Cannabis naturally flowers in the fall. It’s an annual plant with a 4-5 month grow cycle. When grown for medicine, the females are isolated and given lots of love and attention. Well…they’re actually stressed beyond belief, but they’re certainly loved by the growers and patients they serve. The cannabis that I’m speaking on behalf of is no weed. It’s an amazingly beautiful flower that has been wrapped in a nasty stigma for half a century. This stigma, thankfully, cannot hold back the relief that medical marijuana brings to patients, or the scientific breakthroughs that have been made since it’s de-prohibition was legislated. For those looking for a natural relief, using CBD for pain can seem like a miracle. The undeniable truth is, this plant has been on earth for much longer than we tiny humans have and its complexity cannot be replicated in one of our tiny human labs.
How Does CBD Relieve Pain In The Body?
Cannabis has a profound influence on the human body. Cannabidiol (CBD for short) is one of many chemical elements in the cannabis plant. It has recently become famous for it’s ability to not get you high while also providing therapeutic effects for many conditions, such as anxiety, insomnia and pain. The way that CBD and all of the other cannabinoids in marijuana, works is by interacting and binding with a receptor system that humans have scattered throughout the body, called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are naturally found in the human body and are very molecularly similar to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. One of the peer-reviewed biomedical journals that I read recently states that the endocannabinoid system “is nothing less than a naturally evolved harm reduction system.” Our bodies naturally create these endocannabinoids in order to protect and regulate its natural healthy state. When a patient undergoes CBD treatment, their body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors (important parts of the endocannabinoid system) are stimulated. These receptors then create a biochemical response, initiated by the CBD’s interaction with the CB2 receptors, which specifically regulate pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
And THAT is how CBD works to relieve pain the body.
The Difference Between Using Pharmaceuticals VS. CBD For Pain Management
The versatility of cannabinoids is well understood, and using CBD for pain is as easy as smoking some CBD flower, taking CBD tinctures, CBD edibles, CBD capsules, isolate powders, CBD oil cartridges, or CBD topical lotions.
One major difference between synthetic opioid pain-relievers on the market and using CBD for pain is that cannabinoids have literally no risk of overdose fatality, and don’t create a physical addiction for users. Animal studies have shown that CBD can actually reduce the symptoms of morphine withdrawal and “normalizes heroin-induced impairment on the ‘glutamatergi’ receptors”; the underlying biological factors in addictive drug seeking behavior. Because cannabinoids are not physically addictive like opioids, users do not experience any immune or nervous system threatening withdrawal symptoms. What a huge breakthrough in pain management!
While the lack of physical addiction is a proven fact, some users do report experiencing some form of psychological addiction. This can be explained by the stress relieving effects of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that’s responsible for the euphoric “high” so often associated with cannabis. In the same way that using CBD for pain works by activating the CB2 receptor systems, THC works to provide benefits by activating the CB1 receptors. THC also causes the body to release surges of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters in the pleasure centers of the brain, which can be very desirable to users, relieving feelings of stress and anxiety associated with bad memories.
While this can create some fear in those who would seek to demonize cannabis, THC cannabinoids certainly have their place in medical marijuana. There’s something called, the “entourage effect”, in which all cannabinoids are working together in synergy to maximize the therapeutic potential. A “whole plant extract”, such as RSO, is a far superior medicine than an isolate product because it contains the full spectrum of therapeutic compounds in medical marijuana. Using isolated CBD for pain does provide relief to anyone looking to avoid the psycho-activity brought out by THC, but will not offer the full range of benefits. THC significantly reduces nausea and stimulates appetite, as well as aids CBD in relieving pain, making cannabis oil an excellent option for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Humans have coevolved with cannabis for thousands of years. A 2,700 year old grave of Caucasoid Shaman was recently discovered and contained over two pounds of cannabis, preserved by climatic burial conditions (Russo, 2008). Through botanical examination, an international team demonstrated that the ancient weed still contained the chemical THC, proving its significance to ancient cultures. As a species with advanced agricultural methods and scientific ambition; we’ve created a complex medicine by artificially selecting for plants that may offer the most medical benefits with minimal side effects.
There are currently thousands of peer reviewed journals in the scientific literature that document cannabinoids’ therapeutic potential on several conditions, including:
- Chronic Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Tourette’s Syndrome
With the combination of built-in endogenous harm reduction system in our bodies and legal access to marijuana medicines, we have another pain relieving option to add to our repertoire. Using cannabis oil for pain is a safe and effective botanical medicine that fights both pain and inflammation throughout the body. We can have a rational conversation about weighing the risks and the rewards of legalizing marijuana, but we must use evidence and critical thinking going forward. My intuition tells me that we should turn to the scientific method for our conclusions, not opinionated politicians or media pundits. Recognizing the surge of scientific discovery in the last decade regarding cannabis is imperative to the conversation, and is vital to flushing away the stigma attached to the industry. We are all just trying to help alleviate the pain and suffering in the world with our natural medicine! We mean no harm!
If you want to read further about some of the CBD oil research I read, talking about the benefits of using CBD oil for pain, check out these bad boys:
Earleywine, Mitch: Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. Oxford University Press: (2002). https://global.oup.com/academic/product/understanding-marijuana- 9780195182958?cc=us&lang=en&
Hurd, Yasmin. Yoon, Michelle: “Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage”(2015), 12(4), PMC4604178. http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC4604178
Izzo et al: “Non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids: new therapeutic opportunities from an ancient herb” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences (2009) 30: 515-527.
Jorge, Liliana L, Caroline C Feres, and Vitor EP Teles. “Topical Preparations for Pain Relief: Efficacy and Patient Adherence.” Journal of Pain Research 4 (2011): 11–24. PMC. Web. 23 Aug. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048583/
Juknat, Ana, et al. “Cannabidiol affects the expression of genes involved in zinc homeostatis in BV-2 microglial cells.” Neurochemistry international 61.6 (2012)
Marsicano, Giovanni: “The endogenous cannabinoid system controls extinction of aversive memories” Letters to Nature (2002), 418 https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6897/full/nature00839.html
Melamede, Robert : “Harm Reduction-The Cannabis Paradox” 2:17 (2005) https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-7517-2-17
Reddy, D: “ The Utility of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Refractory Epilepsy.” Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. (2016) 101: 182–184. doi:10.1002/cpt.441