As the population of the United States grows older, many people are looking for inexpensive and effective ways to treat arthritis and many are finding that CBD fits that need perfectly.
Arthritis is a debilitating condition suffered by nearly 350 million people worldwide and nearly 50 million in the United States alone. Arthritis has no cure. Most of the time over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or an analgesic rub or ointment such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay is used to help with the pain, but that only provides temporary relief, if at all.
A promising hope for arthritis sufferers has appeared in the form of the cannabis extract CBD or cannabidiol.
Arthritis is generally used to describe disorders that affect the joints. But arthritis isn’t a single disease. In fact, there are over 100 types of arthritis and many types affect more than just the joints.
Some arthritic conditions such as rheumatism or lupus can cause issues such as:
- Decreased aerobic fitness
- Inability to use the hand or walk
- Joint motility
- Loss of flexibility
- Malaise and fatigue
- Muscle aches and pains
- Muscle weakness
- Poor sleep
- Weight loss
Arthritis has been around since before the dawn of man. As a matter of fact, evidence of arthritis was discovered in the skeletal remains of dinosaurs.
Evidence of the first cases of human arthritis can be dated back to over 6 millennia. In the past century, evidence of arthritis has been found in Native American remains from approximately 3000 BC and Egyptian mummies from about 2600 BC.
The first major modern work regarding the effects of arthritis was written by William Musgrave in 1715. The work was called De Arthritide Symptomatica.
In 1800 Dr. Augustin Jacob Landré-Beauvais was the first person to describe the disease which would eventually be known as rheumatoid arthritis in his work La Goutte Asthénique Primitive, although he attributed it as a type of gout.
As previously mentioned, over 100 variations of arthritis exist and each type can affect a person in different ways. Among the more common types of arthritis include:
- Adult-onset Still’s disease
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Behçet’s Disease
- Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition Disease (CPPD)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chondromalacia Patella
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS)
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Developmental-Dysplasia of Hip
- Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis
- Familial Mediterranean Fever
- Fifth Disease
- Giant Cell Arteritis
- Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis
- Infectious Arthritis
- Inflammatory Arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Juvenile Arthritis
- Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JD)
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
- Juvenile Scleroderma
- Kawasaki Disease
- Lyme Disease
- Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
- Palindromic Rheumatism
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Pediatric Lupus
- Pediatric Rheumatic Diseases
- Pediatric SLE
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon
- Reactive Arthritis
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Reiter’s Syndrome
- Rheumatic Fever
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjögren’s Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Systemic Pediatric Lupus Erythematosus
- Systemic Sclerosis
- Temporal Arteritis
Arthritis can affect a person at any age, but most commonly affects the very young, middle-aged, and elderly.
How CBD Can Help Arthritis
To understand how CBD can affect people suffering from arthritis, it is important to understand what CBD is and does.
CBD is one of 113 cannabinoids that’s produced in cannabis and in the human body. The human body (as well as many animals have neurotransmitters throughout the brain, central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS works primarily with 2 neuroreceptors throughout the body known as CB1 (Cannabinoid receptor type 1) and CB2 (Cannabinoid receptor type 2).
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers which transmits signals across chemical synapses, such as a neuromuscular junction, from one nerve cell to another nerve cell, muscle cell, or gland cell.
A neuroreceptor is a membrane that’s part of the molecular machinery that allows cells to communicate with one another. A neurotransmitter receptor specifically binds with neurotransmitters as opposed to other molecules.
In most cases, cannabinoids bind with the neurotransmitters to help regulate body processes. CBD actually acts differently depending on the receptor. In the case of a CB1 receptor, CBD acts as an antagonist by activating, but not binding to the receptor. This allows the CBD to inhibit (but not prevent) the absorption of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This is especially helpful in cases where the patient has low serotonin levels as the serotonin is allowed to “pool” outside the receptors to increase the levels for the patient, preventing it from being absorbed too quickly and depleting.
