CBD oil is all the rage right now, and if you can think of an ailment, there’s somebody somewhere touting that CBD oil can help.
Many of these suggestions are just gimmicks and don’t come from any real clinical support, but when it comes to CBD oil and arthritis, there is a growing body of research analysing the use of CBD-rich hemp oil for arthritis pain.
We’re about to discuss the research studies conducted to date so that you can have the information at hand for your own analysis.
But CBD oil has only just burst onto the mainstream scene, so you may have another question first:
What is CBD Oil?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 100+ cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Along with THC, CBD is the most common and most well-known of these cannabinoids.
Despite being a key compound in cannabis, a plant that is illegal in many places, CBD is not intoxicating and cannot make you ‘high’. The psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant is THC.
“Hemp” is a cannabis plant that is grown for its CBD content, and in the UK a final product derived from hemp is legally required to contain no THC or CBN.
This simply means that the CBD oil also contains a broader set of ingredients from the hemp plant, including other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, healthy omega fats, and potentially trace elements of THC.
This combination of ingredients in naturally occurring ratios has been suggested to lead to better results than using CBD alone, with this joint effect being called the ‘entourage effect’.
How Does CBD Oil Interact With Arthritis
Human understanding of cannabinoids is still very much in its early stages, but it’s virtually certain that the answer lies in the endocannabinoid system.
This is the name given to a network of CB1 and CB2 receptors found around the human body, which helps to promote homeostasis by balancing the body’s other systems and producing immune responses.
Different receptors stimulate different responses and work in slightly different ways, but it’s likely that both have a part to play when it comes to arthritis.
CB1 receptors are mostly present in the brain and spinal cord, and studies suggest they can influence pain. Interestingly, there are about 10 times more CB1 receptors than opioid receptors, but the lack of CB1 receptors in the brain’s respiratory centres likely explains the nonexistence of cannabis overdose deaths.
CB2 receptors are found everywhere but mostly concentrated in parts of the body that are closely tied to the immune system, such as in white blood cells, the tonsils, the gut etc, and influence the regulation of inflammation.
The unique interaction between cannabinoids and these receptors is thought to be a significant reason behind why hemp derived CBD is used so widely and by so many people.
CBD For Arthritis in Humans: A Summary of Findings
Now that you know the basics of what CBD oil is, what should you know about CBD and arthritis pain?
Studies are both ongoing and rapidly increasing in scope and number, so we can expect more information to be discovered in the coming months and years.
There are studies that specifically look at arthritis too:
CBD Oil and Rheumatoid Arthritis
One of the most recent studies on the topic was a German 2019 investigation into cannabinoids effectiveness in treating rheumatoid arthritis specifically.
This study was looking into all cannabinoids and not just CBD, and the researchers discovered that some cannabinoids did help reduce pain and inflammation in RA, while noting that this required the correct cannabinoid receptors to be targeted. Targeting the wrong receptors could actually have a negative, pro-inflammatory effect.
For CBD itself, however, this wasn’t the case, with the study concluding that “the nonpsychotropic cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) demonstrated antiarthritic effects independent of cannabinoid receptors.” This may be due to the particular way that CBD weakly interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Multiple Cannabinoids and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Going a bit further back in time, one of the earliest studies into cannabinoids effects on arthritis was a 2006 assessment by the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases.
While this assessment focused on Sativex, a recently UK licensed cannabis-based medication that contains both CBD and THC, “a significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment.”
It is unknown just how much of this effect was caused by the CBD, and how much was caused by the THC, which is why studies into CBD have increased dramatically in the years that followed.
Cannabinoids for Pain and Inflammation
While this 2018 study was focused more generally on pain and inflammation than arthritis specifically, it was noted that “increasing amounts of evidence demonstrate that the endocannabinoid system actively participates in the pathophysiology of osteoarthritis-associated joint pain.”
In the same 2018 study, previously existing evidence was also summarised by stating that “increasing amounts of evidence, derived from clinical studies, have confirmed the potential of the cannabinoid system in affording benefits for patients with chronic pain and chronic inflammatory diseases (arthritis)”.
CBD for Arthritis in Animals
While more human-based clinical trials are required, studies into CBD’s impact on arthritis in animals is much more numerous. One such trial tested a transdermal CBD gel for arthritis in rats and measured its impact on both pain and inflammation.
While pre-clinical, this study provided an interesting insight via the use of a topical CBD cream. Researchers noted that “transdermal administration of CBD has long-lasting therapeutic effects without psychoactive side-effects. Thus, the use of topical CBD has potential as an effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology.”
A separate 2017 study into cannabidiol treatment for rats with osteoarthritis successfully reduced both pain symptoms and inflammation in the subjects and it was concluded that, “These findings suggest that CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.”
While rats are common test subjects in clinical trials due to the fact their genetic and biological characteristics are very similar to humans, interest is also growing in the use of CBD for dog arthritis.
This is perhaps not surprising considering arthritis in dogs can lead to pain, inflammation, trouble sleeping and separation anxiety.
A 2018 study into clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in osteoarthritic dogs “showed a significant decrease in pain”, before concluding that “2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA.”
This study also echoed the importance of full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil, noting that “The industrial hemp product used in this study is a proprietary strain-specific extract of the cannabinoids outlined in the methods with relatively high concentrations of CBD and lesser quantities of other cannabinoids as well as small amounts of terpenes that may have synergistic effects often termed the ‘entourage effect.’
While plenty more research and clinical testing is required, existing evidence is pre-clinical but it is accumulating.
With discoveries like those listed above taking place in recent years, and CBD becoming a mainstream trending product, studies are accelerating rapidly and our understanding of cannabinoids is expanding constantly.
We would recommend keeping an eye on our blog for regular updates around the science of CBD oil, but if you’re ready to give CBD a try yourself, a tested high-quality CBD oil will ensure you avoid any poor experiences and enjoy the full entourage effect!