Using CBD to Reduce Inflammation and Pain

  • Multiple studies and trials have indicated the efficacy of CBD oil in the reduction of chronic and acute inflammation.

  • CBD has been shown to be a safe, natural alternative to many prescription and OTC medications that may have damaging, life-threatening side-effects.

  • How does CBD work to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Some of the mechanisms that produce inflammation and how CBD works to diminish them. 

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Cannabidiol - CBD

Cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid compound produced in cannabis and hemp flowers. Can CBD help to reduce inflammation and resulting pain? Although this question has been debated for decades, today there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that CBD is, indeed, highly effective at treating a wide array of manifestations of inflammation in the human body. In many cases, in fact, CBD has been shown to be more effective than traditional medications. 

To the layperson, the term “inflammation” can be a bit mysterious. Aside from redness around a cut, most people can’t point to a condition and say “that’s inflammation.” That’s because inflammation is both a symptom and a cause of a wide variety of medical issues both external and internal. 

Let’s get a little bit more familiar with inflammation and some of the conditions that can cause it, and then we’ll discuss how CBD can be used to reduce inflammation.

Understanding Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s protective response system. Its purpose is to clear out infections, pathogens, irritants, and damaged tissues. Inflammation can sometimes be excruciatingly painful and greatly limit mobility. 

Inflammation may be triggered by an infection or injury. It can cause overheating, redness, and swelling at the site of injury. 

Inflammation is not just skin deep. It can also manifest in tissues and organs such as the lungs and brain that do not have pain sensors making it difficult to detect and causing an array of symptoms such as fatigue, fever, rashes, and others. 

Left unchecked, inflammation can result in chronic, life-threatening conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. 

Two categories of inflammation: acute and chronic. 

The body’s natural inclination, when traumatized, is to deliver white blood cells and histamine to the area of infection or injury producing swelling and pain. 

Chronic inflammation is generally triggered by ongoing conditions such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, periodontitis, allergies, and so forth.

Acute inflammation can happen quickly, without warning, and with great severity. The symptoms generally dissipate in a few days or weeks. However, in some instances, symptoms may persist for longer periods and worsen if not properly attended to.

In the early stages of inflammation, tiny branches in the arteries enlarge to accommodate the increased blood flow to the injured area causing swelling and redness. Secondly, the permeability of capillaries increases to allow fluids and proteins to easily maneuver between blood and cells. In later stages, a type of white blood cells called neutrophils containing microorganism-destroying enzymes are released.

Causes of acute inflammation include scratches or cuts on the skin, especially those that have been infected, as well as internal injuries. Inflammation can also be caused by acute conditions such as bronchitis, appendicitis, dermatitis, meningitis, sinusitis, etc.

If acute inflammation is not eliminated in a timely manner, it can result in chronic inflammatory response. Chronic autoimmune disorders, for example, can cause healthy tissue to be mistakenly regarded as pathogens by the immune system thus initiating a constant inflammatory response.

Exposure to industrial chemicals and other environmental irritants can also cause chronic inflammation.

Myriad serious conditions may result from chronic inflammation including:

Common treatments for inflammation 

Several prescription and over-the-counter protocols are utilized to mitigate inflammation and manage resulting pain.

Naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin — so called non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — counteract the enzymes responsible for inflammation.

These protocols are helpful in the acute stages of inflammation. However, long term use may result in unwanted side effects such as stomach ulcers for some patients. These drugs have also been known to exacerbate existing asthma symptoms. Another major risk is potential kidney damage and even potential stroke or heart attack.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is also an effective painkiller. It is considerably less damaging to the lining of the stomach and intestines. However, kidney damage may occur with prolonged use or overuse.

Corticosteroids are highly effective anti-inflammatories with great pain-relieving properties, however, they also come with multiple side effects, including damage to nearby bone and nerves potentially resulting in even more chronic pain once they wear off. 

Research On CBD’s Effects On Inflammation

A wide array of science-based research exists to reveal and explain the powerful anti-inflammatory properties provided by CBD. Links to several of these studies can be found at the end of this article.

In one study researchers investigated the use of CBD in treating inflammation caused by a condition called encephalomyelitis that produces inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Fibrosis and inflammation were treated with cannabis throughout the course of this study, ultimately indicating that CBD relieves inflammation via different mechanisms than NSAIDs. 

The consensus and conclusion was that “several cannabinoids may be considered candidates for development as anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic agents. Of special interest is their possible use for treatment of chronic inflammation, a major unmet medical need.” 

Another prominent study looked at CBD’s anti-inflammatory capabilities in the lungs. Researchers in this study concluded: “Cannabidiol… has potent immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties.” 

And in a report entitled, “Cannabinoids in clinical practice,“ researchers claim that cannabinoids offer profound anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, stating, “a standardized extract of the herb may therefore be more beneficial in practice than traditional treatments…”

How CBD reduces inflammation

CBD helps to reduce inflammation in a number of ways depending on the cause and location of the inflammation. 

The most commonly known mechanism is its effect on endocannabinoid receptor activity. CBD interacts with receptors found on the surface of cells throughout the immune system and major organs. These receptors are part of what is known as the human endocannabinoid system or ECS.

The ECS is involved in a variety of physiological processes including inflammatory response. CBD interacts with the ECS to block the transmission of certain chemical messages that mobilize the body’s inflammatory response.

Another way that CBD reduces inflammation is by binding with vanilloid receptors also found throughout the body. These receptors are responsible for controlling inflammation in specific parts of the body. CBD also binds with these receptors to prevent the transmission of signals that can cause inflammation. 

Proteins known as cytokines that are created by the immune system also play a key role in both the inflammatory response and the perception of pain. CBD has been shown to moderate cytokine production thus reducing inflammation and pain.

For treating systemic inflammation, CBD can be used orally in the form of tinctures, oils, capsules, pills, and edibles. Inhalation methods are also available such as vaporizer oils and smokable flower. 

Alternatively, CBD-infused skin creams, balms, and salves can be used to treat external inflammation.

Where to purchase CBD

Since the federal government legalized the production and sale of hemp-derived CBD oil at the end of 2018, nearly every state in the U.S. has followed suit. As a result, CBD oil and other CBD-infused products can be found at CBD specialty stores, health food stores, pharmacies, and even convenience stores nationwide. 

CVS started stocking topical CBD products in 2019 with plans to offer CBD at nearly ten thousand shops across the country by the end of 2020. Walgreens also plans to offer CBD topicals and sprays at nearly 1500 stores by the end of 2020. And as of April 2020, Wholefoods began offering CBD-infused topicals in stores located in 30 different states. None of these retailers, however, offer CBD oils, CBD-infused edibles, CBD vape pens, or smokable forms of CBD. 

Although it might be convenient to walk into a store and purchase CBD products, the choice of brands and delivery methods is often quite slim. However, CBD products can also be purchased online where product selection is vast. And buying CBD online is no less convenient as your CBD can be delivered directly to your doorstep within a matter of days. Be sure to do your homework to find a brand that you can trust. 

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