Animal studies showed that topical CBD applications relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis with few side effects. The topical application of CBD is beneficial because CBD is poorly absorbed when taken by mouth and can cause gastrointestinal side effects. 6
Animal studies have shown that CBD has a positive effect on serotonin levels in the brain, and serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are thought to play a key role in mood as well as pain. 11
Instead, CBD has been credited with relieving numerous medical conditions, such as epilepsy, anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, and pain. Although “credited” does not mean proven. Because of the historical regulatory landscape, there are hardly any well-conducted trials backing up those claims, although research is expected to ramp up now that laws distinguish between hemp and marijuana.
Conclusion: Topical CBD may be beneficial at relieving arthritis but no high-quality human studies prove this.
CBD derived from hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC and is legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws.
Reviews and meta-analyses of cannabinoids found the following:
The body also produces natural cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors.
Studies found evidence, although not high-quality, that cannabis-based medicines reduced long-term nerve (chronic neuropathic) pain. All but two studies used a plant-based THC/CBD mouth spray (the other two used synthetic oral THC).
CBD and Medicines
Studies are ongoing, but there is evidence that CBD may be effective in reducing anxiety, chronic (long-term) pain like back pain, and insomnia or trouble sleeping.
CBD oil may be used both ways.
CAUTION: Taking CBD with other herbs that cause drowsiness or sleepiness may increase this effect.
By acting on the ECS, CBD may have many different effects on the body. Examples include: balancing the body’s overall physical functions (homeostasis), reducing pain sensation, and lessening the body’s reaction to injury or infection (inflammation).
CBD oil comes as full-spectrum oils or in forms that contain CBD isolates. Unlike isolates, which contain CBD only, full-spectrum oils contain a variety of compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant, including proteins, flavonoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll. Alternative practitioners believe these compounds offer more substantial health benefits, although there is no clear evidence of this.
There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of CBD oil. CBD oil is usually delivered sublingually (under the tongue). Most oils are sold in 30-milliliter (mL) bottles with a dropper cap.
CBD oil may benefit those with drug addiction, suggests a 2015 review of studies published in Substance Abuse.
What to Look For
Human studies evaluating the use of CBD in treating chronic pain are lacking. Those that do exist almost invariably include THC, making it difficult to isolate CBD’s distinct effects.
To use CBD oil, place one or more drops under the tongue and hold the dose there for 30 to 60 seconds without swallowing. Capsules and gummies are easier to dose, although they tend to be more costly. CBD sublingual sprays are available as well.
Common symptoms include:
Remember, because CBD oils are largely unregulated, there is no guarantee that a product is either safe or effective.