January 11, 2023

Does CBD Reduce Inflammation or Just Pain?

The health and wellness space is abuzz with new products promising to offer much more than the usual vague panaceas and nostrums. In truth, these products are not new per se; they have been used for centuries in traditional medical systems from ancient Greece to India, China, and medieval Rome. 

Indeed, cannabis is a popular component of ancient medical systems. From Ayurveda of India to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) of China, cannabis is considered a treatment for wide-ranging ailments. 

Due to the lack of technological know-how, early herbalists used cannabis or whole-plant extracts in their practice. Today, the situation has somewhat changed– we can harvest the bioactive compounds in cannabis and use them for targeted functions.

One that is immensely popular at the moment is cannabidiol (or CBD). It belongs to the family of cannabis compounds called cannabinoids. It is the second most abundant cannabis compound after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which you probably know about due to its intoxicating effect.

Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not have mind-altering effects. This is a major reason why it is widely used in many health supplements. It is also the only cannabis compound excluded from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned substances! This says a lot about it.

Nonetheless, there have been questions about its effect(s) on pain and inflammation. So, for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who know more about pain and inflammation (and any other person), which of these two symptoms is CBD particularly effective against?

Let’s get to it.

Key takeaways

  • CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from cannabis.
  • It exerts its pharmacological effects, such as pain and inflammation relief, via diverse cellular pathways.
  • A growing body of evidence suggests that CBD may help reduce inflammation and pain and is a promising pharmaceutical agent for managing inflammatory conditions.

What we know about using CBD for pain management

There have been many studies on CBD’s painkilling effect, many of which suggest the effect is bettered by combining CBD with THC. in fact, most of these studies have tested the analgesic effect of nabiximols. 

Nabiximols are drugs that combine CBD and THC, usually in a ratio of 1:1. These are the most commonly used pharmaceutical products for pain management, e.g., Sativex. Researchers have largely concluded that in such formulations, it is difficult to attribute the analgesia to CBD alone.

Be that as it may, a study that singularly examined CBD’s potential to reduce pain concluded that it demonstrates analgesic effects. It adds that CBD appears to exert analgesia via different routes and identified 76 distinct molecular targets. Among these, ion and enzyme channels are the most preferred routes.

So, where does THC come into play? 

Researchers are convinced that although both cannabinoids, i.e., THC and CBD, are analgesic, their combination reduces the effective dose of each that could induce analgesia as opposed to if they were used individually.

In other words, while the CBD dose used in clinical studies is typically high (> 15+ mg), when combined with THC, it has been shown that only 2.5 mg of CBD and 2.7 mg of THC can effectively reduce pain, reduce fatigue, and insomnia, and better sleep quality. See the difference mixing CBD and THC makes!

What does all this mean? It means that while CBD’s ability to alleviate pain is not doubtable, the effect is enhanced when teamed with THC. Perhaps, this is another proof that the much talked about “entourage effect” of cannabis is real after all.

Today, CBD is a major ingredient in many pre-workouts, notably for its ability to reduce pain. As a result, its use in sports is extensive and frequent, especially among older athletes.

How does CBD work for pain

To understand how CBD works for pain, we first have to talk about a neuromodulatory system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Every mammalian creature has an ECS because it mediates many vital bodily functions. Without the ECS, our bodies would not easily revert to their optimal functioning state.

The ECS is essentially a network of receptors, enzymes, and neurotransmitter chemicals (also known as endocannabinoids) that work synergistically to maintain body balance (homeostasis). So, whenever there is an imbalance in the body, these neurotransmitters bind to like-minded receptors and trigger processes to correct the imbalance.

Once the correction is complete, the enzymes break down the neurotransmitters and stop the process. This is vitally important because if the corrective measure continued indefinitely, it would cause more problems.

Remember, these neurotransmitters are effectively cannabinoids, meaning they are chemically similar to plant cannabinoids like THC and CBD. In fact, THC and a neurotransmitter called N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide) both activate the CB1 receptors, producing similar behavioral effects. For this reason, anandamide is considered an analog of THC.

