CBD for Inflammation

When a person suffers inflammation, whether it’s a skin issue or internally, they’ll generally reach for some sort of ointment or medication, but research in the last few decades show that CBD can be just as or even more effective than these medications.

Inflammation Defined

Inflammation is the protective response of the cells of the immune system to harmful outside stimuli including irritants, pathogens, or damaged cells.

The immune system activated immune cells, blood vessels, and molecules throughout the body to try and heal and protect. The process of inflammation involves eliminating the outside stimuli that caused the injury, clear out any dead cells or tissues and repair the remaining live tissues.

Inflammation is either chronic or acute. Chronic inflammation is prolonged and causes cells to remain active in fighting the damage that started the inflammation. In this process, tissue is being destroyed and healed simultaneously. Acute inflammation is the initial response to harmful stimuli. The inflammation is characterized by an increase of blood flow to the injured tissue. As the tissue heals, the response of the inflammation matures. This maturity is a combination of the work done by the local vascular system, the immune system, and various cells within the injured tissue.

When diagnosing inflammation, there are 5 signs. These are:

  • Heat
  • Loss of function
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

As inflammation is a way to help the body heal, if inflammation didn’t happen, substantial damage could occur to the affected tissue. In cases where too little inflammation occurs, it can cause progressive tissue destruction by the harmful stimulus compromise the survival of the person.

In the cases where the inflammation overreacts to tissue damage, chronic inflammation occurs. This can lead to a number of diseases.

Among the more common inflammatory disorders that can be triggered by or the result of chronic inflammation are:

  • Acne vulgaris
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Autoinflammatory diseases
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic prostatitis
  • Colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa
  • Hypersensitivities
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
  • Mastocytosis
  • Otitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Reperfusion injury
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rhinitis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Vasculitis

Causes and Types of Inflammation

Inflammation primarily results from 4 classes of causes. These include physical, biological, chemical, and psychological.

Some examples of inflammation include:

  • Alcohol
  • Burns
  • Chemical irritants
  • Foreign bodies such as splinters, dirt, and debris
  • Frostbite
  • Immune reactions
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Pathogenic infection
  • Physical injury
  • Stress
  • Toxins
  • Trauma

CBD for Treatment of Inflammation

CBD has long been touted for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to the body’s natural production and processing of CBD and cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a system of neurotransmitters the bind to neuroreceptors in the brain, central nervous system, and peripheral nervous system that are specifically designed to process cannabinoids such as CBD.

The ECS is involved in regulating and modulating cognitive and physiological functions such as

  • Prenatal development
  • Postnatal development
  • Pregnancy
  • Appetite
  • Pain sensation
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Fertility
  • Processing the absorption of cannabinoids like CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)

In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties that CBD possesses, other properties associated with CBD include:

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Antibacterial
  • Antidepressant
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-psychotic
  • Neuroprotective

These prove to help when dealing with inflammations that are brought on by stimuli such as bacteria or fungus as well as inflammation that’s associated with the brain.

ECS is primarily comprised of 2 neuroreceptors called CB1 (Cannabinoid receptor type 1) and CB2 (Cannabinoid receptor type 2).

CB1 can be found in:

  • Adrenal glands
  • Brain
  • Digestive tract
  • Fat
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Muscle
  • Ovaries
  • Pituitary gland
  • Placenta
  • Retinas
  • Spine
  • Thyroid

The CB1 receptors have a direct effect on a number of processes and conditions that people experience. These include anxiety, cardiovascular activity, drug, and behavioral addictions, gastrointestinal activity, motor control, olfactory function, and plasticity.

The CB2 receptors in the ECS aren’t as numerous as the CB1 receptors but have an equally profound effect on the body. The CB2 receptors are found in the brain, gastrointestinal system, immune system, and peripheral nervous system

The CB2 receptors are responsible for:

  • Autoimmunity
  • Bone health
  • Cancer inhibition
  • Cardiovascular processes
  • Gastrointestinal processes
  • Inflammation
  • Kidney function
  • Liver function
  • Lung function
  • Neuroprotection
  • Pain responses
  • Skin reactions

The CB1 and CB2 receive signals from neurotransmitters throughout the body. 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.

The CB1 and CB2 bind to neurotransmitters in the body. Examples of major neurotransmitters include:

  • Adenosine
  • Adenosine triphosphate
  • Adrenaline
  • Anandamide
  • Aspartate
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine
  • Glutamate
  • Histamine
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Nitric oxide
  • Noradrenaline
  • Norepinephrine
  • Opioid peptides
  • Oxytocin
  • Serotonin
  • Somatostatin
  • Tryptamine
  • Y-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

The way CBD behaves with the neuroreceptors depends on which receptor it is interacting with. With CB1 receptors, the CBD acts as an antagonist. In science, an antagonist is a chemical agent that interferes with the physiological action of another. Antagonists activate a cell receptor to prevent a response from the cell. In the case of CBD and CB1, CBD triggers but doesn’t bind to the receptor. This allows CBD to control the flow of neurotransmitters by inhibiting, but not preventing, them from being quickly absorbed. By not allowing the quick and full absorption of the neurotransmitter, CBD allows the neurotransmitter to build to proper levels to allow for homeostasis within the ECS.

Conversely, CBD binds to CB2 receptors and acts as an agonist. An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor to produce a biological response. By binding to the CB2 receptors, CBD allows neurotransmitters to pass through readily. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/)

Case Studies

Because inflammation is such as prevalent issue in medicine and so many variations of inflammation exist, a number of studies have been done in the past few decades regarding the use of CBD as a way to treat it.

