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CBD for Pain Relief: The Mechanism & Effects

February 01, 2018

According to Arcview Market Research/BDS Analytics- Marijuana sales in North America reached $6.73 billion in 2016—reflecting 34% growth over 2015 ($5.04 billion) and is expected to jump to nearly $22 billion by 2021, representing a 27% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

These robust numbers certainly project cannabis as a miracle herb.

Today, cannabis is believed to be a potential treatment for a host of diseases. It offers a plethora of health benefits, like weight loss, improved sleep, mood, and creativity. But aside from these everyday uses, marijuana can also be used as a medicine.

In fact, medical marijuana is considered a natural alternative for pain relief that is being consumed by many individuals to address this incredibly debilitating condition.

How does Cannabis help in alleviating pain?

Cannabis contains over 400 different chemical compounds, out of which about 70 are cannabinoids. Out of these cannabinoids two most well-known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These two cannabinoids give cannabis powerful immune modulation and anti-inflammatory properties making it effective in pain management.

So, when cannabis is consumed, its cannabinoids engage with the body’s endocannabinoid system and changes the way the body regulates the pain by enhancing the body’s self-repair system. It calms the inflammation and gives the nerves and tissues some time to recover.

THC is known to have anti-inflammatory properties which get triggered when it directly connects to the CB2 receptor, it somehow provokes the death of immune cells that attack the body in an overactive immune system.

CBD, on the other hand, is known to increase the level of endocannabinoids in the body and is anti-proliferative, thus prevents inflammation by preventing the active immune cells from spreading further. When these two powerful antioxidants together engage with the body’s CB2 receptors they help in alleviating the pain and inflammation.

CBD oil is also highly beneficial for any kind of joint pain; it can be taken internally or added with coconut oil to make a cannabis-infused hand cream.

What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

Our body has a natural pain regulator system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is a large complex network of cell receptors and cannabis-like compounds, such as anandamide and 2-AG, that influence many of our bodily functions such as mood, appetite, sleep, immune system, and pain.

It plays an essential role in maintaining the balance and the overall health of our body. CB1 and CB2 are the two main receptors found in ECS. CB1 receptors are found in the body’s central nervous system, connective tissues and organs and CB2 receptors are found in body’s periphery, immune system, and its associated structures.

The activation of CB2 receptors has found to be very effective in the treatment of many inflammatory conditions. According to a scientific paper published in Rheumatology, the joint tissues of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (an extremely painful condition) contained an unusually high amount of CB2 receptors, which according to researchers is the response of the body’s endocannabinoid system to reduce inflammation.

Effects of cannabis

According to Dr. Michael Lee of Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB), cannabis does not act like conventional pain relief medicine, as not everyone reacts to medical cannabis in the same way. Some people may respond to it considerably, while others not at all.  He also added "Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates. Instead, cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way."

Unlike opioids, cannabis does not affect the pain centers of the brain, thereby relieving it of any addictive capabilities. In other words, cannabis has a much lower likelihood of addiction, and many patients are therefore resorting to utilizing medical CBD.

Opioids work in a totally different manner. Once they enter the blood vessels of the patient and reach the brain, the transporters help them travel to the target cells where they bind to the receptors. This binding gives the patient a sense of pain relief. Over the time that these receptors bind with more and more opiates, a process of tolerance occurs, and opioids stop having the same effect on the brain as they had originally. At this point, the patient needs a higher dose of opioids to achieve the same relief. Thus begins the process of opioid addiction.

Prolonged use of opioids involves potentially life-threatening side effects. Whereas, medical cannabis helps ease pain and reduce inflammation without any side effects.

A study by NCBI also concluded that cannabinoids demonstrated an analgesic effect and are safe in the management of chronic pain.

The Future

Cannabinoid pain relief may be the answer to the opioid epidemic.

Transdermal patches and lotions are some of the most recent (and potent) innovations of the fast moving therapeutic industry. They help to ease pain linked to conditions such as fibromyalgia, diabetes, and neuropathy. Veedverks Amelia topical CBD lotion, is one such product showing promise of helping many people.

Such new pharmaceutical medicinal applications are just the tip of the iceberg for what we see as the future of medical cannabis.


Jessica JonesJessica Jones is a  Medical Marijuana advocate, who believes  in the healing power of this plant and is confident that the billion dollar “greenrush” will be life changing for many. She frequently writes about cannabis trends and benefits providing quality insight on current events.