People rave about CBD oil for pain, but how does it actually work? Is there just one type of pain it can help? How much should I take? Is there a best kind?
Through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD impacts a wide variety of receptors throughout the body, potentially making it a beneficial aid for pain relief from very different issues. Chronic pain people use CBD for include but aren’t limited to:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Migraines and headaches
- Arthritis, joint, and muscle pain
- Endometriosis and other reproductive disorders
- Menstrual pain
- Back pain
- Nerve pain
- Neuropathic pain
CBD also acts through “various receptor-independent pathways”, which means it delays the “reuptake” of neurotransmitters (like anandamide and adenosine) and inhibits the binding action of some G-protein coupled receptors.
CBD for vomiting and nausea
Cannabidiol directly activates the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, well-known for reducing anxiety. But this receptor, found in both the central & peripheral nervous systems, also deals with addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, vomiting, and nausea. For nausea, CBD controls the serotonin flow to reduce the stimulation of the vomiting center in the brain. CBDA (the raw, unheated version of CBD in the cannabis plant) has an even stronger affinity for this receptor. Studies show CBDA acting as a powerful antiemetic, stronger than other cannabinoids that have effective anti-nausea properties.
CBD for migraines and headaches
CBD for migraine pain is becoming more popular. It binds to the TRPV1 receptor, which controls pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation. TRPV1 is activated by eugenol, an antiseptic & analgesic oil found in vanilla that helps unclog blood vessels. It’s also activated by capsaicin—the spiciness in chili peppers. Activation of this receptor is common in the treatment of headaches and migraines. When CBD binds to TRPV1, it can influence pain perception and ease headaches caused by restricted blood vessels. The cannabinoid anandamide (AEA) is also a TRPV1 agonist.
Research indicates chronic migraine sufferers often have clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED).
CBD for nerve pain and growth
Most lesions deal with nerve innervation, causing nerve pain. Some deal with deep-infiltrating lesions embedded into bodily tissue, such as those with endometriosis and cancer. These deeper lesions have an even higher density of nerves. The ECS regulates nerve growth, and CB1 receptors are on the nerves innervating lesions. CBD interferes with innervation by preventing activation of this receptor, thus preventing more nerve growth. That, paired with the TRPV1 activation, can provide immense relief.
CBD for menstrual pain
The ECS plays an important role in the healthy function of the female reproductive tract. The endometrium has a significant source of cannabinoids, and AEA levels are high in the uterus. CBD has especially been shown to help those suffering from menstrual disorders like endometriosis, PCOS, or ovarian cysts. Endocannabinoids are involved in regulating/preventing cell-migration, and CBD has shown it can stop endometrial cells from migrating (by blocking the activation of the GPR18 receptor).
Painful tissues can only grow if they’re able to create a network of blood vessels (known as vascularization) to supply them with nutrients. Research on endometriotic lesions is limited, but plenty of research supports CBD can inhibit vascularization of cancerous lesions, which have many similarities. So this would not only cut off the life-force being given to the lesions, but it helps the body start absorbing the nutrients being hijacked by lesions in the first place.
CBD for arthritis and joint pain
The GPR55 receptor’s heavily expressed in the brain, particularly the cerebellum. It helps modulate blood pressure, bone density, other physiological processes, and promotes osteoclast cell function.
CBD is a GPR55 antagonist, which means it blocks GPR55 signaling. An overactive GPR55 receptor is associated with osteoporosis and cancer cell growth. So as a GPR55 antagonist, CBD may decrease bone reabsorption and cell proliferation.
CBD for muscle and back pain
CBD has been shown to act as a relaxant and antispasmodic, which means it relieves muscle spasms. Not only that, but it’s regularly used as an anti-inflammatory too. So while some muscle and back pain is caused by muscle spasms, those tight muscles are often caused by inflammation, whether from nutrition, poor posture, stress, or other conditions.
CBD for inflammation
Which leads me to one of the most common reasons for chronic pain: inflammation. With the immune system, there is always a balance between inflammation and anti-inflammation. It may sound contradictory to say the body needs inflammation, but inflammation is an important way it protects and heals itself from injuries.
Inflammation is when white blood cells accumulate at the site of an injury. Most of these cells eat bacteria/other harmful stimuli and clean out debris caused by the trauma. Inflammation’s purpose is to eliminate the initial cause of injury, get rid of damaged cells and tissues, and start the repair process. When the immune system is out of balance, people deal with chronic inflammation, which can cause a great deal of pain.
Cannabinoid receptors are found in the immune system, specifically the white blood cells. We know that these white blood cells fight infections by attacking bacteria, viruses, and germs. Taking CBD consistently can help these cells communicate consistently, so they can protect the body against daily threats to the immune system, preventing future pain.
How much CBD should I take for pain?
How much CBD is enough? Everyone’s body and needs are unique, so each person’s ideal dosage will be too. How much an individual need is based on their condition, chemical makeup, and cannabinoid tolerance. Between 20mg – 30mg twice daily is a good starting dose for someone who does not regularly partake in cannabis.
For those who do, a starting dose of 45mg twice daily may provide more noticeable results. If not achieving the desired results after a week, adjust the dosage accordingly. As with anything, it will take time to find how much, the ingestion method, and the brand that works best for you. Consistency is key. With daily use, CBD can encourage homeostasis (inner balance) through more efficient bodily communication & its interaction with the immune system.
What is the best CBD for pain?
I hear this question a lot: “What’s the best CBD for pain?” Again, since everyone’s different, and there are so many ways to take it, the “best” CBD for pain will vary. However, taking CBD internally provides the full effect of the compound and tends to last longer in the system.
Topical creams work best for more immediate pain relief in localized areas where there may be an injury or inflammation. Because of the nature of topical vs. ingestion, you’ll likely need to reapply the topical more often, but it will act more quickly than ingestion.
Patches are also an easy and discreet way to take CBD internally. Though it’s ideal to place on a venous area (like the wrist or ankle), you can still place the patch directly onto painful areas. They’re also helpful for those sensitive to tastes.
Although CBD is not a magical “cure”, it can greatly support the healing process and help the pain associated with physical or mental conditions. It’s most effective when paired with balanced nutrition and lifestyle, so take time to discover what makes your body & heart happiest.