Inflammatory Diseases In General
Inflamed tissue is a natural and necessary response to the healing process. Without inflammation, injuries would not heal. Inflammation occurs in response to the invasion of an organism, exposure to a toxin, or the presence of impaired or injured cells. The inflammatory response is a general intervention and not as specific as, for example, the production of antibodies aimed to destroy a specific invader or threat. This general response involves swelling (accumulation of fluids), heat, redness (increased micro-blood supply), and the impairment of function and pain at the affected site, which serves as a constant reminder to guard the site until the healing process is complete.
Inflammation is classified as either acute or chronic. An acute inflammation is a temporary reaction to an organism’s injury and ends when the affected tissue is healed. Chronic inflammation varies. It can result from the existence of a maintaining cause, such as the presence of a foreign object; when an invading organism or toxin cannot be expelled or continuously reappears; when an injury is not allowed to heal and instead is constantly agitated; or, lastly, from an over-reactive immune system that attacks itself, such as Crohn’s Disease.
Arthritis is inflammation of a joint connecting two bones such as the fingers, wrists, hips, back and knee joints. People suffering from arthritis often complain of pain in the affected joint, which is commonly accompanied by redness, a sensation of heat, and minor swelling. Arthritis typically develops gradually over many years. Initially, it presents as an occasional mild achee in the joints which progresses into chronic pains, stiffness, and swelling. The arthritis sufferer begins to avoid certain painful movements so as to guard against the pain, resulting in further stiffness, limited range of motion and decreased mobility. Arthritis has become the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with more than 46 million people suffering from various forms of physical difficulties.
Western medicine claims little specific knowledge if the causes or cures for this ailment. However, more than one hundred different causes for arthritis are considered, including gout and scleroderma, and viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. Limited treatments focus on suppressing pain and/or diminishing inflammation flare-ups.
One of the major classes of pharmaceutical drugs for arthritis, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can result in serious consequences and should be taken with caution. “Each year 41,000 older adults are hospitalized, and 3,300 of them die from ulcers caused by NSAID’s. Thousands of younger adults are hospitalized”.
Cannabis and Arthritis
In one animal study, researchers from the UK, U.S., and Israel (2000) discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) treatment in rats effectively blocked the progression of both acute and chronic arthritis. In a variety of animal assays (a procedure for testing effectiveness of a drug), cannabidiol-derived ajulemic acid showed efficacy in models for pain and inflammation. In a Worcester, Massachusetts study (2004) on rat adjuvant arthritis, ajulemic acid displayed a remarkable action in preventing the destruction of inflamed joints.
Researchers from Calgary, Canada (2011), injected the synthetic cannabinoid URB597 into osteoarthritic knees of rodents and discovered that it significantly reduced pain. The mechanism was mediated via CB1 receptors. Scientists consider cannabinoids a possible novel approach to treating osteoarthritis pain.
URB597 is an inhibitor of an enzyme (fatty acid amide hydrolase or FAAH) that breaks down anandamide, thereby increasing anandamide presence and activity in the body. The endocannabinoid anandamide binds relatively equally to CB1 and CB2. Ajulemic acid (HU239) is a synthetic cannabinoid hypothesized to be a CB1 agonist, while CBD has a greater affinity for CB2 than CB1.
The Arthritis Society of Canada is a strong advocate for the use of medical cannabis for arthritis and arthritis-related symptoms. In this video, the science of cannabis for arthritis is explained in more detail.
While more research has been done in the interim, the highlights are as follows:
- A 2011 study found that CBD helped to reduce inflammatory pain in rats by affecting the way that pain receptors respond to stimuli.
- A 2014 review of the existing body of research on animals concluded that CBD may be an effective treatment for OA.
- A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment for OA joint pain.
However, to date, there a lack of scientific evidence to prove conclusively that CBD is an effective arthritis treatment for humans.
A 2006 study found that a cannabis-based mouth spray called Sativex helped to relieve arthritis pain. However, the cannabis plant extracts that the company uses to make the spray contain both CBD and THC.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person’s brain and immune system.
One of these receptors, called a CB2 receptor, plays a role in the immune system by managing pain and inflammation.
Researchers believe that when CBD enters a person’s body, it may attach to CB2 receptors. Alternatively, it may cause the body to produce natural cannabinoids that attach to the CB2 receptors.
Either way, scientists think CBD affects the way that these receptors respond to the signals that they receive, possibly helping reduce inflammation and pain.
A 2008 review of research into CBD and its possible mechanism of action suggested that CBD could play a role in chronic pain management.
In conclusion, CBD oil shows promise as a treatment for arthritis pain. If it affects receptors in the brain and immune system in the way that researchers believe, it may reduce inflammation and pain. When used in synergy with THC, inflammation, pain relief, and joint protection are at its optimal efficacy.