Medical Marijuana, CBD Oil, and Rheumatoid Arthritis
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Researchers still donвЂ™t know a lot about how marijuana affects your body. But there is substantial evidence that it can help relieve long-term pain. And pain is a major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
HereвЂ™s whatвЂ™s known so far about how medical marijuana and a marijuana extract called CBD (cannabidiol) might affect RA.
Benefits for RA
The Cannabis sativa plant has more than 100 chemicals that can affect your body and mind. The two that scientists know the most about are THC and CBD.
THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is what gets you high when you smoke, vape, or eat marijuana. CBD doesnвЂ™t affect your brain that way. For that reason, some people prefer the oil form of CBD for medical uses.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can make your joints stiff, tender, and painful. RA also can affect your lungs, eyes, skin, and other body parts.
The federal ban on marijuana and CBD means studies on humans have been few. So researchers donвЂ™t know for sure that cannabis eases RA symptoms. But the results from several very small studies suggest that in people with rheumatic diseases, including RA and osteoarthritis, it may help:
- Curb morning pain (but not the overall level of pain)
- Improve sleep
- Lower inflammation in joints (but not joint stiffness)
Some lab testing suggests that cannabinoids may help tamp down the bodyвЂ™s immune response. But the studies have been limited to animals, not humans.
Doctors will need more proof before they can recommend cannabis products to treat rheumatic diseases. For example, we know very little about the effects on RA from smoking marijuana or other uses of herbal marijuana.
Is Cannabis Right for You?
The best way to answer this is to ask your doctor. They can tell you about possible side effects and drug interactions, legal considerations, and which form and at which dose may help you the most.
More than half of the states have legalized marijuana for medical use. More than a dozen other states allow limited medical uses of CBD.
The FDA doesnвЂ™t regulate marijuana or CBD, so you might not know exactly whatвЂ™s in the products you buy. One batch of pot or edible marijuana may have a much higher or lower amount of THC than another, or affect you differently. CBD also can be unpredictable.
Cannabis can affect you mentally and physically. THC can impair driving, so you shouldnвЂ™t get behind the wheel for at least 8 hours after you take it. Smoking or vaping (inhaling) marijuana will hit you more quickly than if you eat it. ItвЂ™s also not good for your lungs or respiratory system.
If you use marijuana regularly, it could make you more likely to get anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
CBD side effects are usually mild or moderate. They can include:
- Dry mouth
- Drop in appetite
- Interactions with blood thinners
Medical marijuana has similar side effects, that may include:
- Increased appetite
- Dissociation (feeling disconnected)
- Dry eyes
Where to Get It
Depending on your state, you may need to buy medical marijuana and CBD at specific dispensaries or pharmacies from approved vendors. Your doctor may need to certify that you have a condition that may benefit from marijuana.
Marijuana is available inВ many forms, like pills, prepared foods, teas, nasal sprays, and as something you smoke or vape.
In some states, CBD is sold at many all-natural food stores and online. It can be taken by mouth as oil or extracts, or applied to your skin.
Chemistry & Biochemistry: вЂњHistory of Cannabis and Its Preparations in Saga, Science, and Sobriquet.вЂќ
Mayo Clinic: вЂњMayo Clinic Q and A: Treatment with medical cannabis,вЂќ вЂњMarijuana,вЂќ вЂњWhat are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?вЂќ вЂњRheumatoid arthritis.вЂќ
News release, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: вЂњThe Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.вЂќ
Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: вЂњCannabis, Cannabinoids, and Health.вЂќ
Arthritis Care & Research: вЂњEfficacy, Tolerability, and Safety of Cannabinoid Treatments in the Rheumatic Diseases: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.вЂќ
Nature Reviews Rheumatology: вЂњCannabinoids for the treatment of rheumatic diseases — where do we stand?вЂќ
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration: вЂњDrug Scheduling.вЂќ
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: вЂњCannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review.вЂќ
Journal of Medical Toxicology: вЂњMedical Marijuana and Driving: A Review.вЂќ
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: вЂњMarijuana and Cannabinoids.вЂќ
National Institute on Drug Abuse: вЂњMarijuana as Medicine,вЂќ вЂњMarijuana.вЂќ
You may be wondering if marijuana may ease the pain and discomfort from rheumatoid arthritis. HereвЂ™s what to know.
Using CBD for Arthritis: Tips for How to Get Started
CBD, a compound derived from hemp, can help soothe joint pain. Here’s how to find a product that works for you.
Enthusiasts of cannabidiol (better known as CBD) rave about the substance’s health benefits. Some small studies have shown that CBD could be a remedy for anxiety and help children with post-traumatic stress disorder get to sleep. The substance was even FDA-approved last year as a prescription drug to manage rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
So naturally, you might be wondering: Can CBD help people with arthritis and related diseases cope with pain? Anecdotal reports from patients and some preliminary research suggests yes, but the science is still emerging and more research is needed.
