As a dietitian working in anti-inflammatory nutrition for over a decade, it’s been a long time since something new has come along that holds so much therapeutic promise. A couple of years ago, I started noticing that my clients were taking medically-prescribed THC or CBD oil for inflammation with great results, and it definitely piqued my curiosity.
Now, with the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, and the availability of hemp-based CBD oil in the United States, CBD is literally everywhere. In the US, you can find CBD oil-based skincare, drinks, and even chocolates. Here in Canada, there are fewer forms in which to consume CBD oil – tinctures are most common – but that will likely change as the second wave of legalization brings new products to the marketplace.
Important note: This blog post is brought to you with the generous sponsorship of Icaria CBD oil and is intended for adults of the legal age of majority wherever they live, and only where hemp and cannabis CBD products are legal. ICARIA is offering my community $10 off of any purchase with the code DESIREE10
What is CBD (cannabidiol)?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a phyto-cannabinoid that is found in the leaves and flowers of both hemp and cannabis plants. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in these incredibly complex plants, along with terpenes, which are phytochemicals with their own potential benefits.
Unlike it’s cousin THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, meaning that it doesn’t get you high. However, research has confirmed that it does have an effect on both your nervous system and your immune system, making it potentially beneficial for those with inflammatory or nervous system concerns such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or anxiety.
What is the research on CBD oil for inflammation?
You might be incredibly surprised to learn that the research on CBD oil for inflammation is already well under way. We still have a long way to go with human clinical trials; however, the preclinical data has been accumulating for years. Research suggests that CBD has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Research suggests that CBD is able to minimize free radical damage, decrease the formation of reactive oxygen species and alter antioxidant activity in the body. CBD is thought to decrease the inflammatory response directly and indirectly through a variety of pathways, including activation of the CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Much has been made of the connection between CBD and CB2 receptors; however, in the research I examined over the course of writing this article, I was surprised at how often CBD appeared to exert its effects by other pathways.
Laboratory research suggests that CBD also has an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut. What’s more, CBD is showing promise as a therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, where research suggests it may decrease inflammation as well as hypermotility (which leads to pain and high numbers of bowel movements in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). However, human trials are minimal at this point, and results have yet to confirm the success of lab trials. The Cochrane Review for Crohn’s Disease does not yet suggest cannabis (or CBD) as an effective therapy.
What is the research on CBD oil for pain?
Because inflammation and pain are often intertwined, it makes sense that CBD oil may also be beneficial for pain. In fact, it has been suggested that the body’s endocannabinoid system is involved with regulation of pain – and we now know that the endocannabinoid system is present in joints. In one study, CBD was able to decrease the pain and inflammation in an animal model of osteoarthritis. Researchers thought that CBD was able to both decrease inflammation, and the sensitization of nerve fibres that makes pain worse.
Researchers have also examined the use of CBD for pain in people post-kidney transplant. In this small, pilot-level study, the use of CBD improved pain with 100% effectiveness in some patients; dosage was between 50-150mg with some users needing lower doses due to nausea and other mild but unpleasant side effects. In another trial of patients using opioids to manage their chronic pain, more than half of the patients were able to reduce or eliminate their opioid medications and manage their pain with CBD alone over an eight week period.
The preclinical evidence is strong for supporting CBD use in chronic pain; however, because we are still in the earliest days of human trials, systematic research reviews do not yet confirm the same research strength in human trials.
CBD dosage for inflammation and pain
Dosages of CBD have varied widely in the research, from less than 1mg per kg of body weight to up to 50mg/kg body weight. The mantra with cannabis dosing – including CBD – is to go low and slow. Always begin with a moderate dose, say 5-10 mg for smaller/larger bodies, and increase slowly, dose by dose and day by day until the appropriate dose is reached. Bioavailability and absorption is also variable and impacts how effective CBD will be. CBD appears to reach peak blood concentration in 1-2 hours, so be sure to wait 2 hours before taking another dose.
With respect to safety, as noted above, side effects are possible and research suggests that CBD oil is safe for adults in doses of up to 1600mg per day in the short term. However, dosages of this range should only be used in consultation with your physician or pharmacist and you should never begin with a high dose if you are not used to taking CBD.
It is important to respect natural medicines the same way as you do pharmaceutical medicines; if you have questions or concerns, always speak to your doctor or pharmacist first.
What is the best way to take CBD?
By oral route, such as tinctures and edibles, CBD typically reaches peak saturation in 1-2 hours in the blood. CBD is fat-soluble, making CBD oils a great option; it is suggested that taking tinctures under the tongue (sublingual) may also improve absorption as it helps bypass digestion. I have a Cannabis 101 blog that describes all of the different ways you can consume cannabis.
While safe and non-intoxicating, it is worth noting that larger doses of CBD are not without potential side effects, which include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, slow heart beat and fatigue. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any pre-existing condition or are on medications, as they might be impacted by CBD use because CBD activates the same P450 pathway in the liver that many other medications do.
Using CBD alone has one significant advantage – being non-intoxicating and therefore safe for daytime use while maintaining focus and motivation during the workday. This is a big factor in my choosing pure CBD oil for everyday use.
How CBD fits into your anti-inflammatory lifestyle
I am very encouraged by the ongoing research on CBD for inflammation and pain; whenever a safe and natural approach is available, I’m all for it! As the research evolves, we will be able to give better, more specific advice on its efficacy and how to use it. I am a big fan of CBD oil and use it to help me manage my mood and digestive health.
Of course, it’s important to remember that CBD is just one part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. The foundation is always an anti-inflammatory diet; taking CBD, alongside regular exercise and practices to reduce and manage the effects of stress will ensure a more holistic and effective path towards health and wellbeing.
A big thank you to my friends at Icaria CBD oil for sponsoring this post! The research, and facts and opinions stated in this article are 100% my own.