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Some early evidence, mostly from animal studies, suggests that topical cannabidiol (CBD) cream may help with arthritis, inflammation, and chronic pain.

However, recent research into the effects of CBD on arthritis in humans is limited, and no research exists on the use of CBD cream specifically.

This article discusses the use of CBD cream to treat arthritis, its effectiveness, products to consider, and other natural remedies.

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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 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent 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.

The cannabis plant contains many different chemical compounds. One of these, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the component known to cause the “high” when people consume it.

However, CBD, another major compound of the cannabis plant, does not induce this feeling. Many supporters and some researchers believe CBD may offer several health benefits.

Learn more about the differences and similarities between CBD and THC here.

CBD is legal at the federal level but only in products where the concentration is less than 0.3% THC. In addition, different states have varying additional regulations. Some require a prescription, while others permit selling CBD as a supplement or even a beauty product.

A person should research the CBD regulations in their state.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one CBD drug to treat certain types of seizures. However, it has not granted approval to CBD cream for any purpose, including arthritis.

These creams combine CBD with a mixture of oils or butters. Companies that market these products for people with arthritis may include other topical ingredients that may relieve pain, such as capsaicin.

The Arthritis Foundation (AF) states that research on CBD for arthritis is promising but not conclusive. While several animal studies show potential, there are currently no well-designed trials that prove CBD cream is beneficial for people with this condition.

Most research on CBD suggests that its primary benefit is not as a numbing or pain relief agent. Instead, it helps reduce the inflammation that triggers arthritis pain. This means it may require long-term use for noticeable results to occur.

An older 2000 study on mice with laboratory-induced arthritis found that oral CBD, as opposed to CBD cream, could reduce arthritis symptoms by targeting inflammatory chemicals.

A 2016 study on rats found that they displayed fewer pain-related behaviors and had fewer inflammation markers after 4 consecutive days of treatment with CBD cream.

While some research assesses CBD in humans, none has looked specifically at CBD cream.

An older 2006 preliminary assessment of the CBD drug Sativex, an oral mucosal spray, found that the drug could ease arthritis pain over 5 weeks. Sativex offered better pain relief than a placebo, but the study was small and did not specifically use a CBD cream.

Many similar studies use CBD alongside other derivatives of cannabis, so it is uncertain whether any apparent benefits come from cannabis, from other cannabis derivatives, such as THC, or from CBD alone.

The following are some pros and cons of using CBD cream for arthritis:

Pros

  • CBD is generally safe for most people.
  • There is limited evidence that cannabinoids can help reduce chronic pain.
  • The AF states that CBD may help reduce symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

Cons

CBD use is becoming more and more common in the United States. According to a 2020 Consumer Reports survey, one-third of adults in the U.S. have used CBD in the past 2 years, with some using it to self-medicate health conditions.

However, CBD products are not a replacement for the medication individuals with arthritis may need to take for their condition.

People should always discuss using CBD products with a healthcare professional to ensure that the product will not interact with any existing prescription and nonprescription medication or health conditions.

At moderate doses, CBD is safe for most people and should not cause serious side effects. However, like all medications, the substance may interact with other drugs and trigger adverse effects, including some serious ones.

Common side effects include:

  • feeling sleepy or inattentive
  • having stomach problems, such as diarrhea or nausea
  • experiencing mood changes, such as irritability

CBD may also interact with other sedating substances, such as alcohol and opioids. Experts have not identified all drug interactions, so it is best to consult a healthcare professional before using CBD alongside other medications.

Similar to other drugs, CBD may cause an allergic reaction, particularly in people with tree or nut allergies.

It is also of note that researchers cannot confirm the long-term effects of using CBD.

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria, where possible:

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

People may wish to consider some of the following factors when shopping for CBD cream:

  • Independent testing: Products undergo testing by an independent laboratory.
  • COA: Products have a COA, which details the results of independent testing to ensure the product contains what is on the label.
  • Clear labeling: Products list the amount of CBD in each dose.
  • Dosage: People should ensure they purchase a product with the correct amount of CBD for their requirements. For example, it is advisable to start with a lower dose and increase it if necessary.

