The wellness properties of cannabidiol (CBD) have catapulted it to prominence. It has become so popular that it can now be infused in everyday consumer goods like beverages and lotions. But before it reached this level of popularity, cannabidiol was primarily used to reduce pain. But what is the science behind CBD for pain relief?
What is CBD?
CBD is a compound called a cannabinoid that is extracted from the cannabis plant. It is just one of the hundreds of identified cannabinoids that the plant naturally produces.
CBD is extracted using processes like co2 extraction and mixed with a carrier oil. It is commonly sold as a dietary supplement like CBD oil, CBD gummies, etc by CBD companies.
Research into CBD is ongoing, but the initial findings indicate that it effectively reduces pain, inflammation, and overall discomfort caused by a variety of medical conditions.
It appears that CBD for pain is a safer alternative for people who rely on opioid medications. This family of drugs can cause many adverse side effects ranging from addiction and fatal overdose.
The efficacy of CBD has additionally been confirmed as useful for severe forms of epilepsy. The drug Epidiolex is the first and only medication using CBD approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The endocannabinoid system explained
The current science suggests that CBD works by acting on the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling system that aids in maintaining homeostasis and regulating some of the body’s vital functions like sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction, and fertility.
There are 3 main components of the ECS, namely endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids refer to the cannabinoids produced by the body. This is in comparison to phytocannabinoids, which are the cannabinoids produced by hemp plants.
As for endocannabinoid receptors, these can be found all over the body. When cannabinoids bind with these receptors, the body signals the ECS to take a particular action.
The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are the CB1 receptors, mostly found in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptors, mostly located in the peripheral nervous system’s immune cells.
Cannabinoids can bind to either of these receptors. The effects produced vary and depend on the location of the receptor and the cannabinoids they bind to.
For example, cannabinoids that bind to CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve may result in pain relief. Other cannabinoids may attach to a CB2 receptor in immune cells to signal inflammation in the body, a sign commonly manifested by autoimmune disorders.
Lastly, the function of enzymes is to break down the cannabinoids after they have fulfilled their purpose.
Cannabis and the ECS
There is a lot of interest in determining the exact interaction between cannabinoids from cannabis and pain management. One thing experts are sure of is that THC and CBD, the two most prevalent cannabinoids from cannabis, do not work on the ECS in the same way.
For one, THC can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. This can produce a range of effects on the body and mind, which explains why its psychoactive effects work so well in producing a “high.”
CBD works on the cannabinoid receptors differently. One of the theories is that it works by preventing cannabinoids from being broken down, explaining why CBD for pain could be effective.
The details of CBD’s exact method of action is still being debated. Even a theory that CBD works by acting upon a receptor that has yet to be discovered. But initial research suggests that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory and reliever of different types of pain.
CBD for pain relief
Studies show that CBD can effectively treat chronic pain like cancer, neuropathic conditions like multiple sclerosis, and even fibromyalgia, without any apparent side effects. Its effectiveness in overall pain relief holds much promise.
Other studies explored CBD’s effectiveness in reducing inflammation and pain from arthritis as well. Animal models have shown that CBD effectively reduces this type of point but reaches a ceiling after a certain dose. Even the European Journal of Pain cited the effectiveness of topical CBD for arthritis pain.
Other research even suggests that CBD is effective in reducing the size of cancer tumors. This study found that a combination of THC and CBD treatments alongside opioids revealed more effective pain management than opioids alone.
Additional studies have found that a mix of THC and CBD is also effective at reducing migraine pain. People with a history of migraine pain and who experience cluster headaches also experience reduced pain using a combination of THC and CBD.
Cannabidiol is the subject of research for its many applications in pain management. It appears to be effective for many kinds of pain, both as a THC-free treatment and in combination with it. One day, it may even replace the dangerous opioids which have caused social and health problems with its abuse.
CBD can be easily purchased in brick and mortar dispensaries but can be found in many online marketplaces. Be aware of your state laws regarding CBD. Even though sweeping legalization measures have significantly reduced the stigma around it, your state may still be one of few that still tightly regulate it.