The massive medicinal properties of cannabis are by now quite well known. Physicians and healthcare practitioners all over the world are now prescribing medical marijuana for a variety of medical conditions. Among the various therapeutic uses of weed, its role as an effective pain reliever is perhaps the most popular. Many people, both experts, and patients are convinced of the opinion that cannabis is a much better pain control remedy than the usual opioid medications which can have nasty side-effects. A 2017 study by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria has found out that nearly 63% of its respondents suffering from chronic pain and mental health issues prefer cannabis to opioids. Both THC and CBD – the two main cannabinoids present in weed, have some excellent analgesic properties. Here is all you need to know about the analgesic potential of cannabinoids and how you can use them for improved health.
How cannabis reduces pain: Understanding the analgesic potential of cannabinoids
A number of scientific studies, as well as patient testimonies, now suggest that cannabis can be an effective pain reliever in very diverse circumstances. In other words, the cannabinoids can alleviate chronic pains arising out of a variety of medical conditions. While CBD or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is more popular as a pain-relieving agent, its psychotropic counterpart – THC or tetrahydrocannabinol – can also be very useful in treating certain kinds of chronic pains. Let’s see how extensive the analgesic potential of cannabinoids can be.
- CBD for arthritis and joint pains
In recent times, we have witnessed the popularity of CBD to be skyrocketing. According to a 2018 survey, most of the medical patients taking CBD in the US are using it to treat chronic pain, especially arthritis and joint pains. A 2016 clinical trial on animals has found out that cannabidiol can be quite effective in reducing inflammation and chronic pain associated with arthritis.
- CBD for other types of inflammatory pains
Studies have found out that cannabidiol is at least 20 times more effective anti-inflammatory remedy than common NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Apart from arthritis, inflammatory pain is also common in conditions like headaches, muscle cramps, ulcerative colitis, and a few autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s Disease. Being an anti-inflammatory pain-relieving agent, CBD can be very useful for patients suffering from these conditions.
- CBD for neuropathic pains
The analgesic potential of cannabinoids, especially CBD, covers neuropathic pains as well. As scientists point out, neuropathic pain is basically caused by disorders in the glutaminergic system – a critical excitatory neuronal pathway in our body. Studies have found out that the neuroprotective properties of CBD inhibit the release of glutamate in our brain and thereby alleviate neuropathic pain.
- CBD is also useful for muscle spasms
Muscle spasms causing constant pain is a common symptom of many medical conditions including multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders. Scientific research has revealed that the short-term use of cannabidiol can reduce spasticity.
- CBD for migraines
A number of studies have found that cannabidiol can alleviate the intense pain felt by migraine patients. When administered in combination with THC, CBD can be more effective than amitriptyline, a common med used to treat migraine attacks. Moreover, the combination is also very useful in treating cluster headaches.
- THC as a potent pain medication
While CBD is undoubtedly a more popular medicinal compound, THC can have some amazing therapeutic benefits too. One of them is pain relief. Steve Alexander, a cannabinoids researcher and associate professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Nottingham Medical School, beautifully sums up THC’s role in this respect: ‘THC activates certain cannabinoid receptors, one of which is in the nerve cells and the other is in the immune cells. When it activates the one in the nerve cells, it reduces the sensation of pain’.
- THC is better in reducing neuropathic pain
While CBD is good for anti-inflammatory pains, scientists claim that neuropathic pains can be better managed by doses of THC. As study results published in The Journal of Pain and other scientific journals have shown, short-term and low dose consumption of tetrahydrocannabinol can have potential benefits for pain neuropathy normally associated with a number of serious medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS.
THC has anti-inflammatory properties as well
Like CBD, THC is also an anti-inflammatory agent and works in suppressing the pains resulting from inflammations.
- THC also affects the perception of pain
Being a highly psychoactive cannabinoid that stimulates dopamine and serotonin secretion in our brains, THC is great at taking your mind off the pain. Not only does it take care of the physical cause of pain, but also reduces the perception of pain by modulating the mood and the communication between the nerve cells.
- Cannabinoids for fibromyalgia
There are now a number of scientific researches that suggest that cannabinoids can be particularly effective in managing the pains of fibromyalgia. As fibromyalgia is triggered by a ‘clinical endocannabinoid deficiency’, the role of cannabis in enhancing the endocannabinoid system and upregulating the eCB ligands like anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) can be pretty effective in treating the disorder. A combination of THC and CBD can provide prolonged relief from both neuropathic as well as nociceptive inflammatory pain common to fibromyalgia. Moreover, the cannabinoids also help reduce muscle stiffness and spasticity as well as alleviate myofascial and other types of inflammation in fibromyalgia patients.
Certainly, more scientific studies and clinical trials are needed to understand the analgesic potential of the cannabinoids to its full extent. So far, from what we have come to know from the research and anecdotal evidence, both THC and CBD can have some amazing benefits for pain management. Especially the entourage effect produced by the cannabinoids in combination with terpenes like linalool, myrcene, limonene, alpha-pinene and others is particularly effective in combating various kinds of chronic pains and providing prolonged reliefs. However, before you start self-medicating with these substances, it’s better to consult an expert and find out which cannabinoid is best for your unique condition and in what dosage.