If you’ve ever suffered from chronic pain (such as arthritis), acute pain (an injury) or muscle soreness after a particularly tough workout, then you know you’ll do just about anything to find relief: ice, heat, compression, acupuncture, meditation, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and even prescription pain pills. While some of these treatment options are safe, others — namely, the medications — can cause a host of side effects.
In fact, more than 100 Americans die each day from opioid-related drug overdoses, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Regular use of these medications can increase your tolerance and dependence, possibly leading to addiction. They also can negatively affect your respiratory and digestive systems, menstruation, weight and mental health. It’s no wonder that in 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency and announced a plan to combat this opioid epidemic.
So how can you find pain relief without popping pills? Cannabis.
Now you may be thinking, “Whoa, I haven’t smoked pot since that one concert in college” or “I have a job and a family and can’t risk dabbling with drugs.” No worries. We’re actually referencing a completely different part of the cannabis plant than the one used for partying.
CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring molecule in hemp plants that provides a multitude of health benefits. On the other hand, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the molecule that produces the psychoactive high recreational cannabis users enjoy. That means, you can rely on topical CBD products (oils, creams, sprays and gels) for their medicinal properties without experiencing any intoxicating or mind-altering effects. As a result, CBDs are legal in all 50 states, with no restrictions on usage. Additionally, since they do not enter your bloodstream, they won’t show up on drug tests — a crucial component for elite athletes and most anyone with an employer.
It’s also important to note that not all hemp products contain high levels of CBD — in fact, most hemp oil and hempseeds found in grocery stores don’t contain any.
Though clinical research is still in its infancy, numerous studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD can help alleviate an array of ailments.
“Topical CBD products are excellent for the management of aches and pains that can prevent you from doing chores and living the lifestyle you desire,” says Kersten Gaba, clinical research nurse and cofounder of Basic Jane, a company that uses plant-based ingredients to create natural remedies. “We have found excellent results with the elderly and people who use their bodies a lot, such as hikers, climbers and golfers.”
Specifically, CBD has been found to help with the following:
Pain. In one study, data indicates that topical CBD application has long-lasting therapeutic effects for arthritis pain and inflammation relief — and without any evidence of side effects.
Inflammation. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and also may be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation. Someday, they could serve as a new class of anti-inflammatory agents for various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Anxiety. Another study found evidence that strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sleep. Preliminary research suggests that CBDs may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. Plus, they may have short-term benefits for sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. Finally, CBDs may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and improve sleep among patients suffering from chronic pain.
“Our customers like the idea of being able to target pain relief topically, without taking a pill,” says Jessica Tonani, a biotechnology professional and co-founder of Basic Jane. “For those living with chronic joint pain, a quick application to your knuckles, knees or wrists can allow you to enjoy the activities you love. We suggest gym-goers keep a topical CBD product on hand for use as a localized desensitization before or after a workout.”
While topical CBDs have not been found to cause any discernable side effects, expectant mothers should discuss usage with their physician.