CBD for Arthritis: Does CBD Oil Really Help Treat Arthritis Pain?

Many people turn to CBD due to arthritis and joint discomfort. CBD has much potential for easing joint issues thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Learn what the science says about the risks and benefits of CBD use for arthritis
Written by 
Diana Rangaves, PharmD, Clinical Consultant, Google Scholar.
|Last Updated:
CBD for Arthritis

Advocates of CBD (cannabidiol) assert that CBD is safe and effective in relieving the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Arthritis remains the primary cause of disability among adults in the U.S.

According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF). Close to 54 million Americans adults and about 300,000 children, including infants, have been diagnosed with arthritis (AF). Based on non-scientific anecdotal evidence in humans, CBD oil made from hemp or cannabis is believed to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and many other ailments.

However, most of the research concerning CBD safety and effectiveness for joint pains are animal based studies. More clinical trials are needed in humans to determine its safety and efficacy.

What is CBD

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the natural compounds known as cannabinoids present in members of the Cannabis sativa family. CBD and THC are the two most prominent cannabinoids in the Cannabis Sativa family. CBD, unlike THC short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a non-psychoactive compound. It does not produce the ‘high’ effect associated with marijuana. CBD does not alter your brain functions in ways that could result in a temporary change in perception, mood, behavior, or consciousness.

Difference between CBD and THC

Both CBD and THC share the same chemical formula and interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a cell signaling system that controls several functions and processes, including mood, sleep, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility). However, CBD and THC differ in the arrangement of their individual atoms. This slight difference in the arrangement of their atoms is responsible for their differing effects on the body.



How CBD and THC work?

CBD and THC, due to their different molecular structures, interact differently with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. The two compounds both bind with the CB2 receptor. Their association with the CB1 receptors differs. As stated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), THC connects directly to CB1. This connection results in reactions that send signals to the brain responsible for the euphoric feelings associated with marijuana. Brain imaging studies show that the prefrontal cortex region of the brain received greater blood flow during THC intoxication. The cortex region is responsible for decision making, attention, and other executive functions, including self-monitoring, task initiation, advanced planning and organization.

In contrast to THC, CBD does not associate directly with the CB1 receptors. Studies reveal that its presence can interfere with the connection between THC and the CB1 receptors, thereby neutralizing the ‘high’ effects caused by THC.


The legality of CBD oil remains a complicated issue in the U.S. due to laws that vary across the states. CBD, and any of its allied products made from cannabis, remain illegal at the federal level with the exception of Epidiolex, a prescription drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of a severe form of epilepsy in children and adults age 2 and over. However, many states have legalized medicinal marijuana. That said, CBD products made from hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC are legal under the 2018 Farm Bill but are illegal under some state laws. You can purchase CBD oil online if it is legal in your state. Flying with CBD products, including oil with THC, may result in prosecution.

Different Consumption Methods for CBD

You can consume CBD using any or all of the following five methods:

CBD vaporizing (inhalation): You can inhale CBD using a tool, known as a vape. The vape heats a concentrated version of the cannabinoid to make it inhalable.

Consuming CBD via this method is the quickest way to get CBD into your bloodstream. The CBD gets absorbed immediately via your lungs, and you start noticing its effect almost immediately. However, this method produces the shortest active period. This implies you will always have to take additional doses if you desire a continuous effect.

In addition, recent incidents after using CBD vapes shows it may not be the safest way to consume CBD.

CBD cream and lotion (topical): CBD-infused cream and lotion are presumed as effective in treating inflammation, sore muscles and arthritis pain and inflammation. * Proponents of topical CBD argue that the products work through its association with the endocannabinoid receptors present under the skin.

You may start noticing the effect of a topical CBD cream or lotion after 15-20 minutes, and the effects can last up to several hours.

CBD skin patches: Skin patches are small adhesive patches that convey CBD through your skin. In contrast to topical creams and lotions, skin patches provide a continuous flow of CBD through the dermal barrier, allowing an even stream of the cannabinoid to penetrate and enter your blood.

The effect of CBD skin patches can last from 6 to 12 hours on average.

CBD oil and tinctures: You consume CBD oil and tinctures with a dropper that is used to place the liquid under your tongue (sublingually). CBD oil is usually made of CBD and a carrier oil, such as MCT, coconut, or hemp seed oil. Tinctures may also include other ingredients with typical examples being vinegar, vegetable glycerin, alcohol, artificial flavoring, or ethanol.

CBD edibles (ingestion): You may add CBD to beverages and food. You can take CBD in the form of gummies. Gummies are tasty, discreet, and affordable. You can get them from stores where other CBD products are sold.

Gummies might take up to 2 hours before you start noticing the effect. The ingested CBD needs to absorbed and digested before entering into your bloodstream.

