Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that it is estimated will affect 78 million Americans by 2040. It’s characterized by chronic pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints that results from chronic inflammation in the body.
When you hear the word “inflammation,” you might think of CBD, which has gained a lot of fame in recent years for its anti-inflammatory properties.
As a result, many people with arthritis are turning to CBD for relief. But does it really work? And if it does, what’s the best way to use CBD for arthritis?
Here’s what you need to know.
Can CBD Help with Arthritis?
The short answer to this question is yes, it can. As Jon Mitchell, PA-C, physician’s assistant and functional medicine practitioner explains: “I think the use of CBD and THC can certainly be beneficial with people struggling with arthritis.”
And the research does look promising. For example, a 2014 review study concluded that multiple studies suggest that CBD may be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common types of arthritis.
The authors of another study, published in 2016 in the European Journal of Pain, wrote that, “Topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.” A year later, another study was published that showed that prophylactic treatment with CBD prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in the joints of animals with osteoarthritis.
Reading the results of these studies is exciting; could arthritis be solved by supplementing with CBD? Mitchell cautions us against this thinking since it oversimplifies arthritis. In reality, it’s a complex condition that often involves autonomic or immune imbalances. “I think saying arthritis is just a matter of inflammation is too simplistic, but inflammation can certainly contribute to it,” he says. The take home? It’s not always quite as simple as taking CBD and calling it a day.
The research does seem promising, but there’s still a lot to learn.
As Mitchell explains: “CBD and some of the other compounds found in hemp and cannabis plants can have anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for people with arthritis. But we do need higher-quality studies on this topic.”
How to Take CBD for Arthritis
The number one rule of taking CBD for any condition is that quality matters — a lot. “Yes, CBD *can* be helpful for arthritis, but it’s very much dependent on getting a high-quality CBD product and at an adequate dose,” says Mitchell. This means finding a product that has been lab tested for quality and purity to ensure that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle — and that heavy metals, microbes, or pesticides haven’t found their way inside.
If you live in a state with medical or recreational cannabis laws, Mitchell also suggests trying a CBD:THC combination treatment.
“I’ve seen more people benefit from THC or a THC/CBD combo versus CBD alone,” he says. According to Mitchell, experimenting with topical products may be a good option if you’re looking for arthritis relief. There are even some topical THC products that are not systemically absorbed so you can avoid psychoactivity.
When it comes to dosing, the Arthritis Foundation advises starting low and going slow. “Start with just a few milligrams of CBD in sublingual form twice a day,” it writes on its website. “If relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by that same amount,” the organization continues. Once you get to a dose that brings you relief, the Arthritis Foundation suggests sticking to that dose to maintain consistent blood levels of CBD.
There’s still a lot to learn about the future of CBD as an arthritis treatment, but from what we know so far, it’s certainly worth experimenting with different products, CBD to THC ratios, delivery methods, and doses.