Treating Sickle Cell Anemia with CBD – Benefits & Effects

According to several studies that are underway, CBD could be an effective treatment option for sickle cell anemia. However, understanding the link between CBD and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) will help you have an in depth understanding of how CBD works in treating the symptoms of sickle cell anemia. 

CBD has been reported to work with the endocannabinoid system, which is known to be responsible for regulating body functions such as sleep, appetite, relaxation as well as cognitive functions. Besides, CBD also maintains body homeostasis, enhances the endocannabinoid responses, while strengthening the immune system, thereby relieving the discomfort and pain felt by sickle cell patients.

Sickle cell is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affects the molecule in red blood cells known as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays a crucial function in the body as it helps in delivering oxygen throughout the body. People suffering from the sickle cell disease have atypical hemoglobin molecules known as hemoglobin S, which distorts the shape of the red blood cells. 

The normal red blood cells are supposed to be disc-shaped, but people with the sickle cell disease have a crescent or sickle shaped red blood cells. The sickle shaped cells are not flexible and cannot change shape easily and this explains why many of the cells burst apart as they move through the blood vessels.

Normal cells last between 90 to 120 days, whereas sickle cells only last for 10 to 20 days. This therefore implies that the bodies of people with the sickle cell disease often find trouble making enough cells to replace the lost ones, and many of them end up not having enough red blood cells, thereby resulting in anemia, which is characterized by shortage of blood and the feeling of tiredness. The sickle shaped cells can also cause blockage or halt the flow of blood by sticking to the walls of the vessels. When this happens, oxygen is unable to reach nearby tissues and this often results in sudden attacks and severe pains which are known as a crisis.

Crisis sometimes occurs without warning and patient might need to go to the hospital for treatment. Sickle cell is an inherited disease and people suffering from it are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. However, people who are born with one sickle gene are known to have sickle cell traits and even though they are generally healthy, it is possible for them to pass the defective gene to their children. Early symptoms of sickle include fatigue from anemia, painful swellings in the hands and feet as well as a yellowish color of the skin (jaundice).

The cure for sickle cell is risky as it involves a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Other treatment options aimed at easing the symptoms as well as lessening the complications include blood transfusions, child immunization as well as the use of antibiotics, and pain relief medications.

Preliminary findings from some studies have indicated that CBD could improve the symptoms of sickle cell. This assertion can be explained by the fact that CBD has been proven to be an effective pain reliever, coupled with its anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study that was published in the European Journal of Pain, it was reported that CBD applied to the skin could help reduce pain and inflammation. It is worthy to note that this study was conducted using an animal model. According to another study that was conducted, CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. It can therefore be argued that CBD could be effective in treating pain as well as inflammation caused by sickle cell anemia. According to anecdotal evidences, many people have used CBD to relief chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia.

Many researchers have also argued that CBD is a safer treatment option for chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia since it does not result in many negative consequences. Unlike CBD, traditional pain killers like Morphine and Opioid are associated with negative side effects, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, confusion as well as the possibilities of addiction.

However, the studies on the effectiveness of CBD in treating the symptoms of sickle cell anemia are quite limited and there is a need for scientists and pharmaceutical industries to carry out more investigations on the subject.


Harvard Health Publishing
Sickle Cell Anemia News
Medline Plus

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