You’ve probably noticed that CBD sellers seem to be making a multitude of promises about how the natural compound can treat nearly every condition under the sun.
Although CBD is not a panacea for everything that ails you, it does have a number of scientifically studied benefits. With dozens of clinical trials currently in the works, you can expect to see CBD gaining popularity as a potential complementary treatment for a wide variety of diseases and disorders in the near future.
So, should you take CBD for pain? And what types of medical conditions can CBD help manage? This guide will help you understand how CBD can assist in managing your pain naturally, along with the science of how it works.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t cause the psychological effects typically associated with being “high.” Both CBD and THC act on the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in many processes, including appetite, pain and memory.
CBD oil is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, though some are more stringent than others. Usually it comes down to a matter of where the CBD is sourced from and how much THC the individual product contains (anything above 0.3% is illegal in many states).
What conditions can CBD help with?
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, research has suggested that CBD oil may have therapeutic benefits for a number of painful conditions. Here are a few:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Is CBD safe?
CBD is generally considered to be very safe to take. A review by the World Health Organization found that CBD is a promising treatment for a number of medical conditions, well tolerated by most users, safe to take and doesn’t appear to be a risk for dependence or abuse. Medical literature reviews on CBD case studies have shown that the compound has a very favorable safety profile.
Some potential side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can also interfere with the blood thinner Coumadin. It can raise the levels of other medications as well, in much the same way that grapefruit juice can. That’s why it’s always best to consult with a doctor before taking CBD.
One safety concern some researchers note is that the FDA does not currently regulate the safety and purity of CBD, just as it doesn’t regulate dietary supplements. Thus, it can be hard to know if the CBD you buy from a shady brand contains the active ingredients listed on the label, or if the product contains other unknown or possibly even toxic ingredients.
This is why it’s crucial to buy CBD from a reputable company. It’s important to look for brands that offer third-party laboratory results. Penguin is proud to work with one of the country’s leading independent third-party labs to make sure our gummies are completely free of any harmful chemicals or unwanted additives. This means you can rest assured that our products are completely safe to consume.
What is the evidence that CBD works?
There is growing interest and excitement in CBD as an effective tool to deal with different types of pain. Ongoing research -- some of it sponsored by the U.S. government -- indicates that CBD has anti-tumoral, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antipsychotic, anti-convulsive and neuroprotective properties.
There’s also no shortage of anecdotal reports that CBD helps decrease discomfort. However, it should be noted that many medical researchers say more research is needed. More high-quality, controlled human studies are required in this area.
How does CBD work on pain?
Scientists believe that CBD targets specific neurotransmitter systems and receptors throughout the body. CBD has been shown to have the strongest effects on the endocannabinoid system and serotonin receptors.
Your brain uses chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters -- and their corresponding receptors -- to pass signals between different cells. Neurotransmitter receptors sit on the surface of neurons and other cells, waiting for the messengers to fire them into action. Neurotransmitters are essential to your health, and imbalances are linked to many diseases and mental disorders.
The endocannabinoid system is a signaling network made up of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and endogenous ligands called cannabinoids. The system is responsible for balancing many processes, including controlling the stimulation of nerve cells to increase or decrease pain. For this reason, a wide variety of prescription drugs (like antidepressants and painkillers) target your different neurotransmitter systems.
Scientists believe that CBD positively affects the endocannabinoid system and serotonin receptors, and decreases pain throughout the body.
CBD and your endocannabinoid system
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that receives and translates signals from cannabinoids, which is present in many types of plants. However, most of us think of hemp and marijuana in particular when we think of cannabinoids. The ECS helps to regulate functions such as sleep, immune-system responses and pain.
Cannabinoid receptors are scattered throughout your body. Scientists have identified two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain and central nervous system, while the CB2 receptors appear more in organs, tissues and the immune system.
