggest CBD may help relieve pain, more research is necessary to evaluate these findings.

CBD is generally safe but can lead to side effects, such as tiredness and appetite changes.