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Can Cannabis Help Repair Arthritic Joints?

July 15, 2015

As our nation’s baby boomers age, they’re facing a multitude of health-related ailments and costs. One of the most prominent concerns is the prevalence of chronic arthritis, an ailment that affects 52.5 million adults today, and that number is expected to increase to 67 million by 2030. There’s no cure for arthritis, and limited treatment options exist for the painful and limiting disease.

One alternative that’s gaining popularity among the aging population is the use of cannabis to get full-bodied pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Although arthritis is considered a qualifying condition in at least two states, there’s a remarkable lack of data and research behind the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment alternative for arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis is an uncomfortable and often unavoidable disease that often results in severe symptoms:

  • Injuries that don’t heal properly
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathies (tingling or numbness in extremities)
  • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the forefoot)
  • Persistent joint pain
  • Locked joints
  • Morning stiffness

A study published in the journal Rheumatology from Dr. Sheng-Ming Dai of China’s Second Military Medical University found that CB2 receptors are found in unusually high levels in the joint tissue of arthritis patients. The use of cannabis is shown to fight inflammation in the joints by activating the pathways of CB2 receptors.

Canadian researcher Dr. Jason McDougall, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has undertaken a new study to find out if medical marijuana can help repair arthritic joints and relieve pain. The study is supported by the Arthritis Society and is awarding a grant for a comprehensive, three-year study to investigate if cannabis is not just dampening the pain in the brain, but also working to fight inflammation and repair the joint itself.

When asked to describe the nerves of an arthritis sufferer, McDougall told CBC Radio’s Information Morning the following information:

“[The nerves are like] wires that have been stripped of their coating. They’re all bare, they’re all raw and responsible for feeling a lot of pain. What we hypothesize is that by locally administering these cannabis-like molecules to those nerves, we’d actually be able to repair them and reduce the pain of arthritis.”

McDougall’s research is focused on non-intoxicating cannabinoids, but so far, his findings has shown that cannabis molecules can attach themselves to nerve receptors and control the firing of pain signals in the joint. Indeed, it’s been proven in certain anecdotal circumstances, such as the case of Katie Marsh of Madawaska, Maine. A sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, she was on a prescription of prednisone and antibiotics and was encouraged by her doctors to try disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS), but the side effects were severe enough that she sought a natural way to ease her pain and swollen joints.

After seeking the advice of a physician that specializes in dietary cannabis, Marsh began juicing raw cannabis, blending it into a smoothie and consuming the whole raw plant. She began to see results almost immediately — within days, Marsh was off the prednisone and even pain killers. After 11 months of regular cannabis juicing, her condition is in remission.

Now that Health Canada has approved the study, titled the CAPRI trial (Cannabinoid Profile Investigation of Vaporized Cannabis in Patients with Osteoarthritis of the Knee), researchers in Halifax and Montreal are seeking volunteers over the age of 50 who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee to participate in the year study, which will be a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that involves visits to the physician and exposure to six different types of cannabis through a vaporizer, all with varying levels of THC and CBD.

Two Canadian licensed producers of medical marijuana, Aphria, Inc. and the Peace Naturals Project, contributed $100,000 each to the Arthritis Society to fund the grant, and the research project has been approved by Health Canada. Researchers hope to start the study by September, and preliminary results will be collected by the end of 2016.

If you’re interested in cannabis for arthritis, check out our list of cannabis strains that may help treat arthritis symptoms.

