Today, we shall talk about how cannabidiol, better known as CBD, can help relieve osteoarthritis’ symptoms. CBD is a cannabinoid with a high therapeutic level, which means that a person consuming CBD will need a rather small dose to experience the therapeutic effect and a much higher dose to reach a toxic level. CBD lacks psychotropic properties, i.e., it does not change nervous system function and it offers a natural alternative for people affected by osteoarthritis.
But first, we must define what osteoarthritis is, what its symptoms are, and why CBD can be an ally to relieve pain caused by osteoarthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is a rheumatic disease that affects bones, joints, and ligaments. Also known as OA (osteo = bones), osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis. It is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world and there is still no cure for it. Worldwide, around 242 million people suffer from OA, with a wide range of symptoms. According to the NIAMS (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases), it is the most common type of arthritis in people over 50.
It is characterized by a deterioration of the cartilage and joints, a process aggravated by aging. Typically, the most affected areas are the joints of the hands, neck, knees, and hips. It can cause joint inflammation, bone deformation, and reduced mobility.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and swelling in the joint area. Cannabis shows anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in two of its most studied cannabinoids to date: THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. In the next section, we will talk about CBD.
What are the benefits of CBD for osteoarthritis?
Despite evidence that CBD is a safe chemical compound for humans, there is still a considerable lack of human clinical trials. However, laboratory studies suggest that CBD may be especially promising in reducing pain and inflammation in people suffering from rheumatic diseases, including osteoarthritis.
It is common to find testimonies and reports from people who experienced significant improvements in pain levels with the use of CBD administered in different formats (CBD oil, capsules, creams, etc.). However, to determine how useful CBD can be for people suffering from different types of arthritis, such as OA, it is necessary to await for the results of more scientifically valid and rigorous clinical trials.
The benefits found so far include:
- Pain relief (1)
- A reduction in the need for opiates by using this natural non-addictive alternative
- Side effects are much less severe compared to conventional drugs for osteoarthritis (2)
- The need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be reduced (3)
- It helps achieve more restorative sleep.(4)
Most drugs have some degree of inefficacy in the presence of bone and joint wear due to a shortage of receptors in these areas. However, endocannabinoid receptors are present in these zones, allowing cannabinoid products and drugs to be effective even in patients with degenerative processes such as osteoarthritis.
In particular, the endocannabinoid system can regulate the immune response and protect the organism against the consequences of an inflammatory condition.
CBD, unlike THC, is not psychotomimetic (also known as psychotogenic). That is, it does not imitate psychosis’ symptoms. The sublingual use of CBD does not have the potential side effects associated with THC consumption, for instance, increased blood pressure, feelings of anxiety, and sensory and motor coordination distortion. On the contrary, CBD can decrease the unpleasant psychoactive effects of THC thanks to the anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory properties offered by cannabidiol.
This is the reason why cannabidiol is one of the most promising cannabinoids in terms of its therapeutic and medicinal potential, as it may be compatible with the treatment of diseases in people who are uncomfortable with the psychotomimetic effect of THC.
How to use CBD oil for treating arthritis
According to Fundación Canna:
“It is advised that the administration routes in these pathologies be both local and general.” This results in treatments that combine both the external use of CBD-rich creams and ointments and other cannabinoids, as well as sublingual use of oils or by means of other formats such as ingested or edible use.
The external application of both CBD and THC is completely safe because it does not penetrate the bloodstream and does not have the ability to generate unwanted psychoactive effects.
In any case, consulting a legal specialist regarding the regulatory framework surrounding CBD use in the country of residence of the patient is a must, as well as seeking personalized medical treatment and appropriate follow-ups.
Enough to cover the area to be treated. Repeated use, 2 or 3 times a day. More frequent or excessive use of topical ointments may cause irritation in the treated area or any additional adverse effects depending on the composition of the product.
