Arthritic conditions affect roughly 54 million Americans and are one of the most commonly cited sources of chronic pain in America. Recently, many of those suffering from arthritis have turned to CBD as a way to ease arthritic inflammation and inflammation-related pain. But how exactly does CBD work to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis?
Arthritis is typically treated with a range of medication including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, biologics, and corticosteroids. However, many of these drugs can cause several harmful side effects, especially with regular use. Several studies have shown that the cannabinoid CBD may also be able to treat arthritic pain, with minimal side effects.
A 2009 study found that cannabinoids like CBD and THC could potentially be a “potent treatment” against inflammation and inflammatory pain. Researchers believe that cannabinoids may be able to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the release of inflammatory cytokines and by stimulating cell receptors in the immune system. A 2017 study confirmed CBD’s potential in treating arthritis when it found that CBD was capable of reducing arthritic pain and nerve damage in mice suffering from osteoarthritis.
Research also indicates that CBD may be able to halt the progression of arthritis. A mouse model study from 2000 found that, if administered at the onset of symptoms, CBD could block the damage that arthritis caused to joints. Researchers noted that CBD was able to treat collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) through a combination of immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions.
CBD provides relief from inflammation and inflammation-related pain by interacting with protein cell receptors in the body’s inner endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of cell receptors that interacts with naturally produced endocannabinoids and external cannabinoids in order to maintain homeostasis (balance) in the body. The ECS is believed to regulate things like mood, appetite, sleep, stress, and even the immune system.
Cannabinoids like CBD interact with ECS cell receptors when ingested. While THC has been found to bind directly to cell receptors in the ECS, CBD has little binding affinity with these receptors. Instead, CBD is believed to indirectly stimulate other cell receptors in the network. Researchers believe that CBD stimulates cell receptors like GPR55 receptors and TRP channel receptors, inhibiting signaling and potentially constraining the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Some experts believe CBD may also help the body produce more natural endocannabinoids, further helping to regulate inflammation. For instance, CBD is believed to inhibit the production of the fatty acid amide hydrolase, an enzyme that works to break down the endocannabinoid anandamide.
Topical CBD and ingested CBD both work to alleviate pain, although in slightly different ways. While ingested CBD produces systemic relief throughout the entire body, topical CBD provides localized relief in the area where it is applied.
When applied topically, CBD is absorbed through ECS cell receptors in the skin where it begins to work locally. Unlike ingested CBD, topical CBD is absorbed into the body, but never actually reaches the bloodstream. A 2016 study on transdermal CBD found that, when applied topically, CBD had therapeutic potential for the relief of arthritis-related pain and inflammation.
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