Photo of dry medical marijuana buds  with shallow depth of field

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

There have been anecdotal reports and testimonies of arthritis sufferers getting effective relief from cannabis without adverse side effects, sometimes even reversing their arthritic conditions. 

There have also been several studies confirming the anecdotal successes with cannabis for treating arthritis with cannabis. 

A rare human study that clinically tested cannabis, and a massive review paper published recently that covered over 100 lab cell culture (in vitro) and animal (in vivo) studies testing cannabis for treating arthritis shows promising results for arthritis sufferers.

The Only Human Study of Cannabis for Arthritis – 2005

A British study was published with the title Preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis published online November 9, 2005, by the journal Rheumatology. 

The national or federal legal constraints in most countries inhibit human cannabis trials. This one was exempted because the product tested was approved as a prescription drug in Europe first then Canada.

Sativex, produced by GW Pharma in England, is a naturally derived concentrate of THC and CBD whole plant extracts balanced at 1:1, a unique balance that includes other minor cannabinoids and terpenes appropriate for inflammation and pain control.

Sativex’s THC and CBD are not synthetically created. (Source)

Sativex was created as a standardized mixture of THC/CBD equally distributed per dose as an oral spray. Sativex could be considered a nutraceutical according to this definition from Health Canada: 

A Nutraceutical is a product isolated or purified from foods, [or herbs] and generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with food and demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease. (Source)

The study’s researchers introduced their clinical trial by revealing an earlier questionnaire survey study conducted among 2,969 cannabis users, of which 947 obtained their cannabis through underground or black market sources. 

Those 947 used cannabis to obtain symptom relief for various chronic unhealthy conditions, of which 155 used cannabis to obtain symptom relief from RA (rheumatoid arthritis). 

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that begins with chronic inflammation, which ultimately wears out the cartilage in those joints. Osteoarthritis begins with worn out joint cartilage that allows bones to grind together within the joints, producing chronic inflammation and pain.

After screening 75 RA patients whose symptom relief wasn’t sufficient with standard pharmaceutical treatments, 58 were chosen for this double-blind placebo test. They were divided into 31 who were given Sativex while the other 27 were given a placebo. 

All of them had been stabilized at low doses of their customary arthritis medications, which remained constant throughout the five-week trial. Dosing Sativex and the undisclosed placebo started very low and was gradually increased. 

By the third week of this five-week trial, average activation sprays had stabilized to 5.4 activations per week with Sativex and 5.3 with the placebo. 

Strangely, both the placebo and Sativex subjects experienced temporary mild side effects. A few of the Sativex users experienced “transient dizziness,” which some would consider as momentarily spaced out. There were no serious or long term side effects in either group.

They conducted the trial during only evening hours to avoid the potential of intoxication beyond one’s capability to perform required activities. 

However, the researchers noted that a different clinical study of MS (multiple sclerosis) patients using around the clock dosing according to need, limited only to each patient’s self-aware tolerance level, did not result in intoxication sufficient to hinder their activities.

Even more strangely, five among the placebo group experienced post-trial adverse effects or withdrawal. Yet, none of the Sativex users experienced either effect.  

The researchers observed significantly lowered pain both during movement and at rest among the Sativex subjects, who also experienced increased freedom of action or mobility. 

They also observed improved sleep, likely the result of pain relief from this CBM (cannabis based medicine), an important factor for healing and rebuilding tissue. 

All these observed results led the researchers to conclude:

In the first ever controlled trial of a CBM [cannabis based medicine] in RA [rheumatoid arthritis], a significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed following Sativex treatment. Whilst the differences are small and variable across the population, they represent benefits of clinical relevance and show the need for more detailed investigation in this indication. [emphasis added] (Source)

Other More Recent Studies Confirm Cannabis as Beneficial for Arthritis

Other studies have revealed that the endocannabinoid system’s CB2 receptors are common within the peripheral nervous system. They are the cellular doorways that allow cannabinoid entry. 

When CB2 receptors are activated by external cannabinoids such as THC, they modulate the immune system to reduce inflammation, which is a source of chronic pain.

More details on the endocannabinoid system and the difference between CB1 and CB2 receptors can be accessed here.

In 2009, a paper published by the journal Future Med Chem entitled Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs offered the following summary of what they took away from the well over 100 studies referenced and reviewed:

Cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis sativa, and endogenous cannabinoids mediate their effects through activation of specific cannabinoid receptors known as cannabinoid receptor 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2).

The cannabinoid system has been shown both in vivo and in vitro to be involved in regulating the immune system through its immunomodulatory properties.

Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and subsequently attenuate disease symptoms. This property of cannabinoids is mediated through multiple pathways such as induction of apoptosis in activated immune cells, suppression of cytokines and chemokines at inflammatory sites and upregulation of FoxP3+ regulatory T cells.

Cannabinoids have been tested in several experimental models of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and hepatitis and have been shown to protect the host from the pathogenesis through induction of multiple anti-inflammatory pathways.

Cannabinoids may also be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation. In such instances, cannabinoids can either directly inhibit tumor growth or suppress inflammation and tumor angiogenesis. (Source)

If you live in a state that allows medical or recreational cannabis and you’re suffering from arthritis, research the THC/CBD strains that have the most pain-killing clout. Not all states include cannabis exemptions for arthritis. But those that don’t usually allow cannabis for pain.

In case you’re not in a cannabis-friendly state, there is a non-cannabinoid option that has proven itself as a safe and effective alternative for treating arthritis featured in this earlier Health Impact News article. 

Black Seed Oil Relieves Pain Associated with Arthritis

In the video below, Maria Collins, who had to move to Colorado to enable her use of cannabis for arthritis tells an interesting story.