As a result of our stressful and fast-paced lives, diets rich in saturated fats and sugar, and sedentary daily routines, we have made ourselves even more prone to inflammation, especially chronic inflammation.
While some inflammation is necessary and beneficial, as it helps the body heal, ongoing inflammation can be linked to a whole array of conditions including stroke, heart disorders, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Statistics in the United States show that in 2014, nearly 60% of Americans had at least one chronic condition, 42% had more than one, and 12% had more than five chronic conditions, which is a significant increase compared to the year 2000 when only 44% of Americans had at least one chronic condition, and 21% had more than one.
On the one hand, the typical treatment for inflammation includes over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and prescription medications which can often have a lengthy list of side effects, including blood-thinning or stomach ulcerations.
On the other hand, CBD, the plant-derived anti-inflammatory cannabinoid, shows potential as an alternative type of medication for people suffering from chronic inflammation and can have fewer side effects, if any at all, than prescribed medication. In this article, we’ll review this specific cannabinoid in relation to the benefits it provides in treating inflammation.
A Word or Two on Inflammation
Inflammation isn’t always the bad guy since it’s the way the immune system fights off infections, illnesses, and injuries with the aim to stop the threat from spreading. A healthy immune system knows how to sense when the fight is over and will start producing its own anti-inflammatory compounds to stop the inflammation.
But, as people have started treating their body and their immune system worse by eating unhealthy foods, drinking too much, not having a regular sleep schedule, not exercising, and having other harmful habits, the immune system can stop working the way that it should. The result can be an increased production of free radicals and oxidative stress, which can lead to a whole other list of health-related problems.
The first type of inflammation, acute inflammation, is the short-term inflammation that occurs in the body. It’s the inflammation that happens when you cut your skin, and the body’s immune system unleashes immune cells to the wound in order to protect it and help heal it faster.
Acute inflammation can be caused by an infection, illness, or injury, and the critical messengers that are involved with it include histamine, nitric oxide, and inflammatory enzymes which trigger the reactions by the immune system. For example, histamine triggers an allergic reaction to let you know that you have consumed a type of food that is an allergen to you. On occasions when the irritant persists, acute inflammation can lead to chronic inflammation.
When the inflammation is more persistent and lasts longer than six months, it’s considered to be chronic inflammation which can cause extensive damage in the systems where it’s localized. With chronic inflammation, the existing inflammation damages the tissue, which, in turn, releases new inflammatory messengers in order to fix the damage, and the following inflammation continues to cause additional damage, which becomes a continuous cycle.
The longer the inflammation lingers in the body, the higher the chances of it leading to other health conditions which can create an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals, and lead to autoimmune disorders, and even cancer according to this study. The prolonged inflammatory response can lead to conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and damage the membranes like the digestive membrane or the blood-brain barrier, and other conditions.
Medical Conditions Associated With Inflammation
Studies have shown that chronic inflammation can cause the onset or worsening of the effects of the following conditions:
- Chronic pain;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions associated with arthritis pain);
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis);
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS);
- Eczema and psoriasis.
Moreover, chronic inflammation may even lead to mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.
How the Cannabis Plant and Its Cannabinoids Combat Inflammation
As you may already know, both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) affect the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoid receptors in the body. While THC produces the psychoactive effects, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system a bit differently.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of the two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors, which regulate the processes like pain sensation, metabolism, the immune system, neuronal activity, and others. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the nervous system and the CB2 receptors are primarily present in the immune system, hence, the effects of CBD are mostly on the immune system.
CBD binds to the CB2 receptors and produces therapeutic effects with its anti-inflammatory properties. Keep in mind that THC and CBD aren’t the only cannabinoids present in cannabis. There are also other cannabinoids, like cannabigerol (CBG), that can also help with inflammation. So, as a medical marijuana user, it’s best to go with a full-spectrum extract when treating inflammatory conditions as opposed to a pure CBD extract.
Types and Benefits of CBD Products
CBD Oils and CBD Tinctures
These two are the most commonly used CBD products today. CBD oil is a high-quality, full-spectrum, and cost-effective extract that can be used as an anti-inflammatory supplement. CBD oils have a long shelf life, and can be helpful in administering proper doses of CBD.
While CBD oils have oil as it’s carrier, CBD tinctures use alcohol. That makes it easier for CBD to be mixed with other anti-inflammatory ingredients into a formula and also gives it a longer shelf-life. CBD oils and tinctures are generally dosed with a dropper and placed under the tongue (for faster onset of the effects), or swallowed (for slower onset).
CBD capsules are a variation of the above-mentioned oils and tinctures since they provide exact dosing that comes in a gelatinous capsule, which makes taking your medical marijuana a discreet experience.
