Taking CBD for Pain: How Does It Work?
Pain is complex – it comes in many forms and isn’t classified as a condition, but as a symptom of other illnesses. But for many, severe pain has a devastating effect on their quality of life. Treatments for pain are also failing to fulfil patients’ needs – opioids for example, are highly addictive and come with a high risk of overdose.
Therefore, those in pain are looking for new options. While cannabis has been used for millennia as an anaesthetic, especially in Ancient China, the herb’s psychoactive properties have been a drawback to its development as a medicine. But recently, a new type of cannabis has emerged, harnessing the potential of the prominent non-intoxicating component in the plant: cannabidiol (CBD).
Products such as CBD edibles and oils are legal in the United States, and have high concentrations of CBD, but little to no THC. According to research, CBD is helping lots of users who are in pain and self-medicating with these products.
However, it should be clarified that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD as a painkiller yet – this will require multiple clinical trials. But for those who are keen to experiment with CBD, let’s check out some products that may have therapeutic value.
CBD hemp flower
When smoked or vaped, CBD is taken directly into the bloodstream via the lungs, skipping the first-pass metabolism which slows down activation time. The fast response time offered by CBD hemp flower is matched only by CBD e-liquids (vape juices). Speedy relief is essential for people suffering from acute pain symptoms, as are typical with multiple sclerosis, migraines and fibromyalgia.
Over the past few years, as demand for CBD has increased, hemp growers have been cultivating high-strength CBD strains that produce more potent effects. It’s now common to see strains with 15 to 20% CBD, which equates to between 150 and 200mg per gram of flower. Not to mention, as a natural plant, hemp flower also has traces of other cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and other plant compounds which may tack on additional benefits.
Furthermore, with CBD flower, the wide variety of strains means you can get a number of experiences. In the evenings, relaxing, indica-dominant CBD buds may be appropriate. However, during the day, the energizing effects of a sativa strain, combined with CBD’s pain relief, is perhaps more in order. Smoking to medicate is understandably off-putting for a lot of people, but CBD is non-addictive, and vaping can reduce the health risks by up to 95%, per English public health research.
If vaping isn’t for you either, the next best option are CBD oils, which work by sublingual absorption. CBD oil is applied under the tongue, where the sublingual glands absorb the CBD into the bloodstream, also avoiding the first-pass metabolism. This method takes a few minutes longer to work than inhaled CBD, but it’s still relatively quick in comparison to other CBD products, and the best type of product if you don’t want any adverse health effects.
CBD capsules and edibles
You may be wondering what the point is of edibles and capsules if they take such a long time to work. It is true that these products can take an hour or so (sometimes less, sometimes more) to have a beneficial effect, and this isn’t ideal for acute pain. However, for persistent inflammation and chronic pain, edibles and capsules are perfect, because the CBD has a long-lasting effect.
With smoking, vaping and sublingual absorption, the benefits tend to wear off after three to four hours. However, CBD taken orally can easily last for six to eight hours. In addition, edibles and capsules are as discreet as it gets, so whether you’re in a crowded space, on public transport, on a flight or just sitting at home, it’s always easy to dose up and get the relief you need.
Topical CBD products (creams, balms, lotions, massage gels) are intriguing solo pain solutions, but are also interesting as complements to flower, oils and edibles. With topicals, the CBD is administered onto the skin in the area where you’re experiencing pain. The cannabinoids then engage with receptors in that specific region to produce localized relief. CBD creams often have other ingredients too, such as cooling menthols, to enhance the sensations of relief.
If other CBD products haven’t worker or don’t ease pain enough, using creams could be the answer. Topicals are popular for pain in the back, neck and knees, and the anti-inflammatory effects may also help reduce arthritis pain.