CBD, the non-psychoactive component of the hemp plant, has been all over the news lately. From Coca-Cola's interest in producing CBD-infused beverages to exciting updates on the 2018 Senate Farm Bill, cannabidiol is making quite a splash.
And it's no wonder: in addition to researchers looking into CBD to fight the opioid crisis, intervene on behalf of mental health, and treat epilepsy, CBD has been researched extensively for its use in chronic inflammation and pain management.
Let's look into some of the ways inflammation impacts the human body, and how research into CBD presents some exciting possibilities.
How Does Inflammation Manifest in the Body?
Acute Inflammation: Normal Response to Wounds
When inflammation is working the way it's supposed to in your body, you experience a localized reaction of redness, heat and swelling. A great example of inflammation doing its job is around the sight of a wound; the inflammatory response means that your blood vessels are dilating and your body is sending blood cells, antibodies, and enzymes into the area to attack infections and bring nourishment to the damaged site. When it functions properly, inflammation is an important aspect of a healthy immune system.
Chronic Inflammation: Associated with Disease
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is a different story. It can occasionally linger in the body after an acute event, such as in the case of a wound not healing properly. In other cases, chronic inflammation can pop up for no discernible reason. In this state, the immune system attacks healthy tissue and contributes to some of the following inflammatory afflictions:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is a painful inflammatory condition in which the immune system attacks the joints.
- Osteoarthritis. This also is associated with inflammation and pain in the joints and often results from injury or overuse of the joint.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In IBD, prolonged inflammation of the GI tract leads to pain and, in some cases, damage to the GI tract over time.
- Chronic pain. In general, chronic pain has been associated with inflammation in the body.
CBD, Inflammation, and the Endocannabinoid System
Over the last few years, researchers have been seriously looking into cannabis and the ways it interacts with inflammation in the body. First of all, many researchers have associated the body's own endocannabinoid system with regulation of inflammation in the body. This is exciting for researchers because cannabis is known to work directly with that endocannabinoid system.
Some studies have looked into cannabinoids and their reaction with oxidative stress in the body. In general, oxidative stress is a normal process of the immune system reacting to the environment. However, when oxidative stress is prolonged or gets out of control, it's associated with chronic issues and organ damage.
Because of the way CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, it's been proposed by researchers as a way of remedying oxidative stress. Therefore, researchers propose that it may help mediate such chronic inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and Alzheimer's.
Results of Scientific Studies
Although the endocannabinoid system's link with inflammation has been well-studied, CBD has been shown to interact with inflammation in the body in a variety of unique ways. Here are just a few studies that have highlighted CBD's anti-inflammatory effects:
- A 2013 study found that using cannabis on mice with acute pancreatitis significantly decreased their inflammation.
- Another study showed that CBD significantly reduced acute inflammation from lung injury in mice, by working on the adenosine receptors in the brain that are associated with inflammation.
- In 2012, CBD was shown to not only decrease inflammation but suppress difficult-to-treat neuropathic pain by targeting the body's a3 glycine receptors.
- One incredible topical study showed that CBD could significantly reduce arthritis-related pain for rodents, without side effects. According to researchers, it reduced swelling of the joint and demonstrated a powerful ability to mediate inflammation-based pain.
- Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, studies have proposed cannabis as a pain-relieving alternative to classic NSAIDS. Part of this interest stems from the fact that CBD is free from the "adverse effects" NSAIDS work on the body's organs.
These incredible studies highlight CBD's potential to fight chronic inflammation and pain in sufferers. Though more research needs to be done, it certainly presents a hopeful alternative to opioids or NSAIDs in pain management.
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