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oil for chronic pain

Although CBD is generally well tolerated, THC may decrease potential side effects of CBD. THC may also play an important role in CBD’s pain-relieving effects, by aiding its influence on the endocannabinoid system.

Here’s the bottom line: CBD products that come from the hemp plant (meaning the THC level does not go above 0.3%) are legal across the country. CBD products that come from non-hemp marijuana (meaning the THC levels may go above 0.3%) may be legal depending on the state you live in but are not legal at the federal level. 3

Get to Know the CBD Isolate, Broad, and Full Spectrum Products

Proponents of full spectrum cannabis products refer to something called the entourage effect, which basically means that the compounds in marijuana work synergistically or cooperatively. 11 Think of marijuana like a plant (which it is). Just like vitamin supplements don’t offer the same benefits as consuming whole foods, CBD isolates may not offer the same benefits as whole-plant extracts. 12

You can vape a full spectrum CBD, which may get you a bit high, even when using a strain with trace amounts of THC.

You can also vape a CBD isolate or broad spectrum oil, which should not induce a high.

However, it should be noted that the studies used a variety of cannabis-based medicines (e.g., inhaled cannabis, sprays, and oral tablets containing THC and/or CBD from plant sources or made synthetically), some of which are more likely to result in these side effects than products without THC.

CBD oil should not be used as a substitute for standard care. In the case of chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, for instance, chronic inflammation can lead to joint damage (causing destruction and disability) if the condition is not effectively managed.

Preclinical animal research suggests that CBD may have moderate pain-relieving effects for neuropathic pain without the cannabinoid-like side effects, however, there is currently a lack of large, well-designed clinical trials (the type of research you want to see to put full stock in a treatment) confirming these effects.

Side Effects and Safety

When taken orally, CBD has poor bioavailability. Topical CBD application to localized areas of pain appears to provide more consistent levels of CBD with less systemic involvement.

When smoked, cannabis has been found to contain Aspergillus (a type of fungus).   People with suppressed immune systems should be aware of the risk of fungal infection when using this form of cannabis. Topical CBD application may also cause skin irritation.

For many people experiencing chronic pain, cannabidiol (CBD) oil is steadily gaining popularity as a natural approach to pain relief. A compound found in the marijuana plant, cannabidiol is sometimes touted as an alternative to pain medication in the treatment of common conditions like arthritis and back pain.

Another study, published in the European Journal of Pain in 2016, found that topical CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling and measures of pain and inflammation in rats with arthritis.  

CBD is emerging as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, and anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve, and evidence from animal studies has shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. This system is involved in regulating many functions in the body, including metabolism and appetite, mood and anxiety, and pain perception.

Given the ongoing challenges of chronic pain management coupled with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, pain management practitioners and their patients are searching for effective and safer alternatives to opioids to alleviate pain. With the legalization of marijuana in many states and resulting cultural acceptance of this drug for recreational and medical use, there has been an increased interest in using cannabis for a myriad of medical problems, including pain.

What’s the research that CBD works in humans?

Finally, there is anecdotal wisdom, when experiences by patients and health professionals have positive results. While the experience or medication could be beneficial, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for everyone. That’s because each and every person is unique, and what works perfectly for one patient could have no effect on another patient. This is especially true for pain, where many other factors (our mood and stress level, our environment and other medical conditions, and our previous experiences) can affect the perception of pain. Please be careful, and keep in mind that some of these incredible-sounding testimonials are merely marketing materials meant to lure consumers to buy more products, as the CBD market is expected to hit $20 billion by 2024.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Given the rapid change in the legality of cannabis coupled with the increased appetite for something new, and driven by unprecedented profit margins, the advertising for cannabinoids in general and CBD in particular has gone wild. The FDA is very clear that it is illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement. And it warns the public about its potential side effects, as it’s often advertised in a way that may lead people to mistakenly believe using CBD “can’t hurt.” CBD can cause liver injury, and can affect the male reproductive system (as demonstrated in laboratory animal studies).