cannabis plant

Can CBD Oil Help With RA Symptom Relief?

Does the term “CBD” bring back images of a 13 year old you smoking a possibly illegal substance, (at least in some states) from a homemade bong that you made out of an empty plastic Diet Pepsi bottle and a Bic pen, one summer at Camp Ho Non Wah-Wah? Miraculously, you somehow managed not to get caught doing this–ahh, the good old days! If so, this post is for you! To find out more about what CBD oil really is, and how it may help bring you some relief from those nasty RA symptoms, read on.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD Oil or cannabidiol oil, is one of more than 80 chemical cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, Cannabis Sativa. CBD oil is formulated from this particular compound. However, CBD can also be formulated from the hemp plant. Confusing – you bet!

While both hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa, hemp and marijuana (MJ) plants look very different — MJ has broad leaves with a bushy appearance versus hemp which is skinnier and taller.

Hemp is grown for industrial purposes mainly — think paper, clothing, biofuel, and now CBD products. Conversely, marijuana is mainly grown for recreational purposes, but may have medical benefits as well. Baby Boomers who used marijuana in their younger days appear to be coming back to it as over 25% of all cannabis users are seniors.

There is no difference in the potency of CBD in marijuana and hemp. For example, if there is 5% CBD in a hemp plant and 5% CBD in a marijuana plant, the only difference is the amount of THC in each plant.

THC content is the biggest difference between these two . THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound in MJ that can get you “high”. The THC content of MJ is between 15-40% while hemp is much lower at 0.3% or less. Thus, CBD products made from the hemp plant don’t have any psychoactive properties so you won’t get loopy.

Since hemp contains very little THC, it’s legal in most states in the US; however, MJ is a different animal due to its higher THC content. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 10 states, while medicinal use is legalized in 33. But, hang on, it remains illegal at the Federal level even though it may be legal in a particular state. Oh, this makes my head hurt! It’s kinda like a soap opera — “As the Pot Wheel Turns” – stay tuned.

Can CBD Relieve Pain And Inflammation?

Our body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that produces cannabinoid receptors. CBD interacts with two of these receptors in the body — CB1 and CB2 — to affect brain activity, thereby, decreasing pain and inflammation. CB 2 affects the immune system; RA is an autoimmune disease — this connection may help explain why CBD may alleviate RA symptoms.

According to Dr. Patricia Frye, endocannabinoid deficiency may be the cause of many pain disorders, so supplementing with CBD may help with pain control. An unrelated but interesting side effect of CBD is its ability to decrease carbohydrate cravings and appetite along with regulating glucose metabolism. CBD appears to help get the body back into a balanced state.

As we all know, RA is a painful disease so pain relief is a big deal. A 2017 study showed CBD without THC was effective in reducing joint inflammation and protecting nerve endings, thereby easing pain. A study in The European Journal of Pain using a topical CBD gel showed a significant drop in pain and inflammation in rats.

Acute inflammation from an injury such as a cut is good, as it aides in healing and then goes away. But chronic inflammation, which seems to never go away, is anything but good, as it can lead to inflammatory diseases such as RA. A 2006 study in Rheumatology concluded participants had less joint inflammation, pain and better sleep after using a CBD medication called Sativex.

Can CBD Oil Reduce Insomnia And Anxiety?

In the US about 70 million people are plagued with insomnia. There’s nothing worse than going to work after a night of tossing and turning in your bed. Cranky and irritable is not fun to be around. Believe me, I know, I’ve had insomnia off and on for years.

CBD has been used for centuries to help improve sleep and calm anxiety. Though not a huge amount of studies are available, most of the ones we do have are positive. CBD may promote REM sleep — the type of sleep that truly gives you the deep rest your body craves. If used regularly over time, it may help stabilize your sleep patterns. A recent study has indicated endocannabinoid signaling may regulate sleep stability.

Anxiety and stress seem to be everywhere and occur especially frequently in RA. In fact, one of the leading causes of anxiety is poor sleep. By improving sleep quality, you can kill two birds with one stone.

CBD helps calm down the body’s response to stress and normalize your cortisol and adrenaline levels. A recent study has shown CBD may be effective in treating general anxiety disorder. Likewise, a 2014 study concluded CBD possessed anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in animals.

