The HERB Blog


What You Need to Know About Cannabis for Arthritis


Over 54 million U.S. adults live with some form of arthritis, and nearly 24 million of those adults have seen their quality of life significantly impacted by their condition. But as conventional arthritis treatments have mixed results, a growing number of arthritis sufferers are turning to an alternative solution: cannabis. But does using cannabis for arthritis actually work? And, more importantly, how do you achieve the maximum benefit?

Does Using Cannabis for Arthritis Work?

Before we break down the merits of cannabis and CBD oil for arthritis pain, it’s important to clarify what we mean by “arthritis.” Arthritis is a blanket term referring to any type of joint inflammation. There are actually about 200 types of rheumatoid conditions that impact the joints, so we have to be careful about discussing cannabis as though it works the same for each of these conditions. 

Specifically, studies have shown promise for certain types of arthritis, namely osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (two of the most common types). Cannabinoids like THC and CBD appear to reduce inflammatory symptoms while also slowing the progression of the disease. 

The inflammation is the key. Since arthritis is an inflammatory condition, any effective symptom reduction must address the inflammation. Incidentally, inflammation seems to be one of the conditions that cannabis responds to the best (though more research is needed). 

The inflammatory response seems to be related to how THC interacts with CB2, one of the body’s two major cannabinoid receptors. THC binds to CB2 receptors and appears to block inflammatory responses. The other cannabinoid receptor, CB1, has been shown to promote generalized pain reduction, potentially providing further benefit to arthritis patients. 

There seems to be a genuine consensus amongst medical and scientific professionals that consuming cannabis for arthritis can be a beneficial component of therapy.

Best Types of Cannabis for Arthritis Support 

If you want to pursue cannabis for arthritis therapy, it’s important to shop wisely. There are hundreds of cannabis strains, and each one has its own unique effects. 

The two primary cannabis cultivars are indica and sativa. When choosing between these two breeding types, you might have better luck with indicas or indica-dominant hybrids. Indicas are more commonly recommended to support pain relief, in part because they generally have a much higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD). 

Some studies have shown that CBD is especially effective at blocking pain signals. That’s one reason why high-CBD strains are sometimes recommended for patients who live with chronic pain and/or inflammation. Popular high-CBD cannabis strains for helping with arthritis might be Stephen Hawking Kush, Cannatonic, and Charlotte’s Web. 

To complicate matters, it’s not enough to just blindly ask for indicas. While indicas generally have CBD profiles, there are plenty of low-CBD indicas just as there are lots of high-CBD sativas (like Sour Tsunami and Harlequin, for example). 

Beyond just the cannabinoids (THC and CBD), you’ll want to pay attention to which terpenes are present in the strain. Terpenes are the oils that give cannabis (and all plant life) its familiar aromas. Researchers have been studying terpenes for decades, and they’ve found certain terpenes in particular to have potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. In particular, you’ll want to shop for strains that are high in pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene–like our best selling Lava Flower which has all of these terpenes and is a high CBD strain.

If you’re looking for specific strain recommendations, Northern Lights #5 might be a good place to start. Try this Northern Lights #5 blended vape from Select Oils–not only is it one of the most popular cannabis strains in the U.S. (accessible in most states with a legal cannabis program), but it’s an indica-dominant strain that marijuana doctors commonly recommend for addressing pain and inflammation. This multi-Cannabis Cup winning strain also contains a generous amount of myrcene and caryophyllene.

Young woman consuming a dropper of CBD oil for arthritis pain

What About CBD Oil for Arthritis Pain? 

Cannabis contains well over 100 cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, and a slew of smaller cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, THCV, and more. Each of these cannabinoids has its own unique effects on the body. 

As previously noted, some studies have pointed to CBD as being the compound that’s especially instrumental in pain relief. With that in mind, you might be wondering if you can just skip the whole-plant cannabis and just use CBD oil for arthritis pain. 

The answer is a bit complicated. On the one hand, CBD-specific studies have shown positive associations between CBD oil consumption and arthritis relief. However, research in this area is still limited. If you don’t have access to legal cannabis or are looking to avoid the psychoactive components in cannabis, CBD is absolutely worth trying. It’s extremely well-tolerated with only mild side effects, it’s easy to consume, and it doesn’t cause any sort of impairment. 

However, if you are considering whole-plant cannabis, or if you haven’t had much luck with CBD oil for arthritis pain, it might still be a good idea to try cannabis. THC has its own strong anti-inflammatory effects, and the combination of THC and CBD may provide more significant relief. Everyone’s biochemistry is different, so the important thing is to discover which approach works best for you.  

How to Consume Cannabis for Arthritis

If you’re considering cannabis for arthritis, the first step is to choose a delivery system. Each one has its pros and cons. 

  • Smoked cannabis is the traditional choice. It’s a fast delivery system, perfect for people who already enjoy the experience. However, it’s not very discreet and is sometimes unappealing to medicinal patients just looking for relief. 
  • Edibles are easy to consume and easy to measure precise dosage. Just note that the onset time is much slower (often 30 to 60 minutes), and the effects are much more powerful. 
  • Vaping has become very popular in recent years. The onset time is almost immediate, which is a huge plus. However, vaping has a bit of a learning curve and requires precise temperature control. 
  • THC and CBD tinctures are also popular for their simplicity and easy dosage control. Just place a couple of drops of oil beneath your tongue and let the liquid absorb into your bloodstream. Tinctures are a convenient solution, but they tend to be costlier than many alternatives. 
  • Cannabis and THC topicals are commonly recommended for arthritis patients because you can apply them directly to the affected area. They’re non-psychoactive, and they may be ideal for inflammatory conditions. 

The important thing is to choose a delivery system that works for you and start with a very low dosage. You can slowly, gradually increase the dosage as you develop a better understanding of your tolerance. 

It will take a bit of trial and error, but before long, you just may start to experience the relief you’ve been looking for.

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