Is CBD Oil An Effective Pain Reliever?
Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is an organic compound that manufacturers extract from industrial hemp.
CBD is one of a large family of plant chemicals called cannabinoids, which are found not just in cannabis and hemp but also in many other plants. CBD is often confused with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a different cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric effect (i.e. the “high”) associated with marijuana. CBD does not cause such an effect because it does not trigger the same receptors in the body that THC does.
The industrial hemp used to produce CBD has to contain less than 0.3 percent THC to meet the standards for the crop imposed by law. Hemp with higher THC levels is considered marijuana, and growers who produce it risk federal prosecution.
CBD is growing popular as a therapeutic tool for treating anxiety, pain, insomnia, and inflammation. At present, the most comprehensive research done on CBD concentrates on the benefit it can provide to epilepsy sufferers. A prescription CBD oil (Epidiolex) received FDA approval in June 2018 for use as a treatment for two rare forms of epilepsy. (Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, or LGS)
A few basic studies on CBD’s effectiveness as a pain reliever have delivered promising results. The compound’s safety and effectiveness in the long term still need to be established; this will require rigorous, well-designed tests on large subject groups.
CBD’s ability to relieve pain is thought to arise from its anti-inflammatory effect on several parts of the brain and nervous system. It affects cannabinoid receptors, ion channels, enzyme production, and anandamides, substances the regulate the body’s pain response.
Some basic conclusions on the use of cannabis products for pain relief were reached in a major 2018 review. Key points in the review included:
* Cannabinoids seem to have differing levels of effectiveness on different pain conditions
* Cannabinoids are ineffective for the treatment of acute (i.e. short-term, injury based) pain
* Cannabinoids’ effectiveness on chronic pain may only be a modest reduction
* CBD has been recommended in combination with THC as a second or third-line treatment by a few medical bodies. The European Federation of Neurological Societies recommends the combination for multiple sclerosis. In Canada, it is recommended for neuropathic pain.
* In a majority of trials (22 of 29) studying cannabinoid use for chronic pain (including neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, mixed chronic pain but excluding cancer pain), cannabinoids had a significant analgesic effect. Several trials found additional benefits with other symptoms, such as spasticity or sleep disorders.
* In five randomized trials on patients with chronic neuropathic pain, pain scores were reduced by 30 percent for patients using cannabis
* In a Cochrane review, cannabis-based medicines consistently outperformed both placebos and conventional drugs when treating neuropathic pain. Most products used contained THC, leading to potential drawbacks including sedation, confusion, and psychosis.
As shown in the review data above, most research so far has been focused on the use of cannabis or products that contain both CBD and THC. CBD product manufacturers are quick to trumpet the favorable research results, but such research does not verify the effectiveness of CBD on its own. Further study is required.