How to Properly Use CBD – Dosage

There is no standard prescribed dose for CBD. Many factors determine the quantity of CBD you should consume. These include:

  • The concentration of CBD in the drop, capsule, pill, or gummies.
  • The ailment you’re treating
  • Your body weight and chemistry
  • Other medications you may be taking

However, before embarking on any treatment with CBD, you must discuss this with your doctor for advice on possible side effects and dosage. If your doctor recommends a dosage, stick to the recommendation. Nevertheless, if your doctor does not provide guidance, you should start with the lowest dose possible. Then gradually increase your dosage as your body adjusts to the use of CBD.

Why People Use CBD Oil

The popularity and acceptance of CBD oil have soared in the U.S. in the last few years despite the legal questions surrounding its usage. This is due to several unproven claims by CBD advocates regarding its effectiveness in treating many ailments ranging from chronic pain and anxiety to cancer, and diabetes. While limited evidence exists in humans to support most of the claims, there is strong evidence, according to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly – Institute of Medicine) concerning the effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating chronic pain in adults.

Chronic pain affected close to 20.4 percent or about 50 million adults in the U.S. in 2016 says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people with chronic pain have turned to CBD oil. They do so in an effort to avoid some of the side effects associated with conventional pain killer medications and a life-long dependence on drugs.

Potential Benefits of CBD Oil

While debates on the safety and effectiveness of CBD oil remains a hot issue in the public domain, some of the potential benefits of CBD oil include:

CBD Oil relieves arthritis pain: According to findings published in the Journal Pain in December 2017, CBD oil may halt progression of joint neuropathy and osteoarthritis.

CBD Oil Eases Other Chronic Pain Conditions: Findings from research published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management show cannabinoids easing pain in individuals diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

CBD Oil and Anxiety: Research indicates that CBD oil is effective in reducing anxiety. Furthermore, a study published in The Permanente Journal suggests that CBD oil helped reduce anxiety in children.

CBD Oil for Depression: Findings from multiple studies indicates that CBD oil helps in reducing the symptoms associated with depression.

Is Cannabidiol safe? Side Effects and Safety

The uncertain safety of cannabidiol (CBD) has generated many concerns, however many CBD advocates assert its safety and effectiveness. There are legitimate concerns about areas that include:

  • Potential side effects
  • Limited clinical trials
  • Dosage
  • Quality of the CBD products
  • Potential interaction with other drugs
  • Lack of regulation by the FDA

Epidiolex, a prescription drug used to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, remains the only FDA regulated product made from CBD.

Safety and Side Effects

Some reported side effects associated with taking cannabidiol include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Appetite changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver injury (though this is uncommon)

Children: Higher doses of Epidiolex might cause side effects in children. You should stick with the recommended dosage.

Pregnant and Lactating Women: Limited information exists on the effects of cannabidiol in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, you should avoid cannabidiol use.

Parkinson’s Disease: Early research indicates that high doses of CBD could aggravate muscle movement and tremors seen in people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

CBD oil for Arthritis pain

What is Arthritis

Arthritis is defined as the inflammation and tenderness of one or more of your joints. A joint is an area where two or more bones meet. Common signs and symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, stiffness, redness, and decreased range of motion. There are over 100 different types of arthritis with different causes. The arthritis type determines the kind of treatment prescribed.

Two Common Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis causes break down of cartilage, which is the firm, slippery, connective tissue that covers the ends of bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes the immune system to attack the joints as though the joint structure was foreign to the body. The attack often starts with the cartilage lining of joints.

How CBD helps with Arthritis Pain

Some preliminary research, according to AF Arthritis Foundation, shows that CBD may help treat arthritis. CBD effectively relieves inflammation and arthritis pain in animal based studies. However, we are uncertain if this effect occurs in humans. Furthermore, the results of CBD clinical trials in humans were incoherent. For example, a 2016 clinical trial in humans diagnosed with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis showed that CBD improved sleep and reduced pain. However, the small size and the poor quality of the clinical trial rendered the results questionable.

As stated earlier, THC and CBD interact differently with the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD, unlike THC, does not interact directly with the CB1 receptors. It binds with the CB2 receptors found in large part in the immune system. CB2 receptors affect pain and inflammation. The association of CBD with CB2 receptors suggests that CBD might affect how the body reacts to pain and inflammation.

CBD oil and chronic pain

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks despite treatment or medication. The pain may feel dull or sharp, resulting in an aching or burning sensation in the affected parts. It may be intermittent or steady, waxing and waning without any known reason.

Research is about to verify the effectiveness of CBD oil in alleviating pain. Some evidence, obtained from animal based studies suggest that the association of CBD with the CB2 receptors reduces inflammation and eases chronic pain. CBD advocates assert that CBD oil promotes sound sleep by treating pain induced sleep disruption, which is common among people with chronic pain.

Moving forward, as the financial impact of grants reach the academic university and scientific community, there are several design concepts that can be used to explore the value of CBD in the reduction of arthritis pain.