CBD affects the ECS in a similar fashion, even though it does not bind strongly to either CB1 or CB2 – the dominant receptors in the ECS. On the contrary, CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors and demonstrates a weak affinity for CB2 receptors.

Studies show that CBD influences these receptors through negative allosteric modulation. But first, when we talk about endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) binding to receptors, there are two types of activity sites involved. These are orthosteric and allosteric sites. Let’s make sense of these.

Orthosteric sites are the locations at which endogenous ligands like anandamide bind. Conversely, allosteric binding sites are distinct activity sites on receptors to which small molecules and proteins can bind to modulate receptor activity.

Molecules that bind to the allosteric sites of receptors are called allosteric agonists. These are capable of activating the receptors without the input of other ligands. 

On the other hand, allosteric modulators are molecules that alter the efficacy and potency of an orthosteric ligand/molecule but cannot activate the receptor on its own.

As such, allosteric modulators, like CBD, do not have an intrinsic efficacy. Their effect(s) is mainly determined by the presence of other orthosteric molecules.

Plant cannabinoids like THC can produce adverse effects because they can down-regulate or over-activate a receptor. Meanwhile, allosteric modulators of CB1Rs do not have negative effects because their ability to do so depends on the presence of other ligands, mainly 2-arachidonylglyerol (2-AG) and anandamide.

The phytocannabinoid CBD can induce wide-ranging physiological processes, including pain relief, by modulating activity at multiple cellular effectors such as the CB1 and CB2 receptors, GPR55, 5HT1A receptors, the μ‐ and δ‐opioid receptors, TRPV1 ion channels, FAAH,  and PPARγ receptors.

At these receptors, CBD can be an agonist (e.g., 5HT1A and TPRV1), an antagonist (e.g., GPR55 and CB1 receptors), a negative allosteric modulator (e.g., CB1 receptors), an inhibitor (e.g., FAAH), and partial agonist (e.g., D2 dopamine receptors). 

This ability to influence various receptors makes CBD an incredibly unique cannabinoid.

Does CBD Reduce Inflammation or Just Pain?

CBD demonstrates the ability to alleviate inflammation and pain. A recent survey showed that among people who use CBD, pain relief, anxiety and stress were the top reasons for doing so. So, there could be something that makes people trust that CBD can help reduce pain and inflammation.

But more importantly, scientific inquiries provide evidence that CBD is potentially valuable in treating seizures, anxiety, inflammation, and different types of pain.

For example, the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health affirms that CBD “could have modest benefits for chronic pain.” 

Another recent scientific study reports that CBD could positively affect pain relief, sleep improvement, and minimizing inflammatory responses.

Further, a review of clinical trials conducted on over 1000 patients with neuropathic pain showed that those treated with cannabinoids reported “a significant but clinically small reduction in pain.”

On arthritis pain, a study published in the European Journal of Pain demonstrated that CBD treatment on animal models with arthritis pain “resulted in a significant drop in inflammation and pain symptoms” with no side effects.

For chronic pain, results from dozens of clinical trials and studies conclude that there is “substantial evidence” that CBD may effectively treat chronic pain and inflammation. Moreover, people using CBD are unlikely to develop tolerance, so they would not need to increase the dosage over time.

However, it is noteworthy that, though promising, such findings are not exclusively obtained from human studies. The majority come from animal studies, hence the need for more research on CBD’s effect on inflammation and pain.

Are pain and inflammation related?

Yes, pain and inflammation are nearly always related, although they are separate conditions.

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience” that may be caused by tissue damage.

For its part, inflammation is usually the body’s way of responding to injury. It is often characterized by an increased flow of blood and lymph to the affected part, which typically leads to swelling and the accumulation of fluids.

Inflammation can cause pain when the swelling applies pressure on nerve endings. The nerves then send signals to the brain, which are interpreted as pain. Simply put, inflammation is the origin of a great deal of pain.

Like pain, inflammation is classified into two – chronic and acute. Chronic inflammation is associated with diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s, colitis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. 

