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Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the main cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, has emerged as a potential novel approach to the issue of managing chronic pain. This has offered hope to many who are suffering, not to mention the controversy it has been stirring among the public and politicians due to marijuana’s legal status as a Schedule I drug. In this article, we will take a quick look at the various studies that have been trying to establish the efficacy of CBD for arthritis treatment. Besides arthritis, CBD has been shown to offer therapeutic effects for many other conditions. For a full list of all the conditions that scientists have been trying to cure using CBD, check out our research page.

Background: What You Need to Know About Arthritis

Arthritis is a broad term that refers to more than 200 different conditions related to joint inflammation and degradation. This disease represents an emerging public health concern, all over the world, with an estimated 350 million people affected worldwide. For instance, between 2007-2009, almost 50 million adult Americans were diagnosed with arthritis and this number is expected to hit 67 million by 2030 according to estimations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As it stands, clinicians managing patients with different forms of chronic pain such as arthritis are faced with particular difficulties, since the available drugs are not adequate. Consequently, physicians have been looking for novel approaches to treat arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.

What is arthritis?

There are two main types of arthritis, namely; osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis that affect people of all ages, races and sexes, and forming the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

First is Osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative condition that destroys the cartilage and bones, causing stiffness and pain. This condition affects the joints in the knees, hips, and thumbs.

On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system attacks and destroys joints causing inflammation and pain. RA normally attacks joints in the hands and feet, leading to swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion and pain in the joints.

The symptoms brought by arthritis may stay the same for years or get worse over time. Severe forms of the disease lead to chronic pain and make it impossible to complete normal activities such as climbing stairs.  Although the available medical treatments can help to halt the progression of the disease, they come with adverse side effects, including immune suppression, liver damage, severe lung infections, etc. Up until now, however, there is no cure for arthritis, and many patients end up living with the condition for life.

Arthritis and the Endocannabinoid System

There is increasing evidence from preclinical studies showing the endocannabinoid system as a potential therapeutic target for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis pain. Indeed, there are pharmacological studies proving the anti-nociceptive effects of CBD in different mice models of osteoarthritis, not to mention compelling evidence suggesting the active involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of arthritis.

The therapeutic interest of CBD for arthritis is further supported by the abundant distribution of cannabinoid receptors in the body combined with the physiological role of the endocannabinoid system in the management of pain, inflammation and even joint function. Nonetheless, the clinical evidence available to support the therapeutic use of CBD is insufficient, in spite of the promising preclinical results.

Studies showing the use of CBD for arthritis

With the arrival of cannabidiol (CBD) as an effective anti-inflammatory agent, people suffering from arthritis may have a new, all natural option to ease their suffering.

Cannabinoids have shown a lot of potential in the treatment of arthritis according to research. Studies now show that CBD can both reduce inflammation and pain in patients suffering from different forms of arthritis, as well as slow down the progression of the disease.

For instance, one randomized, double-blind parallel group study aimed to assess the efficacy of a cannabis-based medicine (CBM) in the management of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. The study included 58 patients and lasted for five weeks, with the CBM being administered daily via oromuscal spray. Efficacy outcomes evaluated included pain on movement, pain at rest, morning stiffness and quality of sleep. Thirty-one of the subjects were treated using the CBM while 27 took a placebo.

According to the results, the CBM provided statistically significant improvements in relation to pain during movement, pain at rest and quality of sleep. There were no effects on morning stiffness. The majority of the recorded side effects were mild or moderate, with no withdrawal symptoms. This was the first controlled trial of a cannabis-based medicine in treating rheumatoid arthritis, confirming CBD’s significant analgesic effects.

Another study set out to explore the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) in murine collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). CBD was administered to the rodents after the onset of clinical symptoms. The scientists found that the CBD treatment effectively blocked progression of arthritis in both models of the disease. Furthermore, CBD was equally effective whether administered intraperitoneally (i.p.) or orally.

The dose dependency resulted into a bell-shaped curve, with 5 mg/kg per day( i.p.) or 25 mg/kg per day (orally) producing the optimal effects. The scientists associated the clinical improvement with protection of the joints against severe damage.

CBD showed a number of in vitro effects such as a dose-dependent suppression of lymphocyte proliferation, both mitogen-stimulated and antigen-specific, and the blockade of the Zymosan-triggered reactive oxygen burst by peritoneal granulocytes. The authors also noted that CBD administration can block the lipopolysaccharide-induced rise in serum tumor necrosis factor in C57/BL mice. Everything considered, these data show that CBD has a powerful anti-arthritic effect in collagen-induced arthritis, through its combined anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions.

Lastly, a different study examined the efficacy of transdermal CBD for the reduction of pain and inflammation using a rat to complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced monoarthritic knee joint model. CBD gels of various potencies (0.6, 3.1, 6.2 or 62.3 mg/day) were applied for four consecutive days after the onset of induced arthritis. The level of inflammation and the animals’ activity levels were assessed to determine the efficacy of the treatment.

As per the results, transdermal CBD gel reduced joint swelling, immune cell infiltration, limb posture scores (as a rating of spontaneous pain), and thickening of the synovial membrane in a dose-dependent manner. The results showed 6.2 and 62 mg/day to be effective doses. The researchers reported no alteration to the exploratory behavior of the models, which indicates limited effect of CBD on higher brain function.

The data from this study indicate that transdermal CBD application has therapeutic potential for managing pain-related symptoms and inflammation caused by arthritis, without adverse side-effects.

How CBD Works to Control Pain and Inflammation in Arthritis

Typically, cannabinoids act through CB1 and CB2 receptors to modulate nociception (pain caused by damage to tissue). Nonetheless, recent studies now suggest that some cannabinoids bind to uncommon receptors. For instance, one such receptor called GPR55 is activated by the abnormal cannabidiol analogue O-1602 according to one study.

This study sought to establish the mechanism of CBD in treating inflammation and joint pain by testing whether the synthetic GPR55 agonist O-1602 can alter joint nociception in a rodent model of acute joint inflammation.

In the results, the authors noted that peripheral administration of O-1602 reduced movement-evoked firing of nociceptive C-fibers and this effect was blocked by the GPR55 receptor antagonist O-1918. Moreover, co-administration of the CB1 and CB2 antagonists (AM281 and AM630 respectively) had no consequence on O-1602 responses. This study was able to show that unusual cannabinoid receptors are involved in joint nociception and that these novel targets may be beneficial for the treatment of inflammatory pain.



These studies show that CBD has long-lasting therapeutic effects without the psychoactive side-effects normally associated with the other main cannabinoid, THC. Currently, one in five adults worldwide are diagnosed with some kind of arthritis. Therefore, CBD comes at the right time and as a good candidate for developing improved therapies for controlling various forms of arthritis.

Below is a full list of all the available studies concerning the use of CBD for arthritis treatment.



Research and Case Studies on the effects of Cannabis to treat Arthritis:


Rodger McFarland

Senior Editor at Green Flower Botanicals
Rodger McFarland is the Senior Editor at Green Flower Botanicals and is responsible for the curation and management of all published research. Rodger is passionate about educating others on the power of cannabis as personalized medicine. His other passions include his golden retriever Bailey, his guitar collection, and traveling abroad with his beautiful wife Terri.