  • Conduct large multicenter clinical trials across a wide cross section of the population
  • Design double-blind, placebo controlled investigations that reduce the influence of bias, opinion and testimonials.
  • Elucidate an appropriate individual dosage that minimizes side effects
  • Account for the emotional or affective element of this condition. Individuals who suffer with depression and anxiety due to severe constant pain may report an intensification of their symptoms which is not due to physical disease progression.

In continuing to study arthritis, we will find innovative methods incorporating proactive prevention and more timely treatment designed to reduce or eliminate bone erosion. It is essential for the long term management of arthritis to create a safe, effective, low base dose of CBD enhanced by bolus dosing controlled by the patient that will lead to patient comfort and return to a productive life

CBD is thought to produce an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effect that helps with overall pain management due to its interaction with the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. A 2018 review was completed to assess the effectiveness of CBD in relieving chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, cancer, and neuropathy. The researchers concluded that CBD was safe and effective in overall pain management and did not cause any adverse side effects.

Tips for Choosing a CBD Product

The lack of regulation by the U.S. FDA of the formulation and production of CBD products poses a risk to CBD consumers. The quality of the CBD products you take will determine its effects on you. That said, choosing a quality CBD product has never been more complicated than now. CBD products from different brands are everywhere and unfortunately, the quality differs. However, some tips can guide you in choosing the best CBD oil for arthritis pain.

Check the review

What does the review say about the brand? Checking a product review is mandatory, and you should start with this. A review will provide you with valuable information concerning the other customers’ experience with the product. This includes information on potential side effects, effectiveness based on other customers’ views, and additional information that can influence your buying decision.

You can also look up the literature published by the manufacturer. This will provide you answers to questions that include:

  • Do they conduct a third party lab test?
  • Do they use artificial ingredients?
  • Are they certified?

You can find answers to these questions and others by exploring Leafreport for quality online content delivering expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Leafreport offers consumers unbiased reviews of CBD producers and products.

Learn to read a CBD Lab Report

A CBD lab report contains valuable information every CBD consumer should learn to interpret. It contains information that includes:

  • The presence of contaminants. Is the product free of microbial and heavy metal contaminants?
  • CBD concentration: Is the information on the product’s label identical to the results obtained through lab testing?
  • Lab Accreditation: Is the lab testing your CBD product accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • The published date of the report: How recent is the report? The more recent it is, the more valuable and authentic it is.

Every reputable and legitimate CBD manufacturer will provide this information to consumers. Failure to provide this information is a red signal.

Choose The Suitable CBD Extract Type For You

CBD products come in different physical forms that include CBD isolate, full spectrum CBD, and broad spectrum CBD.

  • CBD isolate: Is the CBD extract derived from the hemp plant?
  • Are there any other cannabinoids, particularly THC?
  • Full spectrum CBD is CBD derived from the hemp plant that has not been isolated from other cannabinoids, including THC. This form of CBD can provide additional potential health benefits but the presence of THC content in excess of 0.3% alters the material into an illegal substance.
  • Broad spectrum CBD is CBD extracted from the hemp plant without THC.

Choose brand products from legalized states

Issues to watch out for before making a buying decision concerning a CBD product include:

  • Avoid brands that make explicit health claims about their CBD products. The FDA has warned against this.
  • Avoid gummies made with artificial colors and corn syrup
  • Opt for brands whose products indicate the measure of CBD and THC per serving, not only the total cannabinoid content in the pack.
  • Ask friends, families, and colleagues who are experiencing arthritis health challenges, which CBD oil works for them.
  • Ask your doctor for any forum you can join online that discusses arthritis and the benefits of CBD oil.
  • Discuss your plans with your doctor before using any CBD oil for arthritis pain. This will help you avoid potential side effects and drug interactions.

Arthritis prevalence is a national concern and, going by the AF estimation, more than 78 million Americans are likely to have doctor-diagnosed form of arthritis by 2040. This calls for a more pragmatic approach to tackling the epidemic. There is promising evidence, mostly from animal studies, that suggest CBD oil can reduce the symptoms of arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory and pain management effects. Further clinical trials directed toward gaining knowledge about CBD safety and effectiveness in humans are required. These will go a long way toward easing fears and, possibly, encourage more people to use CBD oil in managing not only arthritis but also other health issues.


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Diana Rangaves
Diana Rangaves
PharmD, Clinical Consultant, Google Scholar
Dr. Diana Rangaves is Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D). She graduated from the University of California, San Francisco and specializes in pharmacotherapy management. Diana has a broad range of acute clinical background and ambulatory care. She was an academic college professor; teaching critical thinking, ethics, pharmacology, addiction, behavior patterns, pharmacy, and nursing. As a Clinical Pharmacist, she is focused on chronic or disease state management.

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