A 2012 study that studied CBD as a therapeutic substance found that “More recently, there is evidence that cannabidiol derivative, O-1602, reduced movement-evoked firing of nociceptive C fibers in a rat model of acute inflammatory joint pain. Interestingly, this effect was blocked by the GPR55-receptor antagonist, O-1918, but not by the CB1 and CB2 antagonists, AM281 and AM630, respectively. As a whole, these data indicate that CBD and its analogues may be beneficial for pain resulting from inflammation” It further stated that “Future studies should investigate clinical applications of high-dose oral CBD for disorders such as anxiety, neuropathic pain, inflammatory pain, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, and epilepsy. Future trials should also administer CBD to clinical patients for prolonged periods of time in order to simulate the “real world” setting.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763649/)

Another study conducted in 2015 was done to determine the relationship between CBD and pain in rats. The study “examined the efficacy of transdermal CBD for reduction in inflammation and pain, assessing any adverse effects in a rat complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced monoarthritic knee joint model. CBD gels (0.6, 3.1, 6.2 or 62.3 mg/day) were applied for 4 consecutive days after arthritis induction. Joint circumference and immune cell invasion in histological sections were measured to indicate the level of inflammation. Paw withdrawal latency (PWL) in response to noxious heat stimulation determined nociceptive sensitization, and exploratory behaviour ascertained the animal’s activity level.”

The results showed 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. At present, one in five (21%) adults worldwide are diagnosed with some form of arthritis by their physicians. The data presented suggest transdermal CBD is a good candidate for developing improved therapies for these debilitating disease.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/)

A 2014 study sought to find if CBD could be used to treat the inflammation caused by acne. The study sought to “explore the effects of the major nonpsychotropic phytocannabinoid of Cannabis sativa, (-)-cannabidiol (CBD), on human sebaceous gland function.”

The results weren’t disappointing. “Administration of CBD to cultured human sebocytes and human skin organ culture inhibited the lipogenic actions of various compounds, including arachidonic acid and a combination of linoleic acid and testosterone, and suppressed sebocyte proliferation via the activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid-4 (TRPV4) ion channels. Activation of TRPV4 interfered with the prolipogenic ERK1/2 MAPK pathway and resulted in the downregulation of nuclear receptor interacting protein-1 (NRIP1), which influences glucose and lipid metabolism, thereby inhibiting sebocyte lipogenesis. CBD also exerted complex anti-inflammatory actions that were coupled to A2a adenosine receptor-dependent upregulation of tribbles homolog 3 (TRIB3) and inhibition of the NF-κB signaling. Collectively, our findings suggest that, due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151231/)

A 2011 study looked at the use of CBD for intestinal inflammation. The researchers explained that “the rationale of our study was to investigate the effect of CBD on intestinal biopsies from patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and from intestinal segments of mice with LPS-induced intestinal inflammation.”

The study “comprised 18 subjects who underwent colonoscopy for colon cancer screening and had normal rectal mucosa morphology. Eight subjects were in good general health without any previous medical or surgical history; 10 subjects were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC).

When completed, the results found that “CBD is a key modulator molecule that may interfere with the enteroglial-mediated interactions in an intestinal inflammatory environment. Its activity markedly focused on S100B protein downregulation, leads to a consequent reduction of intestinal damage occurring during acute and chronic intestinal inflammatory status and highlights the importance of glial cells control during these pathological conditions.

The results of the present study correlate and expand the findings suggesting CBD as a potent compound that is able to modulate experimental gut inflammation.

However, in this study, we demonstrate that during intestinal inflammation, CBD is able to control the inflammatory scenario and the subsequent intestinal apoptosis through the restoration of the altered glia-immune homeostasis. CBD is therefore regarded as a promising therapeutic agent that modulates the neuro-immune axis, which can be recognized as a new target in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disorders.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3232190/)

Anti-Inflammatory CBD Products

Many CBD products to help fight inflammation are on the market. In the case of issues that are skin related, users can choose from gels, ointments, creams to fight inflammation. These types of products can be used to fight localized inflammation that isn’t skin related as well such as joint pain, muscle pain, back pain.

In addition, some people may choose to use a transdermal patch that’s treated with CBD to fight localized inflammation.

Many times people like to take baths to treat some types of inflammation. For example, someone with poison ivy may try a calamine, oatmeal, or corn starch bath. A CBD bath can be more helpful than these other types and there are plenty of products that can be used for it. Manufacturers offer a host of soaps, body washes, bubble baths, shampoos, conditioners, and bath bombs that are infused with CBD. And after drying off, CBD body and hand lotions are available to be used.

For inflammation that can’t be treated with these methods, manufacturers make CBD tinctures, vapes (e-cigarettes), CBD infused foods, CBD infused beverages, tablets (pills), gel caps, capsules, and gummies that all can be ingested. Some manufacturers make cooking products that can be used as ingredients when preparing food such as cooking oil and spices.


While several studies have been done, more need to be conducted regarding inflammation and CBD. This is due to the fact that CBD research is still in its infancy and the numerous types of inflammation that exist. For example, would CBD work on an inflamed heart in the same method as it would acne? The likelihood is that both inflammations would benefit from CBD use, but the way CBD reacted would be different.

This type of information will help with establishing dosages and the timing of when to take CBD. In addition, it would also help to compare how different ways of taking CBD affect the inflammation. For example, is vaping CBD just as effective as a CBD gel for an inflamed knee joint?

These are questions that will be answered in the years to come as CBD is gaining momentum in the medical community as a legitimate treatment for inflammation.