CBD for Arthritis Pain: A Guide for Canadians

Elderly woman with Arthritis Pain

If you live with arthritis, you know that it’s hard to treat. Whether you have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or any other painful joint inflammation, you are likely doing your own research to see what might help. 

That research might have led you to learn about CBD, the hemp (such as Orenda Botanicals) or marijuana extract (not us) that is rumoured to alleviate chronic pain.

If so, you’re in good company - according to Google, the number of people combining “pain” and “CBD” in their searches over the past few years has taken an upward trend. A Gallup poll tells us that most who use CBD do so to treat pain. While research is in an early phase, public interest alone reveals something of CBD’s efficacy. 

So what does CBD actually claim to do? CBD (cannabidiol) is one of many cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant - unlike its fellow cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it does not get you high. Instead, it interacts with other parts of the body’s endocannabinoid system and binds to its pain receptors to create an analgesic, or painkilling, effect. What’s more, cannabidiol’s anti-inflammatory properties are thought to go right to the source of inflammation and reduce pain over time. 

More study is required, but CBD could be a contender to treat chronic and acute inflammation while posing low risk of serious side effects or dependency

Your next question might be, “Where do I start with CBD?” The variety of CBD products available might be overwhelming, but they aren’t just evidence of a booming marketplace. They constitute “methods of delivery” of CBD into your system, influencing their “bioavailability”, or how fast you feel their effects.

In order to cut through the hype, we will explore three key ways of taking CBD, and how to get the most out of them for arthritis pain.

CBD Topicals - Targeted Treatment

A topical CBD cream, gel, or salve is a good place to start. They are arguably the most relevant products out there for joint pain because you apply them directly to inflamed areas. 

How do CBD topicals work? Topicals allow the CBD to absorb into the skin, work its way into the muscles and connective tissue, binding itself to the cell receptors at each level.

Bioavailability differs according to the type of topical. A gel or cream will absorb into the skin faster and the effects can be felt as soon as 5 minutes after application, lasting approximately 4 hours. 

Salves are thicker - their waxiness slows down their rate absorption to about 30 minutes, but the wax will also remain on your body longer, containing the CBD effects for 7 hours.

Since you’re not taking them internally, they don’t reach your bloodstream - thus, you’ll need one with a high concentration of CBD. Hemp-derived Relief Gel and Rescue Salve by Orenda both contain 90% cannabidiol, ensuring that you’ll feel an effect deep in your tissues. 

Why are CBD topicals good for arthritis? They give you concentrated treatment, work well with additional therapies, and are fast-acting for unexpected flare-ups. 

Some of the foremost research on CBD and inflammation demonstrates the efficacy of topicals, meaning that this simple form of treatment could very well be the best of the CBD lineup for arthritis in particular.

Pro tip: It’s good to look for topicals that are blended with other ingredients that benefit inflammation. Orenda’s topicals, recommended above, incorporate the anti-inflammatories Camphor and Arnica Oil. 

Menthol also creates a “cooling” sensation on inflamed joints that feel “hot”. On the other hand, Warming topicals can also be effective, as heat therapy is commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis. Either way, it’s good to experiment and see what works best for you.

CBD Capsules and Edibles - Daily Supplements

Good news - you can have your CBD and eat it too. An “edible” refers to anything you ingest to feel the effects of CBD. From the stomach, it enters your bloodstream for a generalized effect, as opposed to a topical, which will be localized to specific areas of your body. 

We will focus on popular methods that are pre-dosed and ready to consume: capsules and gummies. 

How do CBD capsules and gummies work? Both of these methods are excellent for those who want to know exactly what dosage of CBD they are getting without any guesswork. 

As a general rule, the bioavailability of edibles is the lowest. When eaten, the CBD needs to clear the hurdle of your digestive system before it reaches your bloodstream. Depending on your metabolism, it takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes to kick in. In turn, it may be longer lasting in your system.

Capsules are taken like vitamin supplements. They are unique edibles because they often only contain beneficial ingredients, as you don’t have to taste them. They contain powdered or oil-form CBD in a hard or soft casing that dissolves easily in your stomach, improving their bioavailability. 

Gummies are an excellent intro to taking CBD internally. Apart from being a spoonful-of-sugar approach to medication, they come in comparably lower doses - usually 15-30 mg - and they are easy to double up or split in half as needed. 

These CBD gummies from Potluck and capsules from Miss Envy are “full-spectrum” as opposed to CBD “isolates”, or purified CBD. This describes how the cannabidiol has been extracted from the hemp plant - it means the extract includes other helpful cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts (0.3%) of THC. 

All these create an “entourage effect” or a synergy between the compounds, each one making the others more effective. There have been studies suggesting that full or broad-spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolates, although both appear to have advantages.

Why are CBD capsules and gummies good for arthritis? These methods integrate well into your routine once you have a dose that works for you. You can take them at the beginning of the day and not think about your pain for 4-6 hours.

Ingested CBD tends to be less potent on the whole, but it stays in your system for a while. This means it will provide steady, gentle relief that takes the edge off acute or chronic inflammation pain.

In some cases, ingested CBD can interfere with the efficacy of other meds, so it’s important to speak to your doctor if you opt for edibles, especially alongside other treatments.

CBD Tinctures - Total Control

Plain and simple, a tincture is a bottle of CBD oil infused with a liquid solvent which you administer with a dropper. The Arthritis Foundation conducted its own survey of CBD use for arthritis and discovered that amongst users of CBD, most people prefer a liquid form. 

No surprises there. Liquid methods like tinctures are the most flexible internal CBD option you will come across.

How do CBD tinctures work? Although oil can be used to make edibles, the tincture’s unique selling point is its sublingual delivery method. 

If taken under the tongue, the CBD absorbs into the mouth’s small capillaries. This way the cannabidiol bypasses the slower digestive route into the bloodstream - the mouth’s proximity to the central nervous system makes the bioavailability particularly efficient.

Determining your dose from a tincture is less exact than with edibles - you should consult a medical professional about dosing for your body, but resources like CBD calculators are available to help you figure out how much is right for you.

Why are CBD tinctures good for arthritis? The oil and dropper allow you to dose CBD precisely as you see fit. This allows you to listen to your pain levels, especially if they are higher. If you find that you are not getting enough through pre-dosed CBD, you can adjust your intake easily. 

This level of control might make tinctures an accessible way to try the alleged benefits of THC. While most products will contain negligible amounts of THC (0.3% or less), some, like Miss Envy’s CBD:THC 3:1 Tincture, contain a ratio of 300mg CBD to 100mg THC. This means that although CBD remains the most prevalent cannabinoid in the mix and it will block THC’s intoxicating effects, it will unlock THC’s unique pain-relieving capabilities.

Broadening Your Spectrum

As research continues to emerge about both arthritis and CBD, holistic approaches are your best bet. When incorporating CBD, multiple products will be more effective than just one. Products infused with other healing components will also give you more.

Above all, as with any treatment, it should be considered in coordination with a doctor in a program of other anti-inflammatories and lifestyle modifications. There may be no existing cure-all for arthritis, but CBD could be one piece of that puzzle.

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