Is CBD Good for Inflammation? – What the Research Tells Us

Brunette women in her 20's sitting at the bottom of the best holding her neck in pain.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently gathered traction for its multiple benefits in relation to the human body. One such alleged benefit is that it reduces inflammation. 

According to research and anecdotal evidence, CBD can certainly help inflammation. But the science is still limited, and your results may depend on how you use your CBD and what type of inflammation you are dealing with.

In this article, we will go in-depth about the uses of CBD for inflammation, what is inflammation, why CBD helps to treat it, and what types of CBD you should invest in depending on your condition. 

How does CBD help heal inflammation?

To understand why CBD has become a popular remedy for treating inflammation, let us first understand what inflammation exactly is. 

Inflammation: Chronic and Acute

Inflammation is our immune system’s response when it perceives a threat against our body like an infection or a disease. There are two types of inflammation that occur: acute, or chronic. 

Acute inflammation lasts for a short period of time, usually two weeks or less. The body is restored to its previous state (as it was before the injury or infection), as the inflammation reduces. 

Chronic inflammation lasts for a longer period of time, over six weeks, for example. It is a slower form of inflammation and can occur even without any injury to the body. It also doesn’t necessarily reduce after the infection heals. Illnesses related to chronic inflammation include cancer, diabetes, asthma, or heart diseases. Recurring cases of acute inflammation could lead to chronic episodes as well.

Inflammation presents itself in our body in the form of symptoms such as redness, swelling, body ache, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, mood disorders, fever, consistent fatigue, or frequent infections.

It could be caused by a number of different factors, such as the aforementioned conditions in both acute and chronic cases. Certain medications and foreign bodies may contribute as causal elements, too, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks one’s own body in an attempt to fight these foreign materials, which are called autoimmune disorders. Sugary food, processed meat, alcohol, refined carbs, and unsaturated fat are causes for inflammation as well.

Apart from prescribed medications, things that can help battle inflammation include physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, or quitting smoking and drinking. 

But in recent years, research has shown that there is another effective remedy against inflammation: cannabidiol. 

Diagram of the inside of a knee joint.

CBD and Inflammation

CBD is derived from a kind of cannabis plant known as Cannabis sativa. It is one of the 400 chemical compounds found in the plant. Another popularly known chemical compound is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the cannabinoid that causes the “high” that cannabis is known for. But CBD is the compound that is gaining popularity for its many health benefits. It’s shown to have all the advantages that medications provide but without any of the side effects, essentially giving us a fail-safe, anti-inflammatory which is also a plant-based derivative. An added bonus is the mental edge, with CBD potentially reducing stress, anxiety, and other mental disorders that chronic inflammation is associated with, such as depression.

CBD can help reduce multiple kinds of inflammation in our body like:

CBD and the ECS

The Endocannabinoid System in the human body has been researched by many in recent years. It has been linked to functions and processes such as 

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Reproduction
  • Metabolism
  • Stress
  • Muscle and bone growth
  • Heart and liver functioning
  • Inflammation and other immune system responses

While more research is still required to understand the exact effects of the interaction between CBD and ECS, existing studies claim that CBD works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. Endocannabinoids are molecules that are similar to cannabinoids, but they are produced within the human body itself. They are one of the three core components of ECS (alongside receptors and enzymes). This allows the endocannabinoids to work more effectively. And since the ECS is related to immunatory responses like inflammation, CBD helps with reducing it.

The Current Research on CBD for Inflammation

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most promising and reliable studies about CBD for inflammation.

