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Does CBD Treat Pain?
To answer this question with a simple yes or no would be to do the subject, and this article, a great disservice. First, what kind of pain are we talking about? Heartache? Hangover? Hemorrhoids? Or something more serious? Second, what is CBD? Is it just another over-hyped fad, or is it something genuinely special?
What is CBD?
For those who haven’t heard of CBD, let me catch you up to speed. CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the thousands of cannabinoids found naturally in cannabis. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state or country where cannabis is legal, you’ll have seen CBD products everywhere. It’s in shampoos, lattes, lotions—everything from toothpicks to toilet paper. There are people right now jogging around Los Angeles wearing expensive, CBD-infused workout gear, but this unusual fashion statement might not be as crazy as it sounds.
CBD is said to interact with our natural endocannabinoid system, influencing receptors in our brain and immune system. These receptors (proteins attached to cells) inform cell behavior, depending on the different chemicals the receptors interact with. CBD can influence these receptors to produce anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, making it an ideal compound for pain management and healing. It works without thinning the blood or causing ulceration, making CBD a genuinely low-risk option with the potential for massive rewards. This explains its growing popularity among professional athletes. Those joggers in CBD-infused hot-pants don’t seem so silly now!
Sounds amazing! What Type of Pain is it Good for?
If you’ve just been dumped by your partner or fired from your job, you might be tempted to hit the high-THC shelf and smoke out your sorrows. But before you pack a bowl with the Gelato you were curing for just this occasion (pro-tip: Gelato is ideal during the sweatpants phase) please consider the following: there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence suggesting CBD is both calming AND relaxing. It might not cure your heartache or depression, but it could put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with it.
CBD for Chronic Pain
CBD provides the perfect way to deal with chronic pain, especially when mixed with some THC. When we talk about pain being chronic, we mean long-term, persistent pain—pain that you have to live with on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. If you need to take medication for this pain, you’re going to want something with minimal side effects, no danger of addiction, and zero chance of overdose. This is where CBD-rich chemovars (commonly known as strains) really shine.
CBD isn’t psychotropic—it won’t get you high—and poses the same danger of addiction as a simple sugar pill or placebo. Whereas THC binds directly to the cannabinoid receptor, CBD does not. This is why CBD has no intoxicating effects and does not cause tolerance with repeated use. (1. “Cannabis is Medicine” by Dr. Bonni Goldstein)
The side effects of taking CBD are, for the majority of us, non-existent, but it can affect the impact of other drugs.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any course of supplements or medicine, especially to make sure CBD won’t affect any other medications you are taking. For example, if you’re taking CBD for chronic back pain, it would be wise to tell the doctor so they can assess what impact this would have on your normal anti-inflammatories or analgesics. CBD is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 system, which is responsible for the metabolism of many pharmaceuticals. The best way to avoid issues is to speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible interactions.
If you live in the US and you suffer from chronic pain, it is almost certain you will have been prescribed a form of opiate or powerful painkiller. Unlike CBD, opiates are extremely addictive, they have an epic rap sheet of nasty side effects—and deaths from overdose are all too common. If your state still practices cannabis prohibition, your choice with chronic pain is stark: destroy yourself with opiates or risk jail using cannabis. Awesome, thanks.
CBD and Arthritic Pain
Arthritis is debilitating, painful and complicated. It can strike at any age and it doesn’t care how healthy or hedonistic your lifestyle is. That said, arthritis is one of those conditions that can at least feel cured once the symptoms have been managed, which is why CBD strains for inflammation can be of so much value. Studies performed on arthritic rats showed reduced pain and inflammation in the rats’ affected joints. While there is no evidence nor claim that suggests CBD can cure arthritis, the reduction in pain and discomfort is potentially life-changing. Especially when one considers how this can be achieved with minimal side effects and zero danger of addiction.
In the Journal of Neuroimmunology, researchers at Tokyo’s National Institute of Neuroscience concluded, “Cannabinoid therapy of rheumatoid arthritis could provide symptomatic relief of joint pain and swelling as well as suppressing joint destruction and disease progression.” (2. J.L. Corxford et al., “Cannabinoids and the Immune System: Potential for the Treatment of Inflammatory Diseases?” Journal of Neuroimmunology 166, nos. 1-2 (2005): 3-18)
CBD Pain Relief
Pain comes in all shapes and sizes, far more than covered in this article, but medical CBD strains can be a useful solution. Not a straightforward solution, but a solution nonetheless. In many cases, it does help to have a blend of CBD and THC, especially for more intense physical pain, something you should always consider when choosing the right medicine.
You can purchase CBD for migraine pain relief, CBD as an anti-inflammatory, CBD for spasticity and muscle spasms, CBD for cramps, CBD for general and particular pain, and more. The important thing to consider is that there is no cure-all, no magic pill, no one-hit panacea. Our endocannabinoid system is unique and what works for Tracy in Accounting might not work for Dave in the Warehouse. You need to do your own research and your own trials. Talk to your doctor, chat with your dispensary staff (if they are unable or unwilling to help, find a better, more responsible dispensary), and pretty soon you will find the right product for you.
The Best CBD for Pain
So, is there an answer to the question, what is the best CBD for pain? The BEST? Very tricky.
How does one define ‘best’ here? Purity? Extraction method (full spectrum, broad-spectrum or isolate)? Clarity? Cost? Effectiveness?
If you want to know exactly what has gone into your medicine you need to make it yourself. There are 44 CBD-rich strains available at the Homegrown Cannabis Co. because they know creating CBD from seed is hugely rewarding. You control what goes in and you control what comes out. Sure, it’s not as easy as buying oil over the counter, but it’s much cheaper and far more enjoyable.
The simplest method would be a lipid infusion, where you soak the cannabis flower in olive oil after you have decarboxylated it. Homemade CBD oils and tinctures are a fantastic addition to any medicine cabinet and they make extremely thoughtful gifts. With CBD, sharing really is caring. Experts from the field of medical cannabis, have published information on their experience with medical cannabis and CBD at MMJ Doctor, which is worth checking out.