Experts recommend starting with a small dose (3 mg of CBD 3 times a day) and slowly increasing it until a minimum dose is found to be effective. To monitor this type of use, we advise to keep a record of the progress and effects of the first doses: If they reduce the pain, if they manage to relieve a specific symptom, if it produces any adverse effects, etc.
If you are not familiar with sublingual use of CBD oil. Check out our blog about the different routes of administration.
How to find the right dose for you
Each individual will almost certainly require a different dose because of personal and physiological differences. It will depend on many factors including…
- Cannabis consumption
- Personal medicine intake
- Age and weight
- Mental health
- The route used to deliver the dose (sublingual, topical, edible, vaporized, etc.)
It is very important to understand that no precise and accurate doses have been found so far. It is a natural compound that behaves differently on each organism. Specialists recommend treating each case on an individual basis and to go through a trial and error process until a suitable dose is found.
It is always better to start with a small dose and to increase it carefully. Start with a dose of around 3 mg, 3 times per day. It is important to space the dose and make it a regular occurrence. CBD works best when taken daily. Monitor the results and if this first dose does not produce the necessary effects (does not calm the pain, does not reduce inflammation, etc...), increase the dose by another 3 mg until reaching the minimum effective dose.
In any case, consulting a legal professional about the regulatory framework surrounding CBD use in the country of residence of the patient is an important step, as well as obtaining a specific treatment and suitable monitoring.
Things to keep in mind when taking CBD for osteoarthritis
Is it safe?
Studies have shown that cannabidiol is not toxic in humans even when used periodically for long periods of time and even in large doses. In addition, used in humans, CBD use is not indicative of potential substance abuse or dependence... Thus far, there is no empirical evidence of public health-related issues associated with CBD consumption. Look at our blog article what the WHO says about CBD.
What are the adverse effects of CBD?
Known adverse effects are usually from moderate to mild and they include: tiredness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, and decreased appetite.
Always be careful if already taking medication. When ingesting CBD, it may have adverse effects in combination with other medication.
When not to use CBD for osteoarthritis?
In case of ingesting CBD, which is not regulated in Spain, it is advised to always consult a healthcare professional, more so if already taking any prescription drugs.
Is it compatible with other medication?
CBD is known to have the potential to interact with some drugs commonly used in the treatment of arthritis. For example, CBD use increases the effect of opioids, and it may allow for a reduction in their use.
Consult your doctor if taking any of the following medications: Corticosteroids (such as prednisone), tofacitinib, naproxen, celecoxib, tramadol, some antidepressants such as amitriptyline, citalopram, fluoxetine, mirtazapine, paroxetine, sertraline, and some medicines for treating fibromyalgia, including gabapentin and pregabalin. The list is taken from the Arthritis Foundation.
Is it legal?
CBD’s legislation varies per country. It may or may not be regulated and in different formats and formulations.
- For oral (sublingual) administration: CBD oils
- For topical application: CBD oils, salves, creams, ointments, etc.
- Ingested: Capsules, jelly beans, etc.
- For inhaling: vaping fluids, CBD flowers, etc.
Spanish legislation only regulates CBD’s topical use and therefore you will find CBD oil, cream, and CBD-rich blends, and other ointments for external use. If you want to know more, you can have a look at our article on the legality of CBD.
- Bab I, Zimmer A. Cannabinoid receptors and the regulation of bone mass. BR J Pharmacol. 2008;153(2):182-188. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707593
- Russo EB. Taming THC: Potential Cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. BR J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- De Mello Schier AR, de Oliveira Ribeiro NP, Coutinho DS, et al. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: A chemical compound of cannabis sativa. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):953-960. doi:10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
- Yunze Li, Yixin Yang, Jinwan Guo, Xuejiao Guo, Zhiying Feng, Xuli Zhao, Spinal NF-kB upregulation contributions to hyperalgesia in a rat model of advanced osteoarthritis, Molecular Pain , 10.1177/1744806920905691, 16 , (174480692090569), (2020).
- WHO Report on the use of CBD
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