I finally tried CBD oil a few years ago and found it helped take the edge off so I could relax and get a better night’s sleep. That’s saying something as I feel like I’ve tried a mountain of things. I haven’t experienced any side effects while using CBD so far.

What Is The Best Dosage Of CBD Oil?

Good question. Everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you, but I’ll give you some general guidelines. In the beginning, start low and work your way up to the dosage that works best for you. Two things you need to consider are your weight and the severity of your condition. The more you weigh and the more severe your condition, the higher the dosage.

Based on research studies: For sleep: 40-160 mg before bedtime.; anxiety: 20-100 mg daily; pain: 20-150 mg daily; inflammation: 20-60 mg daily. Again these, are general guidelines so start at the minimum dosage and increase gradually until you find your “sweet spot.”

What Are The Best Ways To Take CBD Oil

Infographic on The Best Ways to Take CBD Oil
The Best Ways to Take CBD Oil

CBD oil comes in many forms — tinctures, capsules, gummies, creams, waxes, vapes to name just a few. Three common routes of administration are sublingually, topically, and orally. There really is no best way — it just depends on your condition and personal preference.

I tend to prefer the drops as it’s easier for me to customize my dosage. I also like the capsules when I travel.

Below, I’ll review three common options.

  • Sublingually — This is probably the route that will provide you with the quickest symptom relief. Place your dosage of CBD oil under the tongue for about 60-90 seconds to provide maximum absorption. The tissue under the tongue is very absorbent which allows the CBD to enter your bloodstream faster and get to work. This method works well for conditions that require quick relief such as acute pain or anxiety.
  • Topically — CBD oil may be rubbed into your skin where it is absorbed through your pores. However, it may take up to an hour for you to feel its effects. This method works best for chronic pain from arthritis or injuries due to sore muscles, joint pain, or body aches.
  • Orally — Capsules are a convenient way to take CBD if you’re on the go. However, as the CBD has to pass through the digestive tract on the way to the bloodstream, it may take longer to be absorbed — up to an hour on a full stomach. Insomnia and mild pain relief respond well to this route of administration

Does CBD Oil Color Matter?

It does! The hemp plant is green — the more highly processed the oil, the further it will be from the plants’ natural green color.

Green cbd oil is the least processed and best to use. Gold colored cbd has usually been processed with heat. A dark gold color indicates the product is probably clean but doesn’t contain the valuable enzymes and chlorophyll found in green cbd oil. Almost black cbd oil is usually an unfiltered product and may not be clean. White cbd oil is the most highly processed so you really want to check and see what else is in it. Another concern with white cbd oil is it may elevate your liver enzymes.

Bottom line: If possible, check the product’s certificate of authenticity to find out what is really in the product. This can usually be found through the manufacturer’s website. Remember: the closer to green, the better it is.

CBD OIL COLOR MATTERS

Will CBD Oil Interactive With My Medications?

Maybe. The following is a list of medications with which CBD may possibly interact — it’s not a comprehensive list so I would recommend checking your medication before taking it.

  • ondansetron (Zofran)
  • clozapine (Clozaril, FazaClo)
  • progesterone (Endometrin, Prometrium)
  • testosterone
  • omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)

If you’re not taking any prescription medications, side effects from CBD should be minimal, if any. Most people tolerate CBD without any problem. However, be advised, as with any medication or supplement, you may experience an allergic reaction if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients.

Can CBD Oil Be Contaminated?

Another concern with CBD is purity. Be aware that if other nearby crops are sprayed with chemicals or insecticides, the cannabis plant will absorb it. Cannabis is also sensitive to heavy metals, mold, and aflatoxins. Make sure to purchase your CBD from a reputab supplier with good manufacturing practices that does 3rd party testing. Since CBD is not regulated by the USDA, check and see how tough your states regulations are and be sure to buy from a strictly regulated state.

Conclusion

I hope this post gave you a good overview of CBD and it’s potential health benefits for RA symptom relief. For a deeper dive into the world of cannabis and medical marijuana, check out “The Medical Marijuana Guide” by Patricia, Frye, MD.

CBD is definitely worth considering adding to your RA toolbox for the treatment of joint pain, inflammation, stress relief, insomnia and anxiety. Drop a comment below and share your experience with CBD and how it worked for you.

***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***

About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.