Scientists are still unraveling exactly how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but experts now recognize that CBD binds directly to neither the CB1 receptor nor the CB2 receptor. Scientists are turning a keen eye to the ECS and have begun to study how this system can be used in pharmacotherapy as possible effective pain-management therapies for a number of diseases and ailments.
Some researchers believe CBD increases the number of endocannabinoids in the body, thus supporting healthy endocannabinoid system function. This helps keep the body in balance (homeostasis). In other words, taking CBD could support general health and well-being.
CBD directly activates serotonin receptors, causing an anti-anxiety effect. Though we’re accustomed to thinking of serotonin as being in the brain, 95 percent of your body’s serotonin is located in the gut. Not only do serotonin neurotransmitters have a significant impact on mood and the emotions we experience, but serotonin is also used throughout your body for many other purposes, including digestion, bone synthesis and cardiovascular function.
Within the brain, CBD can mimic serotonin by binding and activating your body’s 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. This is likely a major contributor to CBD’s anti-anxiety properties. These effects have contributed to the scientific view that CBD holds potential as a tool for addiction recovery.
CBD may play an important role in treatment and pain management for many people with arthritis. Some studies have found that CBD has positive effects in lessening the chronic pain and inflammation that many arthritis sufferers deal with. This is good news for many, as arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting over 50 million Americans. The two most common types of arthritis are:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system attacks their joints, causing inflammation. RA commonly affects the hands and feet, and leads to painful, swollen and stiff joints.
Osteoarthritis (OA): A degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. It often affects the hip, knee and thumb joints.
A study published in the journal Pain in 2017 analyzed whether CBD could prevent osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy. Researchers found that CBD accomplished both of these because it decreased joint inflammation and served as a protectant to the nerves.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, and CBD is believed to be helpful in reducing spasticity and pain for people living with this condition. Some research has suggested that cannabinoids may exert positive effects on health by decreasing inflammation and pain.
Some research suggests that CBD may help counteract MS-related nerve cell death, in turn improving certain MS-related symptoms, including spasticity -- or muscle spasms -- which are one of the most common and painful symptoms of MS. The results have been modest so far, but many people reported a reduction in symptoms.
A study published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology and reported by Medical News Today was conducted on mice with MS-type diseases to determine if CBD can prevent inflammation in the spinal cord and brain. The study looked into how CBD could be used to protect the nervous system and how it functions by regulating inflammation.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Studies have reported positive effects for individuals taking CBD to ease their fibromyalgia pain. A review published by PLoS One in 2011 states that cannabidiol (CBD) can help to relieve pain caused by fibromyalgia and other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Other types of chronic pain
Studies have found that CBD can be effective for general chronic pain. Researchers compiled the results of multiple systematic reviews covering dozens of trials and studies. Their research concluded that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.
Another study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports these results. This research suggests that using CBD can suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting the a3 glycine receptor.
The researchers also found that subjects were not likely to build up a tolerance to the effects of CBD, so they would not need to increase their dose continually. They noted that cannabinoids, such as CBD, could offer helpful new treatments for people with chronic pain.
Ease muscle soreness
CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are a great way to soothe muscle soreness from an injury or encourage muscle recovery after a hard workout. Some physical fitness trainers advocate using CBD as a natural alternative to over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
Some experts believe CBD has great potential in this area. "CBD for exercise-induced inflammation is absolutely the next big area we need to explore," says Thorsten Rudroff, in a quote to U.S. News & World Report. Rudroff is an exercise scientist and director of the Integrative Neurophysiology Laboratory at Colorado State University, and the Frontiers in Neurology study co-author.
CBD can be applied topically or taken orally. Experts note that more research is needed in this area.
How effective is CBD?
Some of the strongest scientific evidence for CBD is its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications.
Clinical trials conclusively showed that CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking.
In June 2018, the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
Keep in mind
Everyone may react a little differently when it comes to CBD. The dosage you need to manage your symptoms may be different from what someone else needs. It’s always best to start with a low dosage and increase it slowly until you find the ideal level to manage your condition and get the results you desire.