CBD just keeps getting more popular. No wonder—the stuff really works!
But there’s an important question we need to address: is CBD powerful enough to combat inflammation?
If so, the implications would be tremendous. Imagine experiencing less stiffness, less wear and tear, and less pain . . . all from taking a single plant compound. But if not, that’s also something we need to know, and perhaps we’d be better off trying to reduce inflammation in other ways, such as the classic combo of diet and exercise.
Let’s see what the science says, and how we can bring those theories into practice. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover in this article:
What Is Inflammation?
Essentially, inflammation is a normal biological process used by the immune system to fight off foreign invaders.
The inflammatory process involves a few distinct steps. It starts off with perception of a problem—as soon as your body’s immune system realizes something is ‘off,’ it releases antibodies and other signaling molecules to try to resolve things. It may also increase blood flow to problem areas, which is why acute inflammation is so directly tied to swelling.
Eventually your immune system overcomes whatever pathogen was stressing out your cells, stops producing inflammatory chemicals, and goes back down to baseline.
. . . In an ideal world, at least. But one of the biggest problems with modern living is that our bodies are faced with less obvious inflammatory triggers (like toxins and environmental pollutants) pretty much every day. Dietary factors contribute, too: there’s some evidence that processed sugars and fats contribute to inflammation. (In fact, some fats double as precursors for certain inflammatory molecules. But more on that later.) Faced with such an onslaught, the immune system can become chronically set on edge.
And that’s where many people’s problems begin. Chronic inflammation is absolutely devastating to one’s health. Everything from obesity to arthritis to 20% of all cancer cases may be caused by its aftereffects. Inflammation in the brain has even been linked to Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline.
Talk about an invisible enemy. In America, chronic inflammation is likely an ongoing epidemic.
What Is CBD Oil?
You probably already know what CBD oil is, given how popular it is these days, but let’s take some time for a quick refresher.
CBD oil is an oil made from the hemp plant’s resinous flowers. And despite the telltale name, CBD oil virtually never has as its first ingredient CBD. CBD is, however, the most active ingredient. Seems confusing, right? Allow us to explain.
CBD oil is comprised of two main parts. There’s the part everyone thinks about, a CBD-rich extract . . . but then there’s also a carrier oil. CBD is powerful enough that it needs to be diluted, so most CBD oils out there contain at least 95% carrier oil and at most 5% CBD.
Here’s the kicker: both parts go a long way towards impacting inflammation levels. While CBD and the other compounds in full-spectrum hemp are powerfully anti-inflammatory, some carrier oils are better than others. The science is clear that coconut-oil based carriers are especially anti-inflammatory; plus they’re more shelf-stable than other carriers.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
CBD Oil has many different health benefits, that much is clear.
But virtually all these benefits share one thing in common—think of them as positive ‘side effects’ of CBD’s major mode of action.
What’s this one thing? Stress reduction. CBD is multifaceted and holistic, but nearly everything it does goes back to reducing stress. When you view CBD’s individual benefits through this lense, things begin to fall into place.
And in this case, stress and inflammation go hand in hand. Don’t forget that the inflammatory process is how our immune system attempts to help stressed cells in the first place. In very simple terms, less stress = less adaptive immune system activity = less inflammation. By using CBD for stress regulation, you’re essentially making life easier for yourself. And less inflamed, of course!
CBD for Inflammation
Does CBD help with inflammation? We’d say so, and leading researchers attest that cannabinoids like CBD are “novel anti-inflammatory” substances.
The US government agrees. In the late 90s they actually filed a research patent on the topic. The patent refers to cannabinoids as “anti-inflammatory agents” useful in the “treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s Disease.” In other words, CBD could help communicate to the overactive immune system that it’s time to sit back, cool down, and stop producing so many inflammatory molecules!
But this initial research sparked more questions than answers. If inflammation is at the root of so many modern diseases . . . what’s at the root of inflammation? Why do some people’s bodies not know when enough is enough? Why would CBD even be necessary?
Cannabis Expert Dr. Ethan Russo thinks inflammation might begin as a type of signaling breakdown—a loss of internal communication. In the early 2000s he introduced a new theory to the medical world, something called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome. His theory stated that many chronic inflammatory diseases could be caused, albeit indirectly, by chronically low endocannabinoid levels.