  • Studies related to inflammatory relief using CBD go way back to 2009, with some experiments on animals showing that the extract worked well in tandem with the immune system and reduced inflammation and pain in a number of cases, showing a lot of promise in the medical community. We will look at the most recent studies in relation to this in a nutshell.
  • In a neurological study published in 2018, researchers found that CBD attaches itself to sensory receptors and desensitizes them. These receptors are the ones that alleviate pain and sensory perception, body temperature, and, of course, inflammation. It proved that while the chemical itself does not bind with the human body’s cannabinoid receptors as much, it does have an impact on other receptors.
  • According to a study published a year before that in the journal Pain, in 2017, Holly T Philpott and co. found that CBD treatment helped ease osteoarthritis, a type of joint pain, in male rats. Applying some local treatment to the area helped reduce acute inflammation and also showed results in preventing pain and nerve damage in the joints.
  • In another study involving rodents in 2016, Christian Lehmann and five of his colleagues initiated a randomized controlled trial using CBD to help ease pancreatic inflammation in diabetic mice. Diabetes can be a result of this type of inflammation due to the ruination of cells that produce insulin. In a period of treatment that lasted about two and a half months, results showed that mice who had been administered with CBD developed diabetes much later compared to mice who had not been given extract. The entire procedure was an experimental cannabidiol treatment published in Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation.
  • Finally, going all the way back to 2015, reviewers found that CBD significantly lessened inflammation in the human body through various different corridors while observing the anti-inflammatory properties of the chemical. The review concluded that CBD is quite an efficacious treatment solution, showing the potential to treat inflammation across several different conditions. The review was published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry.

As we can see in many of the above reviews and research studies, links to which you can all find here, although results are encouraging, they have mostly been tested on animal models in experimental capacities. FDA-approved medication still has a ways to go when it comes to CBD. People who suffer from various types of inflammation will have to make do with the approved list of methods until an alternative such as CBD is deemed safe enough for use to the general public.

Other experts in the medical field who constantly work with CBD all have differing experiences and opinions on the substance. Jeremy Riggle is the Chief Scientist at Mary’s Medicinals, a company that specializes in CBD products, especially for pain and inflammation treatment, told Weedmaps, “Overall, the research literature indicates that cannabinoids, including CBD, could potentially be very effective anti-inflammatory agents for nervous tissue inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, vascular inflammation and certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation.” 

He also added, however, that even for him and his colleagues and other experts in the industry, there were still many trials and experiments to initiate before scientists could fully gauge exactly how CBD affects inflammation on a human level, saying that the relationship between the body and the substance still requires further study. 

“Inflammation is an extremely complex and varied process, and the effect of CBD and other cannabinoids is not completely understood at this time,” said Riggle.

Curaleaf New York is a pharmacy based out of three states in the US that sells CBD products. Pharmacist Stacia Woodcock said that the attenuation of CBD on the body may show its effects after a slightly prolonged period of time post-ingestion, especially when it comes to oils and tinctures. She recommends oils and tinctures, however, saying that these are absorbed much more easily compared to pills and capsules, and the dosage usually tends to last a good few hours, enough to get you through one-fifth of the day.

Along with tinctures, Woodcock says vaping can help with breakthrough symptoms, even though its effects wear off much sooner compared to its pill-based counterparts. She says that a combination of sublingual tinctures along with vaping provides the best results for long-term inflammation relief.

Based on her experience, Woodcock concludes that although CBD is a potentially safe alternative to existing medicine such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen, as an anti-inflammatory medication, it is extremely important that the method of consumption and the dosage are monitored by professionals such as doctors or pharmacists who will survey particular situations and deem which form of CBD to administer according to the patient’s need.

Jar of golden CBD oil with a gold lid sitting on a table with a hemp plant laying next to it.

CBD Anti-Inflammatory vs Aspirin

According to worldhealth.net, around 30 million people in the US alone used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in 2019, better known as NSAID users, for pain relief. 

As previously mentioned, CBD is being looked at as a safer alternative to NSAID medication, such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen, among others. 

Even these common, over-the-counter drugs are not without side effects, which is why many people are searching for alternatives. People who consume NSAID medication must consider risk of gastrointestinal ulcers, bleeding, kidney damage, and even heart attacks. Along with those worrisome side effects, consider that one-tenth of the entire American population complains of constant and severe pain almost on a daily basis, churning out an average of $50 million dollars in medical expenditure in one year. The need for a safe, pain-relief and anti-inflammatory alternative is critical.