Read our buyer’s guide to CBD here.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

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

The following products may be suitable for people with arthritis. A person should contact a doctor if they have concerns about using particular CBD products.

Best full-spectrum CBD cream: Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full-Spectrum CBD Balm

This balm contains moisturizing mango butter and beeswax, making it suitable for dry or irritated skin.

In addition to the added 600 milligrams (mg) of cannabis per ounce (oz), it also includes mint to soothe and cool the skin.

The product is third-party tested and certified free from heavy metals.

Best warming CBD cream: CBDistillery CBD Warming Cream

With 300 mg of CBD per 1.7-oz tube, this warming cream contains 2 mg of CBD per pump.

Rich in moisturizing ingredients, such as shea butter, the product offers a subtle warming sensation to ease muscle tension and soothe inflammation.

CBDistillery tests this product for potency, dangerous chemicals, and heavy metals, while it is also certified for safety.

Use code “MNT20” for 20% off.

Best high potency CBD cream: CBDfx Muscle & Joint CBD Hemp Cream

This high potency formula product offers 1,000 mg of CBD per 1.7-oz bottle.

It also contains caffeine and menthol to stimulate blood flow and provide a pleasurable cooling sensation.

In addition, the added white willow bark may help soothe inflammation.

The product is vegan and certified cruelty- and solvent-free.

Proper use of CBD cream depends on the product. Below are some general tips for use:

  • Follow the instructions on the label and avoid using more than the recommended amount.
  • Try massaging the affected area while applying the cream, to promote blood flow and ease tension.
  • To see the most significant benefits, use CBD cream along with mainstream remedies, such as disease-modifying agents.
  • It may be necessary to use CBD for several days to see results.

It is also of note that CBD cream should not replace any medical treatment unless a doctor recommends it.

People who wish to try natural remedies for arthritis have several options beyond CBD, including:

  • Stress management and mind-body techniques: Research supporting the effectiveness of these remedies is not conclusive, but mind and body techniques, such as meditation, are generally safe.
  • Exercise: Taking part in physical activity can:
    • prevent damage to surrounding muscles
    • promote blood flow to the affected area
    • help a person maintain a moderate body weight
  • Dietary supplements: Emerging research suggests some supplements may help arthritis. However, they can interact with other drugs and cause serious side effects, so consult a doctor before trying them. These supplements include:
  • Alternative medicine: Some people may find relief from:

Learn more about effective home remedies for arthritis here.

People who wish to use CBD products for arthritis but prefer not to use creams could try other forms, such as oils or edibles.

Learn about using CBD oil for treating arthritis here.

Below are some frequently asked questions about CBD cream for arthritis.

How does CBD cream work for arthritis?

Although there are many anecdotal reports of people using CBD cream for arthritis, more research is necessary to confirm these claims.

Studies with mice have shown that CBD may help reduce arthritis pain by limiting the inflammatory response. Research also shows that applying CBD through the skin has the potential to be an effective treatment for arthritis.

How often should I use CBD cream for arthritis?

People should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using any CBD product. It is also advisable to start at a lower dose and increase it if necessary, rather than starting with a higher dose of CBD.

When using topical products, individuals should perform a patch test on a small area of the skin to ensure the product will not cause irritation. If the product does not irritate the skin, they can then apply it as needed.

What are the side effects of CBD ointment?

Although there is no link between moderate use of CBD ointment and serious safety concerns, there are several potential side effects.

According to the FDA, the risks of using CBD include the following:

  • liver damage
  • potentially harmful interactions with prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • increased drowsiness when used at the same time as alcohol and antianxiety and sleep medications
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • drowsiness

CBD may help relieve arthritis inflammation, although further research is necessary. CBD cream is a possible option for people who wish to try a natural remedy for joint pain.

However, every case of arthritis is different, and what works well for one person might not be effective for others. Consult a doctor to find a suitable combination of natural and medical remedies for arthritis relief.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.