CBD vs. CEDS
Fast forward to the present day, and Russo’s once-controversial theory has gathered steam. More and more scientists are coming to view inflammatory imbalances as indicative of something deeper.
So . . . what’s the best way to restore low endocannabinoid levels? Through healthy living and supplemental phytocannabinoids, of course! Study after study has shown that taking CBD can directly boost endocannabinoid levels.
While CBD may also reduce inflammation in more transient ways—it might be able to normalize TRPV receptors, for example—addressing the ‘upstream’ endocannabinoid deficiency is probably one’s best bet.
And it gets better. CBD may help alleviate inflammation in the areas where help is needed most, precisely because it activates endocannabinoid receptors located in those very same areas. Have IBS or other inflammation-related gut health problems? Your endocannabinoid receptors in that area will be especially happy to receive more CBD.
CBD for Arthritis/Pain
CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may be transformative for those with chronic pain and arthritis, too. These diseases often have inflammation at their roots, and that’s especially true of rheumatoid arthritis, where one’s immune system actually attacks one’s own bone cells.
“Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis,” declares one study in its self-describing title, as evidenced by “significantly reduced joint swelling.” This same study identified a positive impact on motor function; perhaps because its subjects were able to move faster without experiencing as much pain.
Granted, this is only one rodent study. But CBD research’s upward trajectory should see it featuring human trials soon. In the meantime, we still have thousands of positive consumer reports to rely on.
CBD for Other Health Issues
Chronic inflammation often manifests as pain, but that’s far from the only symptom. Do you have sleep problems, poor mobility, depression, ADHD, brain fog, or even more innocuous problems like difficulty losing weight?
Inflammation might be the culprit, and if it is, CBD could be a viable solution.
Let’s address fibromyalgia next. This disease is one of the most mysterious out there—and it’s also one of the diseases Ethan Russo thinks is most likely to be caused by CEDS. Fibromyalgia is characterized as “a central sensitization state with secondary hyperalgesia,” as Dr. Russo explains in one of his studies; in other words, fibromyalgia involves a difference between one’s real and perceived pain levels. By restoring inflammatory equilibrium and promoting a more balanced form of pain-signaling feedback, CBD might just be able to help.
CBD, Inflammation, and Aging
Though inflammation is linked to all sorts of diseases, in some people it doesn’t manifest as a disease at all. That doesn’t mean inflammation isn’t a concern, though. Why? Because it still plays a role in accelerating aging.
Harvard professor and anti-aging expert Dr. David Sinclair has stated again and again that inflammation is both a cause and an effect of aging; by taking anti-inflammatory molecules like CBD, one could (hypothetically) reverse this type of unwanted feedback loop.
How to Use CBD Oil for Inflammation
Despite the complex science surveyed above, taking CBD oil for inflammation is simple. Just take however much CBD you’re normally taking. For some people, that may be 5 milligrams a day; for others, it could be 50.
The most important factor is consistency, so don’t sweat your dose too much. The “transdermal cannabidiol” rodent study we mentioned above observed great results from both high and low doses. As far as human research goes, this excerpt from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine is among the best advice we’ve seen to date:
“We propose that patients use oral formulations (such as capsules) for long-term relief, with tinctures for breakthrough pain. [ . . . ] We advocate a “start-low, go-slow” dosing philosophy, applied to both quantity and adverse effect profiles. We recommend starting with CBD extract.”
Still want more info about how to use CBD oil for inflammation, including info on dosing techniques, product types, and more? Check out our 2020 Dosing Guide here.
How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Reduce Inflammation?
Here’s something you should know about CBD oil:
It’s not usually a quick fix. While some people do see nearly instantaneous improvements in their sleep patterns or anxiety levels, such experiences are the exception rather than the rule. CBD does best when incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and taken over the long run.
You might have to take it consistently for 2-3 weeks before seeing tangible reductions in inflammation. So stick with it! Once your endocannabinoid system has some time to catch up, magic can happen.
“CBD holds immense promise in inflammatory conditions—rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, osteoarthritis to name a few,” Dr. Michael Verbora explains to Leafly. With just a little patience, you might see this promise fulfilled.
To Your Health,