In the case of CB2, it acts as an agonist, allowing CBD to bind with the neuroreceptor and allowing neurotransmitters to pass through. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/)
CBD would be of no use if it simply acted as an antagonist or agonist with no healing properties. In fact, CBD has a plethora of healing properties including:
With anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, CBD works naturally within the body to provide relief to arthritis sufferers.
CBD Case Studies
While the properties can be touted repeatedly and the descriptions of how CBD affects the body can be explained incessantly, the “proof is in the pudding”. For the past few decades scientist have studied the effects of CBD and cannabis on arthritis and have published papers on the results. Some of the studies have been done on animals and some on humans.
One study conducted in 2017 looked at the effects of CBD specifically on osteoarthritis. The study involved the use of rats with osteoarthritis. The study showed remarkable promise. Each rat was injected with 100 to 300 micrograms of CBD. The study found that “In end-stage OA, CBD dose-dependently decreased joint afferent firing rate, and increased withdrawal threshold and weight bearing Acute, transient joint inflammation was reduced by local CBD treatment. Prophylactic administration of CBD prevented the development of MIA-induced joint pain at later time points and was also found to be neuroprotective. The data presented here indicate that local administration of CBD blocked OA pain. Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these OA joints.” So the study shows that CBD blocked the pain and worked to prevent more pain and nerve damage in the rats. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28885454)
A study from 2000 looked at the use of CBD in battling collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). This study, also done with rats who were injected with arthritis. The study found that “Clinical improvement was associated with protection of the joints against severe damage. Ex vivo, draining lymph node cells from CBD-treated mice showed a diminished CII-specific (collagen) proliferation and IFN-gamma (Interferon) production, as well as a decreased release of tumor necrosis factor by knee synovial cells.” It further went on to state that “It also was found that CBD administration was capable of blocking the lipopolysaccharide-induced rise in serum tumor necrosis factor in C57/BL (a type of laboratory mouse) mice. Taken together, these data show that CBD, through its combined immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions, has a potent anti-arthritic effect in CIA.” So this study dating back almost 2 decades found that CBD protected the joints against damage and block the rise in endotoxins (lipopolysaccharide) within the body. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10920191)
A 2016 study examines the use of transdermal CBD on arthritis. In this study, CBD gel was used on mice. The study was done over a 4 day period. The study found that “transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane in a dose-dependent manner. PWL (paw withdrawal latency) recovered to near baseline level. Immunohistochemical analysis of spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia revealed dose-dependent reductions of pro-inflammatory biomarkers.” The report of the study further went on to say “These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26517407)
Studies on more specific types of arthritis and CBD have been done as well. One such study from 2018 examined a CBD derivative named VCE-004.3 when used to treat scleroderma. The study sought to examine the effects of VCE-004.3 binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors as well as the anti-fibrotic effects of VCE-004.3 on mouse and human dermal fibroblasts. The study found that “VCE-004.3 inhibited collagen gene transcription and synthesis and prevented TGFβ-induced (Transforming growth factor beta) fibroblast migration and differentiation to myofibroblasts. It prevented skin fibrosis, myofibroblast differentiation, and ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2) phosphorylation in bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis. Furthermore, it reduced mast cell degranulation, macrophage activation, T-lymphocyte infiltration, and the expression of inflammatory and profibrotic factors. Topical application of VCE-004.3 also alleviated skin fibrosis. Finally, VCE-004.3 inhibited PDGF-BB- and systemic sclerosis IgG-induced (Human immunoglobulin) ERK1/2 activation in fibroblasts.” The report concluded by stating “VCE-004.3 is a novel semisynthetic cannabidiol derivative that behaves as a dual PPARγ/CB2 agonist and CB1 receptor modulator that could be considered for the development of novel therapies against different forms of scleroderma.” In other words, this CBD derivative reduced both inflammation and fibrosis (scarring) and should be considered for treating scleroderma.
CBD Treatment for Arthritis
Currently, there’s no prescription or even an agreed-upon medical standard for the use of CBD for the treatment of arthritis. This is due to 2 main reasons. First, the modern studies of CBD and arthritis only started in earnest within the last decade. While some studies were done prior to that, most of what we know comes from the last 10 years, so the research, while promising, is limited. Second, with over 100 different types of arthritis, a decade of research just isn’t enough.
