Aging may be a universal complaint, but what a complaint it is! One of the most common, and sometimes one of the most crippling, problems that aging can cause is arthritis1. According to the CDC, there are 53 million Americans who suffer from a form of arthritis, which is most common in seniors but can strike at any age. “Arthritis” is an umbrella term describing around 200 different diseases, all of which damage the joints and surrounding tissues by inflammation. It is the most common cause of disability in the United States, and can take away the ability to work or perform daily tasks. On the other hand, legal medical cannabis is linked with a 9.4% increase in workforce participation among those over 50, which may partly be caused by an effect on arthritis. This idea is not new. Hemp has been described as a useful way to relieve the pain of arthritis as early as 2800 BC. More recently, anecdotal reports have described the benefits of hemp extracts on both humans and animals with arthritis.
So how could hemp oil and cannabinoids help? Components of hemp, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may relieve the pain and inflammation associated with these diseases3. In a study of 58 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a cannabis extract mostly containing THC and CBD was tested against a placebo over 5 weeks of treatment. After 5 weeks, there were significant improvements in both pain on movement and rest, as well as quality of sleep and DAS28 scores. The DAS28 measures the severity of rheumatoid arthritis using the number of tender joints, the number of swoll
en joints, the blood level of inflammatory markers and the patient’s subjective assessment of their health. An earlier study on mice demonstrated the exact effects of CBD5. Administration of CBD resulted in reduced production and function of inflammatory chemicals, and reduced the growth in numbers of immune cells involved in arthritis. In addition to inflammation, cannabinoids such as CBD can also relieve pain1. One researcher states that they can control the transmission of pain signals to the brain by binding to nerve receptors.
Apart from CBD, there are other components of hemp that may help to fight arthritis6. Cannabichromene (CBC) has shown both analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. “Analgesic” means that it relieves pain without affecting cognition or consciousness. Cannabigerol (CBG) is also analgesic, and may be anti-inflammatory by blocking the often nasty lipoxygenase pathway. These abilities have even been described as superior to THC, which, though psychoactive, is the most researched cannabinoid.
The terpenes could offer valuable contributions to arthritis relief too. Beta-myrcene could be anti-inflammatory by blocking the key inflammatory pathway controlled by prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). It may also be analgesic and is part of hops, a herbal medicine recognised to aid sleep in Germany. Alpha-pinene is anti-inflammatory by the PGE1 pathway, and so is beta-caryophyllene. In fact, beta-caryophyllene has shown equal effects to some types of toxic drugs, but without the potential dangers. In conclusion, hemp may be just the thing for arthritis, though more clinical trials on non-psychoactive strains could be advisable.