Cannabis for Inflammation
You’ve heard cannabis is effective for inflammation and we are seeing that it works, but why does it work? Before we get into looking at the research on the use of cannabis for inflammation, let’s discuss what inflammation is and what it does for our body.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. It alerts the body to damage in order to help fight off infections. Typically inflammation looks like redness and swelling and is often associated with pain. Inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process but it can become problematic when it lasts too long or appears in unnecessary places.
Healing and acute inflammation
When acute inflammation occurs blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases and white blood cells swarm the injured area to promote healing. This response is what causes the injured area to turn red and become swollen.
During acute inflammation, chemicals known as cytokines are released by the damaged tissue. The cytokines act as “emergency signals” that bring in your body’s immune cells, hormones and nutrients to fix the problem. Also, hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins create blood clots to heal damaged tissue, and they also trigger pain and fever as part of the healing process.
As the body heals, the acute inflammation gradually subsides. (source)
Chronic inflammation can be more subtle than acute inflammation, so it can be harder to identify. It may look like chronic fatigue, fever, abdominal or chest pain, and rashes.
When you have chronic inflammation, your body’s inflammatory response can eventually start damaging healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring.
All of these are linked to the development of several diseases, including:
- heart disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- type 2 diabetes
- neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Because of this, it’s important to manage chronic inflammation to reduce the possibility of long term damage.
Traditional Treatment for Inflammation
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve), effectively reduce inflammation and pain. But long-term use is linked to an increased risk of several conditions, including peptic ulcer disease and kidney disease.
- Steroids. Corticosteroids are a type of steroid hormone. They decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system, which is helpful when it starts attacking healthy tissue. But long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to vision problems, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
- Supplements. Certain supplements may help to reduce inflammation. Fish oil, lipoic acid, and curcumin are all linked to decreases inflammation associated with diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Several spices may also help with chronic inflammation and inflammatory disease, including ginger, garlic, and cayenne. Learn more about spices that fight inflammation.
There are often problematic side effects or potential long term damage associated with long term prescription use. So, individuals, as well as doctors, are looking for alternative treatments, particularly for those with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory conditions. Cannabis, particularly CBD, can be used to help regulate the immune system and immune responses.
Cannabis for Inflammation: What the research says
Unlike over the counter medication, which works by blocking prostaglandins that are released in the brain in response to illness and injury, cannabis compounds have been shown to suppress cytokines and chemokines, those inflammation-causing proteins that are released locally by white blood cells.
A comprehensive scientific peer review, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs,” concluded that “targeting cannabinoid receptor-ligand interactions may constitute a novel window of opportunity to treat inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.”
To put it simply, the compounds in cannabis may be able to identify when and where the immune system is over-reacting, then down-regulate those responses at the site instead of throughout the body.
CBD has been shown to reduce inflammatory pain in animal models, but again, not by interacting directly with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Rather, CBD appears to block inflammatory pain by interacting with another protein, the glycine receptor, which plays a critical role in transmitting pain signals from the body, through the spinal cord, and into the brain (where the pain is actually perceived).
In the case of a 2017 study looking at osteoarthritis in rats, researchers found that CBD treatment prevented later development of pain and nerve damage in joints.
THC or CBD for Inflammation
Many people gravitate toward CBD because it does not have the psychoactive properties associated with THC. CBD and THC both have anti-inflammatory properties, therefore, both should be effective in managing inflammation.
THC and CBD interact with different receptors in the body and the brain. So, there are added benefits to using both together to maximize the benefits.
There is also preliminary data that suggests terpenes may also contribute to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis. This suggests that full-spectrum CBD will be more effective in treating symptoms associated with inflammation than CBD isolate. Check out our article that describes the difference between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate to make a decision about what’s best for you.
When you’re choosing a product for yourself, make sure you read the ingredients to know exactly what is in the product.
How to use Cannabis for Inflammation
Since there is not enough clinical data on cannabis yet there are no universally accepted doses. At Envy, we always recommend starting with a low dose and increasing slowly to find the best dose for you.
The best method of consumption will depend on where the inflammation is occurring. Those experiencing inflammation of the skin or at the joints can consider cannabis topicals. Topicals can be applied directly to the skin for eczema or psoriasis as well as at the site of pain for joints.
Miss Envy’s Buddha product line is award-winning cannabis topicals.
For overall symptoms of inflammation, regular, daily doses of CBD is a good place to start. You can use CBD capsules that are pre-dosed and easy to take or a CBD tincture. For acute flare-ups, you can use a CBD vape pen for quick relief.
If you don’t get the results you want from CBD alone, you can slowly add THC to get the benefits of both cannabinoids. We suggest starting with a 3:1 CBD/THC tincture. Make sure you record the dosage you are taking and how it impacts your body so you can determine the best dose for you.
What people are saying
Check out WeedMaps to read more about what people are saying about using cannabis for inflammation.