Full spectrum hemp oil is rich in CBD and other bioactive compounds shown to positively affect chronic pain and inflammatory outcomes.
Hemp actives known as phenolic compounds work by interacting with our body's endocannabinoid system and other molecular targets that play key roles in regulating pain sensation.
Chronic Pain Management
There are two types of chronic pain: neuropathic pain and inflammatory nociceptive pain. Studies suggest that cannabinoids can help alleviate both of these.
In fact, although clinical studies are still in their early days, a 2019 survey of 1,321 participants found that approximately 80% reported substituting cannabinoids for traditional pain medications.
Preliminary findings show that not only are some patients able to ween off opioids when supplementing with hemp oil, but that they can also experience a variety of other improvements in health outcomes such as improvements in sleep.
An 8 week study looked at the effects of hemp derived CBD oil on 97 chronic pain patients between the ages of 30 and 60, who had been on opioids for at least 1 year.
Within 8 weeks of adding CBD rich hemp oil to their regimens, half (53%) of these chronic pain patients reported reducing or eliminating opioids and 94% of study participants reported quality of life improvements.
The researchers stated that their findings are consistent with emerging literature on the topic which has concluded that CBD is an effective analgesic that helps reduce barriers to opioid reduction.
Hemp Oil for Neuropathic Pain
The glutaminergic system, a major excitatory neuronal pathway, is largely responsible for creating and sustaining neuropathic pain. CBD appears to inhibit the release of inflammatory agents such as glutamate, which makes it neuroprotective and very good at diminishing the tingling, prickling and burning sensations that characterize neuropathic pain.
One study of patients experiencing opioid resistant cancer pain showed that THC and CBD administration resulted in statistically significant improvements over placebo whereas the THC only group was similar to placebo.
Hemp Oil for Inflammatory Pain
Although it is related to neuropathic pain, inflammatory pain is not limited to neurons. Examples of inflammatory pain include headaches, cramps, muscle aches and pains, all types of arthritis, and some autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Some researchers theorize that endocannabinoid deficiency underlies the pathophysiology of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and other functional conditions characterized by inflammation and alleviated by cannabinoids. One study from the University of Colorado which examined the effect of medical cannabis on migraine headaches showed that the frequency of migraine headaches decreased with cannabis use.
Traditional anti-inflammatory drugs work by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2 receptors, a process that may lead to an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal ulcers or heart attacks. Unlike these drugs, cannabidiol or CBD has an anti-inflammatory mechanism that is unique to the cannabis plant and studies have shown that when compared to NSAIDs like Ibuprofen, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are up to twenty times more potent anti-inflammatory agents.
A 2015 study involving a rat model of arthritis showed that transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced pro-inflammatory biomarkers and joint swelling, suggesting the therapeutic potential of CBD oil in relieving arthritis-related pain and inflammation.
Another mouse study by Malfait et al showed that orally administered CBD decreased inflammation and effectively blocked the progression of arthritis.
How it works
Researchers are still uncovering the different pathways and receptors with which hemp oil actives interact to exert their actions. Two of the most notable mechanisms of action are hemp's effects on the endocannabinoid system and opioid pathways.
Since its discovery almost three decades ago, the endocannabinoid system, due to its involvement in the control of inflammatory and nociceptive, or pain-related responses, has emerged as a target for pain treatment.
One way hemp cannabinoids affect pain is via interactions with our body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which among many other things plays a role in pain related immune responses such as inflammation, is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, and regulates the stimulation of nerve cells to increase or decrease pain.
The ECS is a main signaling and control network located throughout every part of our body. Because it is responsible for our experience of pain and inflammation, it is a critical target of research into pain therapeutics.
Our endocannabinoid systems produce their own endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG in response to painful stimuli.
Unlike neurotransmitters which are formed and stored in vesicles until they are needed, endocannabinoids are synthesized on demand. Formed when and where they are needed, endocannabinoids regulate the release of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters. Helping the body to withstand all sorts of damage, they are also involved in healing, regulating appetite, and modulating sleep. Researchers believe that the endocannabinoid system is involved in essentially all human diseases.
When the body experiences chronic pain and inflammation the endocannabinoid system can become taxed.
The ability of hemp cannabinoids like CBD to target the ECS is why hemp oil and its constituents have been heavily researched for their analgesic or pain reducing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Plant-based cannabinoids such as those extracted from hemp and marijuana can simulate the actions of our body’s own endocannabinoids, leading to analgesia or pain relief.
THC appears to mimic the endocannabinoid anandamide by binding to our body’s own cannabinoid receptors. CBD, on the other hand, appears to inhibit the body from breaking down anandamide.
Anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule, is what is released when we smile or hug. It is the endocannabinoid behind the runner’s high we experience during physical exercise. Anandamide is associated with regulating pain, happiness, and much more. Researchers theorize that CBD and THC may reduce the amount of pain a person feels by increasing levels of anandamide in the bloodstream.
Research shows that CBD moderately inhibits the breakdown of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide, which is responsible for pain perception processes, the runner’s high we feel when we exercise, and much more.
Also found in cacao (a.k.a chocolate), anandamide works to regulate happiness, pain, inflammation, stress, sleep and much more. One theory is that CBD reduces pain by acting as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor and leading to increases of anandamide in the bloodstream.
Research reveals that cannabinoids and opioids both block the release of pain-propagating neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord via a similar G-protein-coupled mechanism. Researchers believe there is an intimate connection between cannabinoids and opioids in the modulation of pain perception.
Further, a growing body of studies shows that cannabinoids, when co-administered with opioids, have a stronger analgesic effect than when opioids are administered alone. This effect may enable lower opioid doses to achieve the same level of pain relief when used in conjunction with cannabinoids.
In spite of limited clinical research in humans, many people report using hemp oil and CBD body butter as an effective form of pain management. In fact, according to a recent study of the 62% of Cannabidiol oil users who use CBD to treat a medical condition, the majority reported using CBD oil for chronic pain as well as arthritis and joint pain.
Different strains of hemp have varying combinations of cannabinoids and other organic phenolic compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, stillbenes, lignans, phloroglucinols and others.
Research shows that due to their varying compositions, different hemp strains can have different effects on our bodies.
Currently, studies are underway connecting specific strain characteristics to their effects based on survey data from medical cannabis patients and their prescribing doctors.
If you are suffering from pain, supplementing your lifestyle with plant-based cannabinoids in the form of full-spectrum CBD oil or topically applied salve may help to manage or even alleviate your symptoms.