Here’s what you need to know right now about how to use CBD to ease arthritis symptoms, how to find a high-quality CBD product, and how to work with your doctor to incorporate CBD into your arthritis treatment plan.
What Is CBD, and Can It Help with Arthritis?
CBD is a chemical found derived from hemp. Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis plants, but they are very different from each other. They each have different quantities of various phytocannabinoids, which are substances naturally found in the cannabis plant. (It’s sort of like how different kinds of berries contain different combinations of antioxidants.)
- Marijuana contains an abundance of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the cannabinoid that gets you high.
- Hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC. It contains CBD, which is a cannabinoid that doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. CBD cannot make you feel high. Instead, CBD works in other ways with your endocannabinoid system, which is a group of receptors in the body that are affected by the dozens of other documented cannabinoids.
“Cannabinoids can inhibit or excite the release of neurotransmitters [brain chemicals] and play a role in modulating the body’s natural inflammatory response, which are the two things we’re concerned about when talking about CBD for arthritis,” says Hervé Damas,MD, a Miami-based physician and founder of Grassroots Herbals, a CBD product company.
CBD is thought to work on pain in two parts of the body: the site of soreness (such as your finger joints) and the central nervous system, which sends pain signals to the brain when it detects certain stimulation or damage to nerves and cells.
The ability for CBD to calm that response is one reason the compound might be a viable pain remedy for people with arthritis. Another is CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation occurs when your body is fighting a perceived infection. In autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system is attacking healthy parts of your body like your joints.
It’s important to note that while early research on animals has shown promise for CBD, more research is needed before we can draw anything conclusive for humans. However, anecdotal reports from people who have started incorporating CBD into their arthritis treatment are positive. One CreakyJoints member shared on Facebook that topical CBD “helps better than any other ointment I’ve ever used.” CBD could be worth exploring as a potential solution to pain as part of an overall arthritis treatment plan.
Subscribe to CreakyJoints
With more and more people using marijuana and CBD to treat chronic pain, it is now more important than ever to have research-backed information and advice. Subscribe to CreakyJoints (it’s free) and we’ll notify you when opportunities to participate in CBD and medical marijuana research become available in your area, for your condition.
How to Find the Right CBD Product for You
From supermarkets and pharmacies to health food stores and online retailers, CBD can be found just about everywhere. But how do you choose the right CBD product for your health needs?
1. Pick the CBD Formulation You Want to Use
CBD comes in a few different forms. Commonly used ones include:
- Edibles: You eat CBD infused into gummies, chocolates, sodas, baked goods, and other edible items
- Vaporizer: You inhale CBD through a vape pen that heats up the oil
- Sublingual drops: You take a few drops under your tongue of a high-concentrate solution of CBD
- Topicals: You apply creams, lotions, balms and other products with CBD directly to your skin
The different types of CBD take effect in your body at different rates. Here’s how long you can expect different types of CBD products to kick in, according to Dr. Damas:
- Edibles: 30 minutes to two hours
- Vaporizer: Two minutes
- Sublingual drops: 15-30 minutes
- Topicals: 10 minutes
2. Look for Signs of High-Quality CBD
Don’t just buy the least expensive one on the shelf. There are lots of poor-quality CBD products on the market (some of which don’t contain the amount of CBD they claim, per these FDA warning letters).
Dr. Damas recommends looking for CBD products that are made in the United States, use a carbon dioxide-based extraction method (“It’s the cleanest,” he says), come from organically grown hemp, and don’t contain a lot of extra ingredients. Consumer Reports also has a thorough guide to shopping for CBD that can help you find a high-quality product.
3. Pick the Right Dose
As for dosing of CBD oil, the jury’s still out on just how much you should take. Start with a low dose (such as 5 to 10 mg), and gradually work your way up over a few weeks until you notice the effects.
“Usually people find pain relief when they take 20 to 35 milligrams of CBD daily,” says Dr. Damas.
You can take the full dose at once or break it up throughout the day. Experiment with what makes you feel best. You should start seeing improvements shortly after you start supplementing with CBD, with more noticeable effects kicking in after two weeks.
How to Discuss CBD with Your Doctor
You should talk to the doctor who treats your arthritis before you start taking CBD or any other supplement. They can let you know if CBD might interact with any medications you currently take or potentially worsen a chronic condition. For example, “CBD may make it easier to bleed,” says Dr. Damas. “So if you’re going to have surgery, you might want to stop taking it before the procedure.”
Check out this list of potential drug interactions with CBD from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, but you should always check with your doctor about your individual case.
Keep in mind that your doctor’s knowledge of CBD might be limited. There isn’t a lot of research about the benefits of CBD or about ideal dosages or formulations, so your doctor might not be able to be overly specific in terms of their recommendations. However, they still need to know that you’re taking CBD. Chances are, they’ll be interested in hearing about your experience using CBD products and your self-reports on how CBD may be helping to manage your pain or other symptoms.
CBD, a compound derived from hemp, can help soothe joint pain. Here’s how to find a product that works for you.