CBD suppositories are commonly used as an option for inflammation in the digestive tract because their localized application helps the cannabinoids reach the problematic area faster.
Topical CBD Products
Topical CBD products are used to treat conditions that require concentrated effects of cannabinoids on an area of the skin. Topical CBD is used in conditions like psoriasis, eczema, allergic dermatitis, muscle injuries, and other conditions.
The transdermal administration of CBD provides a great way to treat these conditions and all you need to do to get these benefits is to get yourself a CBD cream.
CBD edibles, like gummies, cookies, brownies, and other ingestible products are a great way to consume CBD in the form of delicious treats. They’re a good method of administering CBD for spot treatments, although you need to be careful when dosing the edibles.
CBD Vape Oils
Vaping CBD may be the most efficient way to consume CBD since the bioavailability of inhaled CBD is higher compared to consuming CBD through the digestive tract.
But, vaping is also a more expensive way of CBD consumption since you need to buy a vaporizer in order to vape. Moreover, the effects of CBD last for a shorter amount of time when you vape compared to consuming CBD orally, which can be another issue for those who want to take their medical marijuana therapy this way.
What Does Research Say About Taking CBD for Inflammation?
The health benefits of CBD haven’t been fully researched yet, although more and more research is done and scientists uncover how this plant can be beneficial to treat or mitigate the effects of several conditions.
- A 2009 study researched the anti-inflammatory characteristics of cannabinoids and how they maintain autoimmune-related inflammation by upregulating T and B lymphocyte immune cells which are responsible for the adaptive immune response. The anti-inflammatory properties and the potential to treat conditions related to inflammation were also noted in this 2015 review.
- A 2016 study showed how CBD treatment can help early pancreatic inflammation in diabetic mice. The 10-week treatment showed that mice who received the treatment developed diabetes later and had a significant reduction in immune-cell activity compared to the mice that didn’t receive the treatment.
- A 2017 study showed that CBD treatment can help with reducing the acute inflammation of joints in male rats with osteoarthritis.
- A 2018 study researched the antiseizure properties of CBD and how it desensitized receptors in order to mediate pain and inflammation.
- Since chronic pain often accompanies chronic inflammation, this 2020 study reviewed how CBD treatment can have pain-relieving effects in patients suffering from chronic pain.
CBD Dosage and Side Effects When Taking Medical Marijuana to Help With Inflammation
While the use of CBD is researched for its benefits in treating and ameliorating certain health conditions, the side effects of using CBD are also being researched.
This 2019 article goes into how “CBD can negatively impact embryo-fetal mortality, central nervous system inhibition and neurotoxicity, hepatocellular injuries, spermatogenesis reduction, organ weight alterations, male reproductive system alterations, and hypotension.” This has been concluded in animal studies where the dose of CBD is very high compared to human pharmacotherapies.
In human therapies, a higher dose of CBD can result in side effects like diarrhea, drowsiness, dry mouth, changes in weight and appetite, and other side effects which are generally mild. People taking CBD should know that CBD may interact with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, dietary supplements, and prescription medication.
Low-strength CBD may be used to treat early stages of arthritis, moderate-strength CBD can help in patients with mild allergies and arthritis, while high-strength CBD can be used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.
As concrete dosages haven’t been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, these dosages are based on appropriations between studies and online sources. For doses tailored to your needs, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider as they’re the one that will know your history and can give you the best recommendation.
Final Thoughts on Taking CBD for Inflammation
Even though there aren’t specific doses that are FDA-approved when it comes to using CBD as a treatment option for inflammation, the fact is that more and more healthcare providers are prescribing CBD to their patients. The reasons for that are based on the fact that CBD offers anti-inflammatory effects that may be a safer option than using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin, which have a wide array of side effects.
Your best option would be to pair your CBD treatment with conventional inflammation treatment for maximizing success. That means making some dietary changes like consuming more fiber, antioxidants, omega 3, omega 6, and anti-inflammatory rich foods paired with herbal supplements and teas (e.g. ginger root, turmeric root, aloe vera, etc.).
Apart from the dietary changes, it’s crucial to make lifestyle changes that include a regular exercise routine, maintaining regular sleep hygiene, and reducing stress by practicing yoga and meditation.
When starting a new medical treatment, make sure to always seek medical advice by consulting with your healthcare provider. And if you do decide to give CBD a try, always start with a low dose so you can see how it affects you before increasing the dosage. Maybe some high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil can help you fight inflammation and deal with pain management as well. Alternatively, if oil is not your cup of tea, you can always look into CBD gummies for pain, as those have been increasing in popularity over the years.