What is CBD oil?

Cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, is a medicinal product derived from cannabis. Many of the primary chemicals in cannabis are cannabidiols. However, CBD oils do not contain THC, the compound in cannabis that makes you “high.”

Researchers have recently starting focusing on CBD oil’s effects on several conditions that cause pain, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). So far, the results are promising. Keep reading to learn more about what recent studies suggest about CBD oil as well as tips on how to use it.

What the research says

The first controlled trial to evaluate the use of cannabis-based medicine to treat RA happened in 2006Trusted Source. Researchers concluded that, after five weeks of use, a cannabis-based medication called Sativex reduced inflammation and significantly improved pain. Participants also reported improved sleep, and most of the side effects were mild.

2008 reviewTrusted Source of the use of CBD to treat chronic pain similarly concluded that CBD reduced pain and improved sleep without any negative side effects.

In 2016, another studyTrusted Source was done using CBD gel on rats. Researchers again found that the CBD gel reduced both joint pain and inflammation without any side effects.

While all of this research is very promising, the existing studies have been relatively small. Many more studies, especially on large numbers of human participants, are still needed to fully understand the effects of CBD oil and other cannabis-based treatments on RA symptoms.

How does it work?

CBD oil affects brain activity, but not in the same way that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, does. CBD oil interacts with two receptors, called CB1 and CB2, to reduce pain and the effects of inflammation.

CB2 also plays a role in your immune system. RA involves your immune system attacking the tissue in your joints. So this relationship to the immune system could explain why CBD oil seems to work well for RA symptoms.

In addition, CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects could also help to slow down or stop the progression of RA, which causes permanent damage to your joints over time. These effects could also reduce several other inflammation-related RA symptoms, such as fatigue and fever.

How is it used?

CBD oil comes in the form of both a liquid and a capsule. You can take a capsule by mouth or add CBD oil to food or water. You can also mix CBD oil with your favorite lotion and apply it directly to your skin to help with stiff, achy joints. Some brands also offer therapeutic salves you can apply directly to your skin.

Work with your doctor to figure out the best dosage for you. It’s best to start with a very small dose so you can see how your body reacts. If you don’t notice any side effects, you can try slowly increasing your dosage.

When choosing a CBD oil, make sure it’s from a trusted provider and includes a full list of ingredients.

It is also possible to apply CBD oil topically and many cream and lotion products are becoming available for purchase.

Are there any side effects?

CBD oil doesn’t come with any serious potential side effects. However, you might experience some mild side effects, especially when you use it for the first time. If you have been on RA drugs for some time, these side effects may be more profound. These include:

  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • appetite changes

If you’re considering trying CBD, it’s important to talk to your doctor first. CBD may interact with your current medications or supplements. CBD and grapefruit both interact with enzymes that are important to drug metabolism. Be extra careful if any of your medications or supplements come with a grapefruit warning.

In a study performed on mice, receiving CBD-rich cannabis extract injections was associated with an increased risk of liver toxicity. However, some of the study mice had been given very large amounts of the extract.

Is it legal?

Cannabis and products derived from cannabis, such as CBD oil, are legal for medicinal or recreational use in certain parts of the United States.

If cannabis is only legal for medicinal use in your state, then you’ll need a recommendation from your doctor before you can purchase CBD oil. If cannabis is also legal for recreational use, then you should be able to purchase CBD oil in dispensaries or even online.

Check this map to see what the laws are in your state. Also check the laws in places you may visit.

Can’t get CBD oil in your area? Learn about other alternative treatments for RA symptoms.

The bottom line

So far, studies looking at the benefits of CBD oil for people with RA are promising. However, there’s a need for larger human studies to fully understand its effects. Keep in mind that CBD oil isn’t approved by the FDA and remains illegal in several states.

Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

This article was originally posted on healthline.com and has been republished with permission.