by Edie Horstman
Inflammation is part of the body's immune response. Though some inflammation is necessary to thrive ( for examplethe healing of infections, wounds and tissue damage require an inflammatory response), it can also play a role in a variety of chronic diseases. Acute symptoms include redness, swelling, pain and stiffness. Pervasive, chronic inflammation can eventually lead to several diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and possibly even cancer.
In addition to conditions such as heart disease and cancer, chronic inflammation is also associated with bone disease (osteoporosis), metabolic disorder complications (such as type 2 diabetes), chronic inflammatory diseases (Irritable Bowel Disease) and neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). In some cases, the body’s defense system—the immune response—triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign invaders to fight off. In these conditions, called autoimmune diseases, the body's normally protective immune system attacks its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues were abnormal or foreign.
Targeting Inflammation with CBD
While a wide variety of prescription medicines can help decrease inflammation in the body, research indicates that cannabidiol has the ability to reduce pain and inflammation. CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. Unlike THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis sativa, CBD is a non-psychotropic derivative of the plant, and it offers a wide range of effects, reducing inflammation and reversing the damaging effects of free radicals. Furthermore, CBD regulates the function of the immune system and assists in keeping the body in homeostasis.
1. Joint Pain
Recent studies suggest that CBD oil can play a role in the treatment of arthritis. Whether rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, or osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage and bones, arthritis causes pain and stiffness. A 2006 study found that a cannabis-based mouth spray called Sativex helped to relieve arthritis pain. The cannabis plant extracts that the company used to make the spray contain both CBD and THC, however. While CBD is available as an oil or in softgels, applying a CBD-infused cream or gel to the skin can be more effective for areas affected by arthritis.
2. Muscle Soreness
A CBD salve doesn't just alleviate pain, like a warm rub or a cooling menthol liniment. Instead, it actually fights inflammation at its source. When applied directly to skin over the sore muscle, it temporarily relieves soreness from strain or an intense workout. Gym-goers and athletes find that CBD salves reduce recovery time, assisting in pain relief between workouts.
3. Menstrual Pain
During a woman’s menstrual period, her uterus contracts to expel its lining. Hormone-like substances involved in pain and inflammation trigger these uterine muscle contractions. These substances, such as prostaglandins, are associated with more-severe menstrual cramps. However, when cramps strike, try rubbing a CBD-infused lotion on your lower belly and pelvis every few hours. It may have the power to make any unbearable pain more tolerable.
During a headache, nerves associated with blood vessels are activated and send pain signals to the brain—signals that are ultimately caused by inflammation. Other conditions that can cause an acute headache include sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), pharyngitis (inflammation or infection of the throat) or otitis (ear infection or inflammation). Cannabidiol oil may relieve such pain and reduce inflammation, and it shows some promise as a treatment for migraines. In a review of studies published in 2017, researchers saw a useful and effective role for marijuana in treating migraine, but more studies are needed on the use of CBD oil specifically.
Inflammation in various parts of the digestive system can be associated with chronic nausea. In some cases, nausea might be an adverse effect of medications or the result of a complication (such as a bowel obstruction). It may be due to a virus that affects the stomach and causes acute nausea and vomiting (such as food poisoning). Chronic nausea, however, can be a symptom of inflammation from an autoimmune disorder, such as in the case of leaky gut. But research shows that you can manage nausea with CBD. Relatively small doses of CBD have been shown to help alleviate both nausea and vomiting. CBD can also be effective in easing anxiety, helping to manage the angst of chronic nausea.
Edie Horstman is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger and freelance writer. She works with health-focused brands, co-creating content in the digital marketing space. She lives in Denver, Colorado.