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Is It True That Cannabidiol Oil Eases Pain?

Research suggests that cannabidiol oil eases pain in a number of hard-to-treat conditions. This compound from marijuana does not make people "high."

Could people in pain use a component of cannabis as an unexpected remedy? Anything related to marijuana is often regarded with suspicion because of widespread recreational use of the plant. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence that cannabidiol oil eases pain.

Q. I’ve heard that cannabidiol oil can be used for pain relief. Is this true?

Are there interactions with other medications? The pain meds I’m on only take the edge off. I still have quite a bit of pain. I think that’s typical for most of us with chronic pain.

What Is the Evidence That Cannabidiol Oil Eases Pain?

A. Cannabidiol oil (CBD) comes from the plant Cannabis sativa, aka marijuana. Unlike some other components of cannabis, however, CBD does not make people high (Babalonis et al, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, March 1, 2017).

Neuropathic Pain:

Animal research suggests that this compound may be helpful in preventing or treating neuropathic (nerve) pain (King et al, British Journal of Pharmacology, online May 26, 2017). Neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult to control. Canadian authorities have approved an oral spray (Sativex) combining delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol to treat neuropathic pain and muscle spasticity of multiple sclerosis (Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, Sep. 2016).

Chronic Pain:

Italian researchers report on their initial impressions in prescribing cannabis (as tea) for intractable chronic pain. They conclude that it seems effective and safe (Fanelli et al, Journal of Pain Research, May 22, 2017). A review of experimental and clinical studies hints that CBD and other cannabinoids may be useful for treating pain associated with inflammatory bowel disease (Hasenoehrl et al, Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, April 2017).

Beware Drug Interactions:

Cannabidiol oil may interact with other medications, particularly those used for pain relief (Arellano et al, CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, online Apr. 13, 2017). Apparently, the enzymes CYP3A4 and CYP2C19 metabolize CBD  (Stout & Cimino, Drug Metabolism Reviews, Feb. 2014). Although these same enzymes also metabolize many other drugs, the researchers conclude that studies “generally reflect a low risk of clinically significant drug interactions with most use” of CBD.

If you decided to try it, you’d be wise to consult a prescriber to help you find the appropriate dose. That person could also guide you in avoiding interactions.

Another reader wrote:

“Cannabidiol oil has helped the nerve pain in my back, legs and feet. For me, other medications don’t work well, but this is almost miraculous.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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