How to Use CBD for Pain (and Why You Should)

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In order for cannabis and its hundreds of constituents to contribute to mainstream healthcare in a quantifiable way, it needs research-backed legitimacy. And that’s why, right now, we’re in the middle of a research boom. Scientists, doctors, and researchers are looking into why CBD (in particular, due to its non-psychoactive properties) makes an amazing, accessible treatment option. And especially in the area of discomfort.

While pain is very subjective and only the person experiencing it can express the severity, we all see the effects, including on employment and therefore financial independence, on freedom of movement and social opportunity, and on our potential overall. Pain is a bummer, in other words. The less we need to deal with it, the better.

We know that people have been easing discomfort with cannabis for over 5000 years, but how does it work, and how can you use it?

According to a study from 2017, “the utilization of cannabis for pain can be traced back to ancient Chinese texts, dating to 2900 BC. The Shennong Ben Cao Jing, a Chinese encyclopedia on agriculture and medicine, contains the oldest written record of cannabis as a medicine, recommending cannabis for constipation, rheumatic pain, female reproductive tract disorders, and malaria.”

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Indian societies dating 3000 years back reportedly began to use cannabis flower to diminish pain too. And it's not just the anti-inflammatory action that makes cannabis an effective pain reliever, it's also the antispasmodic and analgesic qualities. People with pain know that it’s often a combination of multiple pain symptoms that causes an issue, not simply soreness.

The only pharmaceutical cannabis product approved for pain, Sativex, bears a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio that has been used to treat neuropathic pain in some countries for over a decade. This is made possible by CBD’s ability to stimulate CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system, many of which are located in the nervous system.

In a decade old study, they put it like this: “The endocannabinoid system parallels and interacts at many points with the other major endogenous pain control systems: endorphin/enkephalin, vanilloid/transient receptor potential, and inflammatory.”

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This study also says that CBD has more of an antioxidant effect than Vitamin C & E, while modulating the CB1 receptors to not take in too many other cannabinoids. Last, it stresses the potential importance of terpenes in pain relief—meaning it's important to go for a full spectrum cannabis oil versus a CBD isolate to help get the complete picture when it comes to pain relief.

Now that we know CBD can help address pain, how should we use it? Slathering yourself in localized pain relief is a start! Pain balms and topical CBD (including patches and suppositories) can reduce inflammation, noted by countless users, as well as 2016 study on lab mice, that said “Outcomes of this study indicate that topical application of CBD gel is an effective treatment for reduction in inflammation and hypersensitivity associated with the rodent adjuvant-induced monoarthritis model… Transdermal cannabidiol (CBD) gel application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritic pain-related behaviours and exerts an anti-inflammation property without evident high brain centre psychoactive effects.”

Then there’s the edible cannabis category, which covers anything you can swallow (gummies, capsules, etc.), and systemic CBD could be a good choice for those with internal pain like that of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. Steady internal dosing also can balance the whole endocannabinoid system, which is sometimes beneficial to pain. One study from 2012 explored this, saying: “They can effectively attenuate pathological pain without significantly causing major psychoactive side effect and analgesic tolerance.”

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Another way way to get a hit of CBD to deal with pain relief is oral or inhalable cannabis. This spans tinctures and sublingual products, plus vapes and flower. These methods don’t require the CBD you take to travel through the internal organs, where it loses a bit of its potency on the way. Oral CBD also works faster too—sometimes within 15 minutes—which is important for those dealing with pain.

If you suffer from pain, incorporating CBD into your regular regimen would be a solid choice. The method for deploying it is more of an individual preference situation, so make sure that you not only find relief, but enjoy the method you’ve chosen to get it. And feel better soon.

Danielle is an New York City-based writer. Off-duty, she enjoys a good cup of coffee, a clean house, cooking gourmet meals, and studying botany, cosmetic chemistry, and natural healing.