  • Raya

    Hiya! I’m 22 years old will be 23 October… When I was 19 I was diagnosed with Juvenile RA, started feeling the symptoms at 18, and because I strongly dislike pharmaceuticals I’ve avoided prescription drugs to “treat” or “ease” my RA symptoms. Over the past years I’m sure it’s gotten worse. I just recently had a baby he’s 5 weeks now and for the duration of my pregnancy I had no RA symptoms at all which completely made me forget I had it. Just last week I woke up to breastfeed my crying baby boy and my hands and wrists were so painful and stiff, there was a horrible pain shooting from my inside wrist to my inside hand almost up to my middle finger on both hands. As you can imagine I had the hardest time trying to feed and sooth my little one who is only nine pounds now. I am now getting the joint pain back in my knees, and stiffness in my neck and it appears my jaw is starting to lock up again. It’s as if the disease is picking up where it left off. I’ve tried changing my diet and maintaining exercise before getting pregnant and all it really does is minimize the still evident joint pains. I see here in this article that a woman was able to use cannabis as a somewhat cure. I’d like to know more information on that and how I can started on it myself please and thanks.

    • Carmen Kelp

      You can purchase hemp CBD oil without a medical marijuana card and it works very well for arthritis pain and inflammation. Also known as hemp extract, CBD can be rubbed into your skin around painful joints too. http://www.sundancecosmetics.com/products/cbd-cream is a good source of hemp extract CBD skincare.

      • Mustang Sally

        How long does it take to take effect.

        • Carmen Kelp

          Topicals 5 minutes, orally maybe 1.5 hours, vape instant

          • Ken Laires

            Carmen I see you have mentioned vape a few times , can you elaborate on that please , how do you vape it ?
            Vape as in the vapes you get to smoke ? or something else .

          • Carmen Kelp

            I actually vape our CBD oil in a vape pen and add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil so it tastes better. Alternatively, you could mix it with some ejuice.

          • Pauline Broughton

            I cape the oil with a little mint so it tastes nice. Also use a dry herb vaporizor for dry leaves.

          • Carmen Kelp

            I actually put the oral drops in a vape pen. I don’t like vape the ejuice because I don’t want propelyen glycol or the artificial favors.https://www.sundancecosmetics.com/products/hemp-extract-drops?utm_campaign=facebook_messenger&utm_medium=shopkey&utm_source=facebook_messenger

        • Carmen Kelp

          It works really fast – 5 minutes maybe

        • Carmen Kelp

          Vape is the fastest method, topical application works pretty fast too, orally it takes a little longer maybe an hour. But either way, you will notice the pain relief . Hope this helps. http://Www.sundancecosmetics.com/products/hemp-extract-drops

          • Stan Carter

            Does anyone know if cannabis without THC work just as well in reducing the effects of arthritis?

            http://www.pri.org/stories/2012-07-03/israeli-company-removes-thc-new-medicinal-marijuana

          • I know this cbd oil work for arthritis pain and inflammation http://www.sundancecosmetics.com/hemp/extracts-drops it has .3 percent THC

          • Carmen Kelp

            Yes it does get full spectrum hemp-extract cbd here http://www.sundancecosmetics.com/products/hemp-extract-drops

          • Yes there are more than enough studies with info on CBD Oil THC Free and others talking about CB1 and CB2 Receptors and arthritis studies. we have several studies on our blog. https://hempgenix.us/blog- We have the highest purity levels of CBD which runs on average of 82%. 90% of companies selling CBD Oil products are selling products at 17-40%. Compare this. A lot of people taking softgels for arthritis. All Amazon companies as of last time we checked where selling CBD Oil with no higher than 40% CBD. Companies like our that get our Oil from Entourage Nutritional are 80.5% in our softgels and each softgel is 25mg per softgel of CBD.

          • Barfy

            Jim
            would CBD oil cause you to pop a drug test? I have RA and am starting to research possibly using CBD oil. We do drug testing in our local ibew union.

          • Well if your taking a product that has a CofA that says absent then their is zero THC so you couldn’t fail a drug test. However with the legal .3 you will pass a urine test but would show up in a hair drug test. Also look for purity level of the cbd. 99% typically is almost always a companynusing Isolate in their “cbd oil” it’s a carrier oil and then cbd powder. You want a full spectrum whole plant for medicinal. May company who use the oil are still super low in the purity and they blen t down to reduce manufacturing costs. There are only couple of very legit medicinal companies out there. First red flag of a site is not having a CofA. Then you want to be able to read the CofA to see what they are using in the actual raw materials.