Just under 20% of all NSAID users go beyond their prescribed daily dose with their medication, not because they mean to, but simply because they are unaware of the potential risk of exceeding this limit, all in a bid to try and ease their pain. Some side effects to this include potential risks to cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, kidney issues, allergies, skin reactions, swelling, wheezing, hives, blisters and rashes on the skin. 

CBD, however, does not come with any of these side effects. Although both NSAID and CBD medications share the same goal in trying to alleviate inflammation and ease pain, certain CBD methods like oils and tinctures have shown to have the same anti-inflammatory effects as medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin, without the risk of the aforementioned side effects. CBD oils have been found to contain nutrients which are adept at boosting one’s health. A full spectrum hemp oil CBD product holds multiple compounds and phytonutrients such as cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. These benefit the body and are powerful boosters which, some claim, create a beneficial mind-body balance.

Another advantage added to CBD’s “pros” list is that it’s friendlier for the environment. After ingestion and digestion, NSAIDs are pushed back into the environment through surplus, unused drug waste, as well as through excretion. This harms the environment and contaminates ground and surface water, endangering the safety of the biosphere and aquatic life. CBD, however, comes from plants itself and, when thrown back into the world, do not cause any environmental issues due to it being completely biodegradable.

Choosing to go the ‘CBD way’ also helps farmers, small entrepreneurs and local businesses grow, all while using natural, green products which help the environment, instead of paying the big corporates for NSAID medication.

How to Use CBD to Treat Inflammation

Should I use Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, or CBD Isolate for Inflammation?

In the current market scenario, there are three different kinds of cannabinoid spectrum options to choose from if you’re considering using CBD to reduce your inflammation. These include:

  • Full-spectrum CBD
  • Broad-spectrum CBD
  • CBD isolates

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the phytochemicals that are inherently found in the plant, so that all the compounds can work in harmony to produce stronger results. It is the most powerful form of CBD available. However, it also contains the controversial compound THC, which is the cannabinoid that causes the “high” experience attributed to the cannabis plant. Although the percentage of THC is very low in such CBD options –less than 0.3 percent– it still has the potential to show up on drug tests after prolonged, heavy use of full-spectrum CBD products, which makes it a less appealing option, despite its potent effects. With that in mind, if you are dealing with powerful, chronic inflammation, or inflammation symptoms that come on quickly and cause sudden pain, then we recommend the powers of full-spectrum CBD, which offers you all the potent effects of the entourage effect.

If it’s still important to you to avoid THC, then broad-spectrum CBD is your best bet. Much like full-spectrum CBD, this variant also contains all the naturally-occurring phytochemicals found in the cannabis plant. However, the THC compound is removed, which means that consumption or usage of broad-spectrum CBD will not appear on a drug test. However, this also results in decreased effectiveness of the product. In comparison, full-spectrum CBD is definitely more effective for fighting inflammation, but broad-spectrum can still offer many benefits.

Another option is CBD isolate, which is the purest form of CBD. This is a variant that is made after refining CBD and removing all other chemical compounds found in the plant except for CBD itself. This means that this option is not just potent, but also very versatile, and can be added to or used in conjunction with a lot of different kinds of products. It will also never show up on a drug test since it contains absolutely no traces of THC. However, the refinement process also may decrease therapeutic capabilities, due to the lack of other compounds such as terpenes. We recommend CBD isolate for dealing with specific, but maybe not urgent, inflammation problems, such as runner’s knee. 

The type of CBD you choose to deal with your inflammation issue depends on the extent of your problem, and on your individual situation, like whether or not you are comfortable with the presence of THC. It also depends on the form of CBD you will be using–for example, if you are using a CBD-based cream for acne or for inflammation such as muscle injury, full-spectrum CBD might be fine as you will not have to consume it so the compounds stay localized without entering your bloodstream. Alternatively, CBD isolate can ensure you are using nothing but pure CBD for your body to reap its best benefits, especially when it involves consumption (oral, or contact with your bloodstream). 

