Cannabidiol, or CBD, has become synonymous with all-natural health and wellness products. More and more people take it to help with minor aches, anxiety, and sleeplessness. But CBD is also gaining recognition as an effective alternative medication for more serious health conditions, such as arthritis.
So, can you really take CBD oil for arthritis? Read on to learn what the research shows so far.
About CBD Oil for Arthritis
Many patients claim that CBD can treat their arthritis symptoms.
There are anecdotal claims and growing scientific evidence that CBD can reduce some of the swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
Just the Facts
While the exact mechanisms by which CBD treats arthritis symptoms are not fully understood, we’re hopeful that more research will clarify this in the near future.
Arthritis is not a single disease, but a category for many different varieties of joint pain and joint diseases. Out of over 100 types of arthritis, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In the US, arthritis currently affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children. It is also the nation’s leading cause of disability.
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage breaks down and hard knobs form at the ends of bones. This causes joints to swell, making movement painful. It can be the result of injuries or inherited factors like abnormal joint development. Osteoarthritis typically occurs in the hands, knees, neck, and lower back.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks their joints. It typically affects the hands and wrists, and results in swollen, stiff, and painful joints.
Many forms of arthritis can be managed with regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines or supplements like turmeric. However, more severe cases can require assistive moving devices and even surgery to repair or replace damaged joints.
Can CBD Really Help?
Registered nurse Jenn Schleh is a co-founder of the CBD brand Oma’s Organics. She says CBD can do a lot to help people with arthritis.
“One of the biggest goals in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is to stop inflammation. If you can stop the inflammation, then you can relieve symptoms, prevent damage, improve physical activity, and help prevent long-term complications,” Schleh says.
More specifically, Schleh says that CBD has “neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties” and that it can reduce “inflammation and pain without side effects.”
While pharmaceutical companies work on introducing more cannabinoid-based medications, Schleh sees non-pharmaceutical CBD as a more affordable and accessible treatment option.
“A drug company is developing synthetic cannabinoid therapeutics for transdermal delivery for patients with high-unmet medical need. Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathic pain are just a few that they are looking at,” Schleh says.
“The biggest problem I have with these companies is the price that they are charging people. People need help with their ailments and what these companies are charging them for this help is shameful.”
How Do People Use CBD Oil for Arthritis?
Dawn Fable is the co-founder of another CBD brand, the Press Pause Project. Fable says that CBD helps people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And she’s seen it firsthand.
“I gave my 66 year-old mother a sample of our current formulation, and it provided her tremendous relief from arthritis pain in her hands,” Fable says. “We were able to share our products with many loved ones — aging parents and grandparents — and the feedback we were getting from the Pause healing balm was consistent with immediate relief of pain, stiffness and inflammation.”
For maximum effect, Fable recommends using a topical CBD balm or salve for immediate results, plus taking CBD orally (such as oil drops or gel capsules) for extended relief. “With a topical application such as a lotion or balm, one can experience relief within minutes,” Fable says.
CBD Dosing and Frequency for Arthritis
While it can be tricky to figure out how much CBD to take, Kara Potter at Relief Scout offers some help. Through their own research, Relief Scout developed an algorithm that can recommend the quantity and frequency of CBD dosing for arthritis patients.
Potter says that a salve is the preferred CBD application for treating arthritis, continuing, “the type of pain they feel, however, is the biggest indicator of what administration method may work best. If the pain is very localized, we have observed the most success with localized treatment like salves or transdermal patches. With a more widespread arthritis pain, tincture and capsules have shown to provide more comprehensive relief,” Potter says.
For the study, rats were injected with a substance to induce osteoarthritis. They then received injections of a CBD mixture and were monitored for joint inflammation and pain.
CBD successfully reduced swelling and pain in the rats. Researchers concluded that CBD could be a safe treatment for osteoarthritis swelling and pain in humans.
This study demonstrated that CBD is effective at reducing pain and swelling locally. This is important for arthritis treatments because it supports the practice that arthritis patients apply CBD to their joints as a salve or balm.
After injecting rats with a substance that caused arthritis in their knee joints, researchers began a treatment of rubbing a CBD gel onto the rats’ backs. Over time, the inflammation in the rats’ joints decreased significantly. The rats also experiencing lower pain levels after receiving CBD.
Researchers discovered that administering CBD directly to the skin is effective for treating symptoms of arthritis. This method is more effective than taking CBD orally, as an oil or gel capsule, because the CBD is less metabolized when it reaches the intended areas.
In the study, rheumatoid arthritis patients received oral doses of Sativex. Over time, the patients showed reduced pain, improved quality of sleep, and increased movement in their affected joints.
Researchers concluded that Sativex was a safe and somewhat effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Because Sativex contains a mixture of THC and CBD, researchers were not able to comment on the specific role that CBD played.
Are There Any Concerns About Using CBD Oil for Arthritis?
Most studies that look at CBD’s role in treating arthritis symptoms find that CBD has no negative side effects. And in studies looking at CBD for other conditions, side effects tend to be mild to moderate, and easily tolerated.
So, while there is room for much more research, CBD does not seem to pose any specific risks to people with arthritis.