          • Karl Thiecke

            Great to know, I’ve been taking a few hits from a joint before I go to bed because of age related pain and although I can sleep thru the night without waking up, don’t like the “high”.

        • Carmen Kelp

          Cbd works pretty quick to reduce inflammation and paid. You could try a topical, or the oral drops depending on your condition. With my fibromyalgia I do both – even vape the oral drops. https://www.sundancecosmetics.com/products/hemp-collection?utm_campaign=facebook_messenger&utm_medium=shopkey&utm_source=facebook_messenger

      • Danielle van Eck

        Living in South Africa, I have no idea how I would have had no idea how to get the product. Thank you for the link.

    • Juan Delgado

      Could prenatal vitamins have helped??

  • Chris C-Rod

    I battle with RH and was running out of options. I had too many side effects using Methotrexate, steroids, and several other medicines that not only left me feeling horrible, but they did not help my arthritis either. I finally discontinued using any prescribed medicine. I started taking Osteo Bi-Flex EDGE joint and muscle vitamins that contain glucosamine and chondroitin and smoking cannabis about once a week to start. I wouldn’t smoke a lot just a couple of puffs to help with the pain at first as it would numb my effected areas. Stopping at 1-2 puffs also removed the issue of being unable to function mentally. After about a month or so I noticed my swelling was almost completely gone and I could even close my hands again (which I hadn’t been able to do for almost a year). I strongly recommend this option as opposed to prescribed medication that has far worse side effects on the body.

    • CORDALE

      I’m 17 and have polynomial RA and take methtrexate and humira they both make me really sick but I smoke some indica instead of taking the injections and I’ve been without a injection for three months and I’m better than before

  • Tyler Dirden
  • Jan Erickson

    My 13 year experience with severe RA was over when I became a cannabis patient and began medicating with both raw leaf in smoothies and concentrated medicines I made. Cannabis saved my life. I began treatment on Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate, 4 aleve daily in lieu of prescription Naprosyn, and Enbrel. Only when I would travel would I receive a limited supply of pain killers back then. I was severe for all that time and when I became a cannabis patient, my CRP was 46.5. My doctor wouldn’t sign off on the cannabis card application so I had to get my records and go elsewhere for that. After 6 months of raw leaf and a limited amount of dried cannabis to use, my harvest was in and I began making medicine. From that point, it only took 2 1/2 months to achieve clinical remission. I gradually went off all the drugs I was on..no longer on Enbrel but on Humira at that time, also I was given tramadol that did nothing during that last year, as well as Metformin from the insulin resistance I developed, and two BP pills. The second one was given to me a year and half before my remission and the fluid loss I experienced due to the HCTZ it contained put me in a flare that lasted two weeks longer than a year. I had retained so much fluid during those 13 years that I no longer looked like I did before I got sick. It’s odd that when the fluid was gone I was mysteriously in remission. I believe had they ever listened to me and dealt with it early on I would have never been as severe as I was. Honestly..without cannabis I doubt I would be alive now. I went in to remission in March of 2011 and my last Humira injection was September 13, 2015. That was the last drug I stayed on and I’ve had no recurrence of symptoms in all this time. I’m an herbalist, so I also support my remission with herbal tinctures and teas I make along with the cannabis tinctures and oil that I use daily as well as raw leaf in smoothies. It helps that I’m in Oregon and we have both medical and recreational cannabis otherwise I doubt I could have afforded to buy any of this at a dispensary. Besides, I have complete control over how it’s grown and processed. I adopted a saturation approach to dealing with my condition because I was so ill and it was definitely successful. Dr. William Courtney was instrumental in the research he’s done on the use of raw cannabis in healing and I recommend using raw cannabis in a “wholistic” approach to healing with cannabis. If anyone is interested, I published a book about my healing called Confessions of a Back Porch Herbalist on Amazon. It’s in Kindle format and sells for $2.99 and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free to read. It’s more in depth than what I’ve said here and goes into making cannabis medicines. I also write a blog called Stepping Aside where I talk about cannabis along with other things and there’s some info there that folks might find helpful. I never believed in chronic anything let along giving away my life to a disease. Cannabis is more than worth a look. And you might just find that it helps you every bit as much as it did me. ~ Blessings