Does this mean that there’s no hope for a patient to use CBD to treat their form of arthritis? Absolutely not. Because CBD can be purchased over the counter, arthritis sufferers can easily access it to treat themselves. Of course, it’s recommended that you consult a physician who’s versed in the use of CBD for treatment of arthritis.
And unlike most medications, arthritis sufferers have a wealth of choices as to how to take CBD as it comes in a variety of forms.
Oral CBD Options
The most common way to take CBD is orally. CBD offers many choices for users to administer CBD orally to themselves. These include:
- Tinctures – this is the most common method. Consumers can purchase a small bottle with a “dropper” that allows the user to place the CBD liquid under the tongue to dissolve sublingually. The CBD is usually flavored as the taste of straight CBD is quite bitter.
- Vape – A vape or e-cigarette is another was to ingest CBD. In this case, the CBD liquid is placed in an electronic cigarette and heated so it can be inhaled in vapor form. The liquid, much like the tincture is flavored to make the taste palatable.
- Pill Form – CBD, much like an over-the-counter painkiller, is available in many pill forms. These include tablets, soft gels, capsules, and even gummy pills.
CBD Topical Options
For many arthritis sufferers who experience localized pain from arthritis, topically applied CBD may be the best option. As with oral CBD, there are many topical CBD options including:
- Ointment or Cream – Much like you’d find a tube or jar or Ben Gay or Icy Hot in your local drug store, CBD also comes in these forms. Because they’re not “pure CBD” users need to read the labels carefully to see what the active ingredients are. For example, some may include other known homeopathic treatments such as capsaicin or menthol to help the CBD absorb through the pores of the skin quickly to allow for faster relief of pain.
- Oil – CBD oil can be directly applied to a localized area to be absorbed. It’s important to note that in many cases the term CBD oil and tincture are used synonymously. However, oil can be purchased that’s not a tincture, and if it’s to be used as a topical, a tincture shouldn’t be used and regular CBD oil should.
- Transdermal Patches – These are bandage-like devices that have been treated with CBD and other homeopathic remedies such as menthol or capsaicin. These are applied to the affected area by means of a mild adhesive. The drawback to transdermal patches is that if you’re moving around and the patch is placed on an area that bends or twists, such as a knee, elbow, or even a back, the adhesive may not last very long. Also, perspiration can cause the patches to fall off as well.
- Skin Care – Many arthritis sufferers like to get an extra dose of CBD by using CBD infused skin care products. These include soaps, shampoos, bath bombs, body lotion, and hand lotion. Because there are no ill effects from taking too much CBD, this can add an extra level of comfort to sufferers.
Other CBD Options
Other CBD options include CBD infused food and drink. Many manufacturers produce a variety of CBD infused beverages including water, tea, coffee, Kombucha, soda, juices, sports drinks, beer, and wine. In addition, companies produce many options for CBD infused foods such as baked goods, candies, and pre-packaged savory dishes.
But that’s not the only way to have CBD foods. CBD oil can be used in food preparation at home. It can be used to fry meat and vegetables as well as just added to food to fortify the meal with a dose of CBD. Drinks can be done this way as well, however, the CBD may be more noticeable in a drink than in food.
For those into aromatics, CBD candles and diffusers are also available, allowing a room or home to be filled with CBD that can be inhaled over a long period of time.
Studies have shown conclusively that CBD is beneficial to those who suffer from arthritis. More studies need to be done and will be done to address specific types of arthritis and the types of dosage that’s needed for optimal results.
It’s important to know, however, that while science is still trying to figure out these dosages for each type of arthritis, each person’s health is different. What works for one person may not work the same for another. Even if they have the same affliction. So it’s important to monitor the dosage that’s given and the results that dosage achieves.
It may be another decade before CBD is fully accepted as a medical treatment for arthritis, but in the interim, consult with a physician when choosing CBD as a course of treatment as they can help with any questions or issues that may present themselves.