For many who suffer from chronic pain, cannabidiol (CBD) oil can offer some relief. This naturally produced chemical is found in hemp and marijuana plants. Though research is still in its early stages, researchers have found CBD to be effective at reducing pain, inflammation, and general discomfort, especially in those who suffer from a chronic health condition. More research is needed to guarantee CBD’s benefits, though past studies have shown great promise. In this article, we will review how CBD effects the brain, its benefits when used to treat chronic pain, and its side effects.
How CBD Effects the Brain
CBD is a type of cannabinoid, a compound that is found naturally in many plants, including cannabis. Cannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. This system receives and translates signals from cannabinoids, which helps it to regulate bodily functions like pain, sleep, and immune system responses. The body also produces its own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids.
Unlike other cannabinoids, CBD does not have a psychoactive effect and it will not make you feel high. This feeling is attributed to another cannabinoid known as THC. CBD affects different receptors in the brain. In fact, CBD doesn’t directly interact with the receptors at all. Instead, it stimulates the body to use its self-made endocannabinoids, encouraging it to relieve pain on its own.
One way it helps with pain management is by preventing the body from absorbing anandamide. This is a compound that is associated with regulating pain. When there are higher levels of anandamide in the bloodstream, a person may feel less pain. CBD might also reduce inflammation in the nervous system and brain, which might offer relief for insomnia, pain, and other immune-system responses.
Effects on Chronic Pain
Because of the way CBD interacts with the receptors in the brain, it creates painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects that help those with chronic pain conditions. Let’s take a look at a few of the research reports that study the impact CBD has on chronic pain.
A review from 2008 addressed this issue directly by assessing how well CBD works when used to treat chronic pain. Researchers reviewed studies conducted between the late 1980s and 2007. According to their assessment, they concluded that CBD was an effective treatment for managing pain with no adverse side effects. They also found that CBD was helpful in treating insomnia associated with chronic pain. The authors of the study noted that CBD was most beneficial for those with multiple sclerosis (MS).
A more recent review from 2017 had similar findings. It looked at the therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. To gauge its use for chronic pain, researchers gathered the results of many systematic reviews that covered tens of studies and trials. The review determined that there is substantial proof that cannabis, and CBD specifically, are effective at helping adults treat chronic pain.
A third study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports the positive results found in the first two studies. Researchers found that CBD can suppress inflammation and pain. This study also found that subjects did not build up a tolerance to CBD over time, so there is no need to increase the dosage periodically.
There has also been research completed testing the effects of CBD on specific chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disease that impacts the whole body through the brain and nerves. One common symptom of MS is muscle spasms. In addition to the findings mentioned above, the 2017 review also found that short-term use of CBD may reduce the pain associated with these spasms and a reduction in other symptoms, too.
CBD is also often used to treat arthritis pain. One study published in the European Journal of Pain tested the effect of CBD on rats with arthritis. Researchers applied a topical gel containing CBD to the rats. They noticed a significant decrease in pain and inflammation without any side effects. Though more human studies are needed, people may get pain relief from their arthritis by using CBD.
Other Benefits for Those With Chronic Pain
CBD may also help to treat some of the side effects associated with conditions that cause chronic pain, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Those with chronic pain may experience insomnia at a higher rate than others. As mentioned before, there is evidence to suggest that using CBD can help to treat insomnia. Many users report feeling relaxed after using CBD, making it easier to fall asleep and experience deeper sleep.
According to a study by the University of Miami School of Medicine, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people with chronic pain also suffer from anxiety or depression. CBD can help to soothe and calm the nervous system, which helps to relieve anxiety. There is also evidence to suggest that CBD can help with depression.
Side Effects and Other Factors
In general, there are no side effects to taking CBD. It is well tolerated by most people, though some may experience mild side effects. A review of the safety and side effects of cannabidiol in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that the most common side effects were diarrhea, tiredness, weight gain or weight loss, and changes in appetite.
If you are considering using CBD to treat your chronic pain, talk to your doctor first. Using CBD oil may interact with certain medications, making them more or less effective. Your doctor will want to check for any changes and make alterations correspondingly.
The review also stated that were some aspects of CBD that have not been studied yet. For example, there has yet to be a comprehensive study completed on the long-term effects of CBD on hormones. Additional long-term studies will help in determining any side effects that CBD may have on the body over time.
You should also keep in mind that almost all research on CBD and chronic pain have studied its use by adults. It is not recommended that CBD is used by children as there has not yet been enough research completed on its effects on developing brains. CBD is also not suggested for women who are pregnant or breast feeding.