Inflammation is typically symptomized by:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Loss of function
  • Heat
  • Redness

Pain can also be acute or chronic. Acute pain is self-limiting and is often caused by inflammation, tissue injury, or disease. It is generally felt for a while but can turn chronic in rare cases. On the other hand, chronic pain is thought to be a disease in itself.

Pain is the most frequent reason for physician consultation in the US, leading 50% of Americans to seek medical attention every year. Interestingly, despite its prevalence, the main treatment options have not changed much over the years. NSAIDs, opioids, and steroids are the primary options despite the known downsides. 

Does pain cause inflammation?

Although pain and inflammation are intricately connected, pain does not cause inflammation. Instead, inflammation is more often the reason behind the pain.

What we know about CBD and inflammation

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties have been the subject of many studies, all of which conclude that this phytocannabinoid exhibits anti-inflammatory activities.

The mechanism(s) by which it exerts its anti-inflammatory effect is still under study, but early evidence appears to point to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

In particular, CBD’s affinity for CB2 receptors, though weak, is thought to be instructive in this regard. 

CB2 receptors are predominantly found in the peripheral immune system and are actively involved in modulating immune system signaling and inflammatory responses in the body.

Since CBD can activate these receptors, it is thought to influence anti-inflammatory responses in the body.

How does CBD help inflammation?

Even though the complete mechanism(s) through which CBD helps reduce inflammation is unclear, a 2015 study proposes that CBD may help with inflammation by:

  • Preventing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines
  • Triggering T-cell apoptosis
  • Impeding the proliferation of T cells
  • Stopping immune cells from migrating 

Further, CBD uses numerous pathways to exert its pharmacological effects. Research shows it can also affect inflammation and redox balance by activating TRP ion channels.

Another family of receptors whose activation contributes to lessening inflammatory responses in the body are the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). These nuclear receptors are involved in diverse metabolic functions such as energy regulation, glucose metabolism, and homeostasis.

Consequently, they are implicated in numerous body processes, including improving inflammation, obesity, adipocyte differentiation, and anti-tumor effect. The good news is that CBD is a PPAR agonist, so it can activate these receptors to mitigate the effects of inflammation in the body.

What CBD is best for inflammation?

The best CBD for inflammation typically depends on the severity of the condition. Remember, inflammation comes in two forms – chronic and acute.

Topical CBD for acute inflammation

Acute inflammation often starts with an injury to a tissue. For this type of inflammation, topical CBD is ideal because it can be applied directly to the affected tissue. Indeed, CBD topical formulations are an increasingly popular remedy for inflammation that is not deep-tissue.

CBD oils and capsules for chronic inflammation

In the case of chronic inflammation, CBD oils and capsules are the best. That’s because these enter the bloodstream and provide a more holistic impact. 

Where to buy CBD products online 

So, if you are looking for high-quality CBD online, Dragon Hemp is the go-to retailer. We develop clean, safe, effective CBD products from organic sources of the highest grade. 

If chronic inflammation prevents you from living your life, try these Relief recovery capsules, practitioner-formulated with premium CBD isolate and an array of medicinal herbs like corydalis, turmeric, and frankincense to promote blood circulation and help reduce inflammation and pain.

You can also try this potent Relief recovery tincture that packs 1,200 mg of hemp-derived CBD and Chinese herbs to achieve the same effect. Since this tincture contains more CBD, it acts more strongly on the endocannabinoid system leading to faster relief from pain and inflammation.

Alternatively, you can go with this Warming Balm, specifically formulated to address chronic inflammation and pain. This balm is made with premium full-spectrum CBD enriched with Dragon’s Blood, Aconite, and other Chinese herbs to facilitate deep penetration into muscle tissue, stimulating blood flow and fast-tracking the healing process.

On the other hand, if you are suffering from acute inflammation, maybe due to overexertion or tissue injury, this Cooling Balm will help cool the affected muscle tissue, promote blood circulation and reduce swelling. With 3,600 mg of full-spectrum CBD blended with menthol, corydalis, and Chinese herbs, this is the go-to for anyone seeking immediate relief from acute inflammatory pain.

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