Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States according to the Arthritis Foundation, affecting more than 50 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition characterized by wear and tear on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes painful swelling, stiffness and limited mobility in the joints. These symptoms are created when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, according to Medical News Today.

In the 29 states in which cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational purposes, many individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis have successfully used this treatment for symptom relief. Here’s what you need to know about using marijuana for arthritis relief.

How It Works

Two of the main compounds in the cannabis plant, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are similar to the body’s natural endocannabinoids and thus can interact with the receptors for these chemicals in the brain. When this occurs, neurotransmitters in the brain are released and send messages to the body’s cells to produce various effects.

According to Healthline, CBD specifically acts on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which reduce pain and inflammation. This compound also alleviates the symptoms of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis by acting on immune system receptors. In some individuals, this slows down the progression of a chronic immune disease and lessens its symptoms. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, this could include fever and fatigue in addition to the disease’s characteristic joint pain and stiffness.

The Research

Several studies have looked at the efficacy of cannabidiol oil (CBD) in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or another immune condition. A 2006 study published in the Oxford journal Rheumatology found that a CBD-based oral medication called Sativex improved pain, reduced inflammation and improved sleep for study participants with rheumatoid arthritis, and was associated with minimal side effects.

In 2008, a study published in the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management reviewed the use of CBD-based medications to treat chronic pain that was unresponsive to other medications and treatments. Researchers found that the drug was well-tolerated among the participants and led to better sleep and decreased pain.

Research published in 2014 in the European Journal of Neuroscience found that the endocannabinoid system played a role in relieving osteoarthritis pain in rodent studies, though more research is needed with human subjects to confirm this link.

2016 research used topical CBD gel to treat rats with arthritis. Results published in the European Journal of Pain reported that the rodents experienced reduced joint pain and inflammation associated with the treatment.

Most recently, a 2017 study published in the journal Pain found that CBD had positive effects on degeneration, pain, and inflammation for rats with osteoarthritis. The authors suggest that cannabis is a safe, therapeutic way to treat joint pain associated with this condition.

Although these results are quite promising, research opportunities have long been limited by the illegality of cannabis at the federal level, including its classification as a Schedule I drug with no recognized medical use. As medical marijuana becomes more widespread at the state level, larger human studies will be conducted to fully understand the effect of CBD and THC on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and other conditions.

Using Cannabis for Arthritis Pain Relief

Those with arthritis have a range of options when it comes to treating the pain associated with this condition. According to Everyday Health, some of the most common treatments available include:

  • Topical ointments may provide immediate pain relief to the affected joints for targeted treatment that lasts up to a few hours. This form of medical cannabis doesn’t create the psychoactive effects that occur when the substance is smoked or inhaled with a vaporizer. These creams and lotions can be reapplied as needed.
  • Pills, capsules and oil tinctures that contain cannabis can provide pain relief for rheumatoid arthritis for up to eight hours. This method also has the benefit of a consistent dosage, but may take up to two hours to work after the medication is taken.
  • Edibles, such as baked goods and candies infused with cannabis, offer long-lasting relief for severe pain. However, the effects are quite strong and sometimes inconsistent.
  • Transdermal patches deliver cannabinoids through the skin for a pain-relieving effect. It offers a long-lasting effect without smoking or ingesting the substance; however, many patients find it’s not as effective for severe arthritis pain as other methods.
  • Vaporizers are used to heat cannabis oil so that it can be inhaled without the effects and smell of marijuana smoke. This type of treatment offers an immediate effect and dosage can be gradually increased when additional pain relief is needed.
  • Smoking marijuana through a pipe or joint offers fast relief, but many people with rheumatoid arthritis dislike the smoke smell and the irritating effect on the lungs. Relief lasts two to three hours compared to up to eight hours with vaping.

When taking a new type of medical cannabis for the first time, you’ll have to work with your doctor closely to find a dosage that alleviates your symptoms without unwanted side effects. Many patients start with a small dose and gradually increase consumption to a therapeutic level. Product strength varies dramatically from as little as 2.5 milligrams of CBD oil to as much as 1,000 mg in a single dose.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis use medical cannabis successfully with few or no side effects. However, minor side effects you may experience include changes in appetite, diarrhea, fatigue, and nausea. These may be more pronounced the first time you try medical marijuana, especially if you also take other drugs for rheumatoid arthritis.

Best Strains To Relieve Arthritis Pain

While there are few scientific studies correlating specific strains with arthritis symptom relief, crowdsourcing feedback from current cannabis users is a popular method to discover which weed strains may be helpful. The database Leafly collects information from medical cannabis patients worldwide to help determine the best marijuana strains for various medical uses, including the best strains for arthritis pain. The following strains are often listed among the most effective for those suffering from pain, joint stiffness, lack of sleep and/or loss of mobility associated with arthritis.

Blackberry Kush is a common medicinal strain for pain relief, creating a relaxing effect that induces sleep and enhances relaxation. This strain is an indica, which means it has a strong impact on the body compared to a more energizing sativa strain.

Blue Dream is a sativa strain that fans report has strong pain-relieving effects without inducing fatigue. This makes it ideal for those with arthritis who struggle with stiffness and inflammation that impact daytime activities.

Granddaddy Purple is a strong indica strain designed to promote deep physical relaxation. For this reason, it’s commonly used to treat arthritis and other forms of chronic pain, particularly for nighttime use when deep sleep is desired.

Formerly known as Girl Scout Cookies, GSC is an intense, powerful strain that many patients find provides long-lasting relief from severe arthritis pain. It’s a strong indica so it’s best for nighttime use, especially if you have trouble sleeping because of your pain.

Jack Herer, named for the renowned marijuana activist and created in the Netherlands in the 1990s, combines bodily pain relief with a cerebral impact that provides energy and clarity for daytime use. If you have to go to work but are struggling with arthritis pain, many in the same situation use this as their go-to medication.

Tangerine Dream is a hybrid strain that was actually handcrafted to meet the needs of medical patients who struggle with chronic pain but need to be clear and lucid during the day. Fans of this strain report elevated mental clarity along with deep physical relaxation.

Trainwreck is commonly used by those with arthritis, migraine headaches and severe chronic pain when they need fast, effective relief. It’s also reported to have an uplifting, euphoric effect, which makes it appropriate for those struggling with depression and anxiety.

Trident CBD is a favorite among medical cannabis patients who don’t want the high feeling associated with high-THC strains. This CBD-heavy option fits the bill, reportedly providing relief of pain and inflammation without impacting function. This makes it an outstanding choice for daytime pain.

While there has been no research on HONEY® products and their ability to treat symptoms related to arthritis, we offer many of these strains known to help alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Our high-quality cannabis oil cartridges allow our customers to vaporize their favorite strains for easy dosage and convenient, discreet symptom relief. Use our store locator to find a store near you that sells HONEY® products or call 510-246-3772 to learn more about our disposable vape pens, cartridges, and accessories. We’ll be happy to help you explore the benefits of medical marijuana for arthritis.