Millions around the globe have tried CBD in some form over the past few years; that number is growing daily. CBD is said to help with all sorts of disorders, from anxiety and depression to inflammation and epilepsy.
There is a growing interest in natural pain management, and many people want to know - Can CBD help with pain relief?
The short answer is yes.
This article will look into the research to find out if CBD can help reduce pain, the best types of CBD that can ease pain, and how CBD compares to more traditional pain-relieving medications.
What is CBD and how does it work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found naturally in hemp and marijuana plants. It is part of a group of compounds we call cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids).
Many clinical studies have shown CBD to be a potent anti-inflammatory with antioxidant and antibacterial properties that can help with pain relief, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
It works by binding to receptors in the brain, organs and immune system to decrease feelings of pain, reduce psychoactive effects from marijuana usage, relieve chronic stress/anxiety and boost mood.
The human body naturally produces its own cannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoids) – compounds that regulate various functions and maintain homeostasis – and these cannabinoids bind to the same cannabinoid receptors as CBD in the Endocannabinoid System.
CB1 receptors can be found in both the central nervous and peripheral nervous systems, whereas CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system.
CBD is different from THC (the psychoactive compound that causes the "high" of marijuana). CBD does not cause any mind-altering effects as THC does.
Studies suggest it may offer many of the same benefits of medical cannabis use without any side effects like psychoactivity or paranoia - two main results of THC use.
Science suggests CBD can help with pain relief
There's no denying the science behind CBD as a potential pain reliever and backs up the vast amount of claims from people using it to treat their chronic pain conditions.
CBD offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotectant properties that can help with pain relief.
Multiple studies have shown that CBD can reduce inflammation in the body, both internally and externally.
One study found that CBD effectively reduced joint swelling and stiffness, one of the primary causes of pain in those with arthritis. This anti-inflammatory effect is what makes CBD popular for pain management.
CBD may also be helpful for chronic inflammation conditions like Crohn's disease/colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathic pain and cancer treatment-related inflammation.
CBD can also help reduce oxidative stress by inhibiting the release of cytokines/chemokines associated with systemic inflammation.
Some studies even show CBD as having the potential to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis and help to prevent nerve damage.
How to use CBD for pain relief
There are many different forms of CBD that people use to manage their pain. Some of the most popular include:
CBD oils and tinctures
These come as an oil or other liquid; you can use CBD sublingually under the tongue, swallow it, or mix it into foods and beverages. CBD oil tinctures are taken directly off the shelf and can be used as they are or combined with other ingredients.
Highly concentrated, vaping CBD is one of the most popular ways to use CBD because you can easily control the dosage, and the effects kick in almost immediately.
These include balms, salves and creams that many use for localized pain relief. They work by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the skin to increase healing & decrease inflammation.
CBD gummies and capsules can be taken orally with food or on an empty stomach, depending on the person. Edible CBD products take longer to kick in than other methods, however.
What's not to love? CBD may offer many of the same benefits that people get from using medical marijuana for pain relief without any psychoactive side effects. A large amount of anecdotal evidence supports CBD as a promising pain management tool, but more research is needed in this area.
CBD is legal in Canada now, but it has yet to be approved as a medical treatment for any health concern outside of Epidiolex - a prescription medication containing CBD and THC used to reduce seizure activity.
Is CBD better than traditional pain medications?
This is a topic that is hotly debated. Some people say CBD works just as well, if not better, than traditional pain management medications, and others disagree.
It's important to remember that everyone responds differently to different drugs. The fact that only a few clinical trials have been performed on CBD for pain relief means we can't definitively know whether or not it's as effective as other drugs.
Also, CBD is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If you're contemplating using CBD to manage your chronic pain, remember never to change any current medication usage without first consulting with your doctor.
CBD's massive advantage over opioids and other pain medication is the lack of severe side effects. Yes, CBD has not been tested as thoroughly as other medications, but what we've seen so far suggests that it's considerably less dangerous.
Regular use of prescribed pain medication, and even over-the-counter pain meds, can lead to addiction issues that can have a severe and negative impact on your life and relationships. However, CBD is not psychoactive and habit-forming; scientists have agreed that it is generally safe to take - by anyone.
What are the side effects of using CBD for chronic pain management?
Compared to traditional pain medications, the side effects of using CBD for pain relief are pretty mild. It also appears that tolerance is not a concern with this particular compound, so people don't need to worry about constantly upping their dosage over time.
The side effects of CBD can include:
- Appetite and mood changes
- Low blood pressure
CBD may also interact with other types of medication, so it's important to research whether or not it's safe to use in conjunction with any prescriptions you're currently taking.
Can you get high from using too much CBD?
Some people can experience mild psychoactive effects when using high doses of CBD, but this is rare and dependent on the amount of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) in your products.
If you're using CBD products derived from hemp (as the majority are), there should be little or no THC present. For most people, this means you won't feel any "high" or euphoria that is associated with recreational/medicinal marijuana use.
Most people can tolerate very high doses of CBD without experiencing serious adverse side effects, but it's important to be responsible when using this compound.
Remember that everyone has a different endocannabinoid system and that everyone will react differently to CBD.
Is there different types of CBD that work better for pain?
There are three main types of CBD - full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate.
Full spectrum CBD
Somewhat controversial with some people; full spectrum CBD products are made up of various cannabis compounds and contains minimal amounts of THC and other cannabinoids like CBN and CBG, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Broad spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD starts as full spectrum, but is processed to remove as much THC as possible. While it is incredibly challenging to remove the THC entirely, it is reduced to levels that are non-detectable on a drug test.
Isolate is a highly refined form of CBD, and it contains 99% pure CBD. All other cannabinoids and plant matter are removed, leaving only CBD and nothing else.
Research has shown that full spectrum or whole plant CBD extracts work much better than isolates due to the Entourage Effect.
The Entourage Effect is where the many cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant work together to produce a more robust, effective treatment than any one compound alone.
While broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolates may help, the most effective option for pain relief is full spectrum CBD.
Final thoughts on using CBD for pain relief
CBD is starting to see a lot of attention as more and more research continues to find new benefits for this compound. Of course, there needs to be much more study done on CBD and its effects - but what we do know has been very promising so far!
While it's not the proper treatment for everyone, anecdotal reports and emerging research have shown that CBD can effectively manage pain.
The best part is that there are very few side effects - especially when compared with traditional medications.