CBD For Arthritis

Can cannabidiol (CBD) help people with arthritis? Patients’ reports and early research show that CBD offers arthritis pain relief.

One of the primary CBD oil benefits for arthritis sufferers is its positive effect on pain and inflammation, and research confirms it.

 The Chinese and Romans certainly thought cannabis could help with joint pain. As early as 2500 BCE, CBD appeared in the Chinese pharmacopeia. The Roman herbalist Dioscorides recommended it for joint pain in De Materia Medica. It also appears in Nicholas Culpeper’s well-known Complete Herbal of 1653 for “hard humors of knots in the joints.”

What is arthritis?

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis; it is, as the name implies, arthritis of the bone. It most commonly occurs as we age and lose cartilage in our joints, especially in our hands, hips, knees, and spine.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that is the result of inflammation in a joint’s interior lining. When our bodies fight what is perceived as an infection, our immune system attacks healthy tissue—in this case, our joints. The result is permanent joint damage and disability.

What Is CBD

Hemp and cannabis contain cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid. CBD won’t give you the intoxicating high that smoking or ingesting whole-plant cannabis induces.

Hemp and marijuana are different strains of cannabis. Hemp contains minimal THC, less than 0.3 percent. It’s commonly used in textiles, rope making, and for other commercial products. Cannabis, or medical marijuana, (for our purposes here simply called cannabis) has much higher quantities of THC. Each has other phytocannabinoids and terpenes (plant compounds that affect the taste, smell, and effects of phytocannabinoids) are naturally found in varying amounts.

How CBD works for pain

CBD works with your endocannabinoid system, which has a group of receptors that regulate our bodies’ reactions to things like anxiety, inflammation, and pain. Cannabinoids affect those receptors to inhibit or induce the release of neurotransmitters.

In the case of arthritis pain, researchers believe CBD works in 2 different parts of our bodies: our central nervous system and localized joint pain. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can make CBD a potential pain remedy for people with arthritis.

A 2017 study published in the journal, Pain, analyzed how CBD affects and prevents osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy. Researchers’ findings showed that CBD decreased joint inflammation and acted as a neuroprotectant.

CBD; a natural alternative to NSAIDs

Known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, CBD can relieve pain and inflammation without the painful gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) side effects of NSAIDs which are most often prescribed for systems of arthritis.

NSAIDs may also increase the chance of serious stomach and bowel side effects like ulcers and bleeding. These side effects can occur without warning signs. This risk may be greater in people who:

  • Are older.
  • Have a previous history of stomach ulcers or bleeding problems.
  • Are on blood thinners.
  • Are on multiple prescription or over-the-counter NSAIDs.
  • Drink three or more alcoholic beverages per day.

What form of CBD should I consider using to treat my arthritis pain?

By mouth

Oral forms may be capsules, food, or liquid. Once ingested orally, the digestive tract absorbs CBD. Because absorption rates vary, the onset of CBD’s effects can be delayed as much as 2 hours, depending on gut health, recent meals, and other factors.

Capsules, used daily, and once the required dose is known, can be safe and effective. Avoid taking CBD in the form of gummies or cookies, because dosing is unreliable. Edibles may also appeal to children and, if used, should be secured in a safe location.

Sprays or tinctures used sublingually offers more direct absorption into the bloodstream. Hold the liquid under the tongue for 1 – 2 minutes. Effects should be felt within an hour.

On the skin

CBD lotions, ointments, creams, and balms are applied over a painful joint.

Look for a CBD topical formula that contains organic ingredients. Carrier oils and waxes such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax are beneficial to the skin and help the oil penetrate more effectively.  Essential oils such as lavender, calendula, comfrey, and arnica can help treat pain along with CBD.  Anecdotally, some users report a preference for “plain” CBD topicals; those with simple carrier oils but no added essentials. 

Topicals such as Relief Rub by Saving Grace can also help soothe scrapes, burns, and bug bites, in addition to soothing muscle and joint pain.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions against vaping. While CBD can be inhaled by using a vaporizing, or vape, pen, inhalation of vapor oils and chemical byproducts carry unknown risks. That’s especially true for arthritis patients. The CDC is investigating widespread vaping-related health incidents related to a severe form of pulmonary disease, including hospitalization and death.

How much CBD should I use for arthritis?

Currently, there is little guidance on the dosage levels for arthritis treatment. Patients and their doctors will need to decide what level works best through trial dosages.

CBD oils and tinctures are mixed with a carrier oil, usually some form of vegetable oil or vegetable glycerin. There are many different carrier oils: coconut, olive, avocado, hemp seed, sesame, or grape seed. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are a popular oil; it’s also a longtime dietary supplement.

The critical thing to understand is how much CBD is in each dose.  Ask your provider how much CBD is delivered per dropper or check the label for the amount of CBD in each dose.

The Arthritis Foundation has recommended starting with a low CBD dosage and increasing it slowly. Between 2 – 5 mg of CBD administered sublingually twice daily is a good starting level. Be sure to hold the tincture or oil under the tongue for 1 – 2 minutes.

After a week, if the pain isn’t alleviated, try doubling the dose. Continue increasing slowly over several weeks until the pain is relieved. Once pain relief is achieved, keep taking that amount. Continue that dosage twice daily to keep the level of CBD at a stable level in the blood. Most people obtain relief at 20 – 35mg daily, but it differs from person to person.

If CBD alone doesn’t work and it’s legal in your state, consider taking CBD along with a very low dose of THC. Ask the budtender at your local dispensary to help you find a strain that has terpenes that will address pain and inflammation, and keep your THC dosage under 5mg.  Usually, the recommendation is to take pure CBD during the day and the CBD-THC combination at night. According to consumer reviews, some of the most popular THC strains for pain relief are purple kush, ACDC, and Harlequin. 

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Andrew Mattison

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