Jar of lime green CBD cream with a hemp leaf laying on top and the lid laying on the ground to the right.

How should I administer CBD for inflammation?

CBD comes in many different forms, and one can consume it in a variety of different ways, such as capsules and pills, oils, tinctures, creams, lotions, edibles and vaping. The versatility involved with the intake of CBD allows the user to modify their methods of consuming CBD according to their specific need.

  • Capsules and pills

Epidiolex is an FDA-approved drug used to treat seizures. Other capsules and pills are consumed to alleviate issues with digestion. When consumed through this method, however, the onset takes a little longer to kick in as compared to the other forms on this list. One Reddit user who takes a capsule every evening wrote that their abdominal bloating, pain and inflammation were all completely resolved within the first week of taking the capsule and that all chronic symptoms had disappeared. Other noticeable improvements were reduced joint inflammation and muscle tension, improved sleep and a decrease in stress levels, claiming that it made them more self-aware and less anxious. A drawback they noticed, however, was a shorter attention span while under the effects of CBD.

  • Oils and tinctures

For those who aren’t comfortable taking pills, oils and tinctures are another popular form to consume CBD. A dropper is usually placed under the tongue where the oils, which are infused with the chemical, mix with the mucus membrane. The substance is soaked up quickly and its effects after ingestion are much quicker to notice as compared to capsules and pills.

  • Creams and lotions

Creams and lotions are very popular when it comes to treating arthritis and other forms of joint inflammation or muscle pain. Skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and urticaria can also be treated, depending on the topical applied to the skin.

  • Edibles

Arguably the most common and popular way of consuming CBD is through edibles. Edibles have everything going for them; they aren’t that expensive, they’re portable (especially in larger amounts), they taste good and one can consume them surreptitiously.

  • Vaping

Vaping is either hit or miss. While we’re still not completely sure what it does to your lungs, research shows that it’s still probably not the best idea. Although this is the fastest way for CBD to enter your system, one must choose this usage method at their own risk.

Conclusion: Everything You Need to Know About the CBD Inflammatory Response

According to many studies, CBD can be a highly effective treatment for many types of inflammation. There is still a lack of official study in the area using human subjects in an uncontrolled environment. However, there is also much anecdotal evidence that suggests real, tangible anti-inflammatory benefits to CBD use.

CBD can help with inflammation such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Acne
  • IBS
  • Muscle injury
  • And more

For each of these inflammation issues, there are different variants of CBD that you can use as per your preferences and requirements. These include:

  • Full-spectrum CBD
  • Broad-spectrum CBD
  • CBD Isolate

CBD is available in multiple different products. These include:

  • Capsules and Pills
  • Oils and Tinctures
  • Creams and Lotions
  • Edibles
  • Vaping or smoking

Each of these different methods of consumption have their own pros and cons, as listed above. Some methods might be better suited for treating a particular type of inflammation–for example, a CBD based cream that can be applied directly to acne spots on the face will be a better course for treating acne than vaping or smoking would be. 

Such choice of methods also depend on your lifestyle, body, family, surroundings, and even on your previous experience with CBD or cannabis. Some people might still feel uncomfortable with the idea of using CBD to treat inflammation, but as seen above, it is a better option than even aspirin, especially in terms of how few side effects there are with CBD. With all its now-known benefits, as well as the variety of products it is now available in, trying out CBD for your inflammation issues should be a no-brainer as it can certainly help you in the long run. 

When you buy CBD, remember to purchase it only from the most reliable sources. With your health and safety in mind, we’ve arranged a free database of all the most trustworthy CBD products on the market. Check out our recommended brands here.

Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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Our goal is to educate you on all things CBD, enabling you to navigate this vast unregulated industry like a pro. We know all too well how overwhelming it can be to find trustworthy brands in this crowded market, so we’re here to help!

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