Chronic pain is debilitating. It can blight your daily life and rob you of happiness. But there are solutions. One of these is CBD (aka: cannabidiol). Coming in the form of supplements, edibles, topical creams, lotions, vape gummies, balms or good old fashioned CBD oil (don't worry we'll explain all of these later), CBD can be - and is - a vital tool of pain relief.
CBD is the natural compound in cannabis. It is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. Before you ask, CBD will not get you high nor does it have any addictive properties. This is because it does not produce the same psychotropic side effects as its cannabinoid sister, tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.
All of this is besides the point. CBD is great for pain relief. Indeed, research indicates that around 62% of CBD users reported using the cannabinoid to treat chronic pain, arthritis, joint pain and anxiety. Within this, almost 36% of respondents reported that CBD treats their medical condition `very well by itself", while only 4.3% reported not very well. That is some pretty good odds.
What Is CBD?
As you might have guessed CBD comes from marijuana. But do not be put off by this. In the United States, legal CBD products are created from hemp plants, not cannabis plants. The key difference being that hemp plants contain a lot less THC.
Let us put this out there: CBD is legal - at the federal level and in most, if not all, the states. But there are caveats (more on this later). When we say CBD we mean CBD products. These include CBD creams and ingestible oils which are derived from extracting CBD from the marijuana plant.
CBD has a number of health and medicinal benefits. It has been demonstrated to be:
- Neuroprotective. This means it may help to slow the progression of neurological disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Read more from the MS Trust here.
- Antipsychotic. That is to say, CBD can lessen anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unlike THC it is not a psychoactive substance.
- Antiemetic. Doses of CBD can alleviate vomiting and nausea associated with cancer treatments.
- Anti-oxidative. Keeping up the ante properties, CBD may also reduce systemic inflammation by combating oxidative stress and decrease symptoms of autoimmune conditions like lupus.
- Anti-inflammatory. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it has the potential to reduce joint pain and muscular aches linked with arthritis.
In short, CBD extract can treat a broad spectrum of ailments. More specifically, it may be helpful in the fight against:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Neuropathic pain
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Arthritis pain
- Systemic Inflammation
CBD vs. Medical Marijuana vs. Hemp
Unfortunately, this is where it gets complicated. Cannabidiol (CBD) is found in marijuana plants. It has thousands of beneficial effects, without the psychotropic effects of its cannabinoid counterpart, THC.
CBD is extracted from various varieties of the marijuana plant. If you want to get technical, this encompasses both Sativa and Indica - the two strains of the plant. Hemp is a species of the Sativa marijuana plant. It has these features:
- Is legally sold in stores across the U S of A.
- Is used to make clothes and textiles. It really is a miracle crop.
- It has limited chemical compounds.
- It contains around 0.3% of THC. Often this is less.
- Most of all, it will not get you high. (Before you try smoking those hemp trousers)
Is CBD Legal?
Alright then. We have skirted around it for too long: is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill in the United States legalized the growing of hemp and the sale of hemp-derived products. This made CBD legal at the federal level, although there are exceptions. Be sure to read up on the roles in your state. It does differ.
Look at the FDA's FAQs on cannabis regulation. As mentioned earlier, hemp is crucially distant from good old fashioned weed due to its THC content. Hemp and the Sativa varieties typically only contain around 0.3% THC. And this is where the law comes in. Only hemp with THC contents below 0.3% is legal. Period.
The long and short of it is: if you are buying CBD that comes from a hemp plant with less than 0.3% and is grown in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill regulations, and you live in a state where CBD is legal, then it is all groovy.
However, be advised. The CBD compound is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug (along with LSD and heroin). On the federal level, CBD derived from non-hemp marijuana is illegal.
If you're lucky enough to live in a state where marijuana is legalized, you can find a non-hemp derived CBD product at a medical marijuana dispensary. Bon appetit.
How CBD Can Treat Pain
The human body has an endocannabinoid system. It comprises three important elements. Firstly, cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2. The former lay in the central nervous system. This relates to the nerves that are attached along your spine and around the brain. CB1 receptors are responsible for the cognitive and emotional effects of marijuana, alongside our perspective and experience of pain.
Take note this is important. CB2 receptors on the other hand are in your peripheral nervous system. This refers to the outer nerves (beyond the spinal cord and brain) in the arms, legs and immune cells. Secondly, endogenous cannabinoids. These are the cannabinoids that your body produces. Yes, your body does make weed - well sort of ...
Last but not least, enzymes that facilitate the breakdown and use of cannabinoids. Right so here it gets a bit more technical. But fear not. This stuff is of vital importance to learn, that is if you want to reduce your pain. Our natural endocannabinoids perform on demand.
What this means is that when our body senses inflammation or wants to return to a state of balance (known as homeostasis) it will release endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors. CBD itself does not gel with these receptors but it is believed to function by encouraging components of the cannabinoid system.
Indeed, the effects of CBD on the body's central and peripheral nervous systems are wide. It also helps the immune system. CBD words in conjunction with our very own endocannabinoid system in an antioxidant capacity to decrease inflammation and act as an analgesic or pain reliever.