    • Mike edal

      Statins are dangerous . im the one in 10,0000 (LOL) that suffer bad effects on the joints. Getting off them helped but will not reverse the damage done. Now having advanced arthritis in the spine Im searching for a strain of MM that would help control the pain,stress, insomnia as well as lower my blood pressure. Can any one offer strain suggestions ?

    • Mike edal

      Looking forward to ordering your book after reading the sample. Thank you

  • Colette Houle

    Not to take away from this thunder but re thunderous options there is a recent arthritis study funded by Canada health institute just published in National Library of medicine on a nutrigenomic formula (natural nutrition) . Concludes it abolishes factors in disease pathogenesis including reduction of inflammation, protect cartilage from deteriation, increases synovial fluid, collagen & glutathione. Oxidative stress is linked to many diseases & this reduces it drastically . I’ve been thru it all & this is what works.

  • I never heard that marijuana can actually help get relief from arthritis pain, before. Such a useful and helpful post. Keep sharing.

  • jeshuaschild

    I’m trying to find a way to try medical marijuana for my severe arthritis in my knees. I am allergic to any pain med or antibiotic they’ve tried and currently only use ibuprofen. I live in NH. Does anyone know of how to proceed. Also, I’m a 66 year old female

  • Toots Shor

    A friend of mine has one of his friends in Colorado ship him products from the cannabis retailers (not pot). I rubbed some of the oil on my arthritic thumb and it felt great for two weeks. Is it psychosomatic or the placebo affect? Perhaps, but I intend on inquiring on the price because I’m sold. (Stuff smells similar to Ben Gay in case anyone is wondering)

    • Lori

      Glad the oil worked for you. What was it exactly? Many discuss that they’ve had success, but fail to mention the specific product. Thanks.

      • Toots Shor

        Not sure, Lori. I just know it was cannabis oil and if you ever travel to Colorado, I’m sure one of the retailers can help you. I know PA just approved medical marijuana and while smokables aren’t part of the program, oils are. Good luck!

        • Lori

          Thank you for responding so quickly! I’m trying to help find relief for my 86 year old mother. She has tried a few topical creams and tinctures without much success. The local dispensary has very limited stock. It gets expensive to continue to buy and try a variety of products without relief. Please feel free to get back to me if you ever find the name of the product you used. Thanks again.

  • Craig Armstrong

    I’ve fallen down stairs twice this week and i’m basically not in pain, although I’ve basically had the snot beaten out of me I felt good enough to move around normally a day later. I’ve been taking around 8ml of RSO daily for months now and I’m really confused as to why I’m not in more pain? I’m also insulin dependant and have nueropathy from it as well as post polio nerve damage, but that just keeps my muscles from moving, I can still feel the skin surface fine. Could it be the RSO is protecting me? only taken Tylenol, no narcotics.

  • Samantha Cook

    Cannabis Oil really helps. I wish to thank AnnCannMed for their very efficient service and oil quality. I recommend them to anybody who needs help.

  • calvin grubbs

    I call Bullshit……I smoke weed ten times a day seven days a week and I’m getting arthritis and it has absolutely no effect on anything.
    Google Placebo effect.

  • Amanda Page

    How to sensibly buy LEGAL cbd oil? Because I got a letter saying customs has confiscated my package two times already and I’m pissed.

  • jontomas

    This is a good article, but the actual application methods, dosage and cannabis forms to use should be described.