For quite some time, Marijuana has been a controversial natural treatment for arthritis. As one might suspect, numerous individuals use it for recreational reasons to experience feelings of euphoria. Nevertheless, there are other people who claim that it is among one of the few natural remedies for arthritis that actually work to alleviate the symptoms of this painful and often debilitating condition.
Components of Marijuana
Marijuana is comprised of a greenish-brown dry mix of shredded flowers, seeds, stems and leaves. It is derived from the hemp plant, and its technical name is cannabis sativa. It is also possible to make the drug more potent, and this developed substance is referred to as hash oil or hashish. It is true that the plant contains a mind-altering substance referred to by scientists as “delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol,” for which the abbreviation is THC. However, it is the plant’s other ingredients that may provide help for arthritis symptoms.
Cannabidiol–CBD–is marijuana’s second active ingredient and much of the controversy surrounding the drug’s medical use concerns this ingredient. Many people are familiar with the aforementioned THC–which is the part of the plant that creates the euphoria on which some users become dependent over time. However, the lesser known component–CBD–is the one that may have a significant number of medicinal benefits for those suffering from painful conditions such as arthritis. Medical prescriptions for marijuana may be acquired in all areas of Israel, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands, but the drug is still illegal substance in many other countries, including most of the United States.
Even though marijuana contains more than 60 compounds, all of which fall under the umbrella of cannabinoids, CBD and THC are found in the plant in the highest concentrations. For this reason, scientists and healthcare researchers have honed in on these particular ingredients for clinical trials involving the use of marijuana as an alternative arthritis treatment. The amounts of CPD and THC present in marijuana often vary depending on a number of factors, such as the strain of the plant. For example, individuals who grow and harvest marijuana for medicinal purposes frequently use selective breeding methods to develop strains that contain essentially no THC, but rather have above average amounts of CBD.
Unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive substance, and therefore is not associated with the euphoria to which many individuals become addicted when using marijuana for recreational purposes. This is why certain researchers argue that medical marijuana developed to contain little or no THC is a good choice for individuals searching for natural cures for arthritis. This is particularly true regarding patients who have not found relief from conventional medication. Additionally, the side effects associated with CBD are minimal, which is an advantage for both healthcare practitioners and patients.
Understanding the Characteristics of CBD and THC
Although marijuana contains both THC and CBD in substantial amounts, there are considerable differences between the two substances. One of the most obvious is the way the brain is affected by each ingredient. THC is associated with psychoactive effects to which many people become addicted. On the other hand, there is no euphoria or “high” associated with CBD. This is because it is simply not recognized by CB1 receptors in the brain, which are responsible for allowing psychoactive substances to influence neural receptors in such a way that an addicting high is produced.
Interestingly, CBD reduces THC’s negative side effects and provides the brain with natural protection against the euphoria associated with THC. Numerous clinical studies have also indicated that CBD may counteract the intoxicating side effects linked to THC, such as decreased cognitive function, loss of memory and paranoia. However, because THC is present in marijuana in higher levels than CBD, the marijuana plants must be bred differently to produce this mechanism. No known risk of fatal overdose is associated with either CBD or THC; however, most healthcare practitioners believe that medical users should only be prescribed medical marijuana produced from strains that contain more CBD than THC. In this way, the potential for abuse or addiction is greatly reduced.
Medical Benefits of Marijuana
Due to multiple published studies concerning the potential benefits of CBD, the number of patients seeking this variation of marijuana for therapeutic use has increased. Certain individuals suffering from conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and cancer have sought this drug as an alternative remedy. However, many people are unaware of the fact that arthritis sufferers seek medical marijuana more than any other group of patients. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that many traditional arthritis remedies often do little to quell the pain associated with both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. For this reason, many arthritis sufferers also experience depression and anxiety because they can find no relief from their symptoms.
In 2013, The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published a paper in listing numerous potential benefits associated with CBD, including the following:
• Minimizes the symptoms of mental disorders and certain types of psychosis
• Acts as an anti-inflammatory
• Combats neurodegenerative disorders
• Lessens the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms
• Fights cancer cells and shrinks tumors
• Combats seizure activity
• Decreases vomiting and nausea
Due to the fact that the CBD component is technically part of the cannabis plant, it is currently illegal in many areas, despite evidence that it can provide substantial medicinal benefits to those suffering from a vast array of illnesses, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In most areas of the United States, it is still categorized as a schedule I drug. All drugs in the United States are scheduled somewhere between I and V, with the schedule I being drugs that are addictive but offer no medicinal value. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration has recently approved Epidiolex, which is a pharmaceutical version of CBD. Epidiolex is used for the treatment of specific inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, as well as a broad range of neurodegenerative diseases.
Methods of Administration
Although universally accepted method of marijuana administration is smoking, many medical users are not comfortable consuming the drug this way. Fortunately, because it is now legal in some regions for therapeutic uses, manufacturers have created alternative administration options. Below are several options for which patients can choose if they are not comfortable with inhaling the drug, but are anxious to use it as a natural arthritis treatment:
CBD hemp oil is a particularly concentrated form of CBD, as it is essentially an extract of this component of the marijuana plant. CBD hemp oil is typically placed under the tongue, also referred to as “sublingual administration,” or the oil can be ingested on a snack food, such as a cookie or cracker. A portable vaporizer can be used as well, which allows the patient to inhale the vapor from the hemp oil without having to actually smoke a marijuana cigarette. Suppositories containing the oil and oral liquid gels are available also, but are prescribed to a lesser degree than the aforementioned options. The therapeutic effects of CBD hemp oil usually last about five to six hours.
Tinctures are another option patients should consider when using home remedies for arthritis or medical marijuana. Tinctures usually consist of alcohol or glycerin infused with cannabis extract. Tinctures can be absorbed through the mucous membranes like other sublingual medications or they can be added to beverages such as tea or coffee for absorption in the digestive system. However, the effects of CBD when used this way generally last about three hours, which is a bit less than that associated with other administration methods.
Ingesting marijuana is another option for patients who are using the drug for medicinal reasons but do not want to take it through inhalation. This administration method can be tolerated by essentially anyone, as the drug can be put in snack mixes, flavored soda, cookies, or cake. Many patients also find that it can be easily added to virtually any pasta dish and is undetectable by the pallet. The method features the longest therapeutic effect, which typically lasts up to 10 hours. Nevertheless, time frames vary significantly from one person to another, as each patient’s tolerance level is different.
FDA Regulations and Opposing Views
Unfortunately, despite the mounting evidence concerning CBD’s safety and medicinal benefits, clinical research is often limited because marijuana is still an illegal substance in many areas and is considered a recreational drug and nothing more. This is frustrating to many medical researchers, as numerous drugs approved by the FDA are associated with far more negative side effects than medical marijuana, and yet they are prescribed on a daily basis. Ironically, there are also many examples of medications that were approved by the FDA to treat numerous diseases, such as depression, although the results they offered were no better than those seen in placebo groups during clinical trials.
Although considerable pressure is currently being placed on the FDA to change its stance on the use of therapeutic marijuana and other natural remedies, most of the guidelines have not yet changed.
Fortunately, because of the substantial evidence available that proves cannabis and other herbs for arthritis offer health benefits to various patients, it is likely that regulations may eventually change with regard to how this drug is distributed and manufactured. It remains to be seen if medical marijuana will become a mainstream treatment for individuals who would benefit immensely from its use.