Why Your Body Chemistry Matters
Due to the way in which your endocannabinoid system works, the bioavailability of CBD is an essential aspect of how you and your body will respond to the chemical. In plain English, bioavailability is the amount of a substance that can successfully make its way into your bloodstream and so generate the desired effect.
This can be seen in how we are often asked to take certain medicines with food or water, or on an empty stomach. That is because this affects their bioavailability. With this in mind, the quantity of CBD you actually absorb when taking CBD products depends a lot on:
- The form of CBD you take. CBD edibles for instance are better absorbed when eaten with other foods, particularly if they are fatty. The more CBD that is absorbed the better it will be for pain management.
- Your behavioural patterns. If you are hungry, stressed, tired or your general wellness is low, this will all affect how much your body will respond to the CBD.
- IMPORTANT. Your weight and drug history. Like any medication or supplement, considering your body weight in conjunction with dosage is hugely important. In general it works the same way as it does with alcohol. The bigger you are the more you can take. However, it is important to note that two people of the same gender and weight can respond very differently to the drug, even if the dosage is the same. This is due to individual, highly variable factors such as metabolism, body composition and history of using drugs. It is advised that you begin with a small dose such as 2 mg and increase it to 5 after a period of weeks. The important thing is to consider how you feel at each stage. If you start feeling bad, stop - your body is telling you something.
- Products matter. How you consume CBD also matters. Remember in the intro where we listed CBD carrier oil, edibles, topical CBD, hemp oil and the like? Well all these various types of products affect how CBD will affect you and your body. Take edibles for instance. They take way longer for your body to process them. What this means is that you may not experience the pain relieving effects for ages. As such you should be patient. Take one dose and then wait at least 3 or 4 hours to see the effects. Do go wolfing down a load of CBD thinking it is not working. You might regret it!
CBD can offer an alternative for people who have chronic pain and rely on other medicines, such as opioids, that can have habit forming effects and cause even worse side effects. It really is an alternative form of health care to be explored. However, more research is required to verify the pain-relieving benefits of CBD oil and other products, even if they are high-quality.
These are some of the potential benefits of CBD.
- Improved mood and sleeping patterns. Chronic pain is well a pain. It can have huge effects on your daily life, relationships, work and mental health - alongside the physical. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia and fatigue, CBD can help you relax, unwind and get a good night's sleep. Early studies do indicate the dosage of CBD may support sleep. Check them out. Note: many studies focus on the effects of full spectrum CBD (explored below) on sleeping and it is thought that the entourage effect of THC (besides terpenes and other cannabinoids) is mainly responsible for aiding sleep. Read more in the link above.
- Reduced swelling. Back pain and arthritis pain often entail swelling. CBD reduces swelling because it is an antioxidant. CBD may also decrease inflammation by preventing a reduction in zinc and selenium which are fundamental actors for balanced immune responses and which are tied to neuropathic pain.
- A boosted immune response. CBD can decrease levels of cytokines which create inflammation. It can also inhibit the spread of T cells which are implicated in autoimmune and systemic inflammatory disorders.
- Minimized pain signals. CBD reduces our bodies sensitivity towards pain by stimulating the reuptake of the neurotransmitter, adenosine -as a result, it boosts adenosine levels in the brain which numbs us to pain. CBD can additionally prevent pain signals from reaching the processing centers in the brain by binding to TRPV1.
Choosing The Right CBD Product
CBD is a work in progress. Boffins are still discovering the different ways in which CBD may help fight disease and reduce pain. These scientists are still attempting to understand the functionality of CBD as an isolated compound as opposed to a whole plant.
As a result, it is possible to come across product descriptions such as CBD isolates, full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD. Selecting the right CBD product for you depends on a lot of things. Firstly, your pain. Secondly the effects you wish to experience i.e. how long it will take to have an effect. Finally, your individual preferences.
Topicals include CBD creams, lotions, salves and ointments. They are best used to treat localized pain, arthritic pain and nerve pain. Applied directly to the skin one strength of topics is that they do not appear to have any psychotropic effects.
Eating CBD is better for sufferers of systemic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or MS, autoimmune troubles and body aches. Since CBD dissolves in fats, it is smart to choose products that are rich in healthy oils.
Types of orally consumable CBD include:
- CBD isolates oral sprays that are taken under the tongue and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. With oral sprays and tinctures, it is much easier to refine your dose.
- Capsules are CBD pills. You can take them with food to increase how much CBD enters your bloodstream.
- Oils. Using CBD oil is great. They come in a wide variety of products and are typically composed of CBD extract and a plant-based oil. You can take these neat or mix them into your cooking. Do your research on the best CBD oil.
- Edibles. CBD products that you consume like food. Chocolate brownies, gummies and snacks - you name it, it is out there.
Vaping is now very popular for cigarettes and the same goes for CBD. Vaping CBD involves purchasing special CBD capsules and vaping it with your e cigarettes. Note there are some dangers associated with vaping CBD, particularly for your lungs.
CBD can have great health benefits. It can relieve pain and alleviate the effects of chronic diseases. Be sure to check the laws in your state and use CBD responsibly. Most of all think about the CBD that is best for you and be willing to experiment. You never know, you may find yourself a miracle cure.