No Bones About It: How Cannabis May Combat Bone Diseases
Cannabis doesn’t only heal the brain. This miracle plant works its magic on the whole body, bones and all. Here’s how the herb helps prevent bone diseases.
There ain’t no bones about it! Compounds in the cannabis plant may help prevent bone diseases and even make them stronger after fracture. Diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are painful and debilitating. Osteoporosis can make bones so brittle that they break even after a soft fall. Research conducted over the past several years has found that cannabinoids may be potent therapeutic agents for protecting against painful bone diseases, arthritis, and injury. Here’s how cannabis helps protect you from bone diseases.
CBD helps mend broken bones
There’s good news for anyone with a break or fracture out there! 2015 research from the Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University found that nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) may help heal broken bones. When you get a fracture, your body produces what’s called a “fracture callus”, building a natural “bridge” between the areas of the break. This bridge is made of cartilage.
The researchers found that cannabinoid receptors can trigger bone formation and strengthen the bridge that connects broken bones. The study was performed in rat models, which is how most osteoporosis drugs are tested prior to clinical trials. In their study, researchers injected rats with broken thigh bones with either straight CBD or a combination of CBD and psychoactive THC.
The results of the experiment were pretty amazing. THC did not show to have much of any effect when it came to speeding up the body’s self-healing mechanisms. But, pure CBD did. The scientists found that bones of rats treated with CBD alone not only healed faster but the previous fracture was less likely to break in the future because of a strengthened fracture callus.
The study estimated that the treated bone is 35-50% stronger than a non-treated bone.
Cannabis and bone metabolism
The finding that components in the cannabis plant help mend broken bones is incredible. But, researchers have known that there is a connection between cannabinoids and bone health for quite some time. The exact way our own endocannabinoids, the cannabis-like compounds produced by our own bodies, aid bone development is unclear.
What is clear, however, is that the endocannabinoid system does play a major role in maintaining the health of our bones. One way it does this is by facilitating a process known as bone metabolism, or bone remodeling.
The stresses of daily life put strain on your bones. Bone metabolism is the process in which old bone material is replaced by new bone material. This keeps your bones healthy and strong throughout your life. Your body builds new bone growth in order to combat the micro-damage that occurs on a daily basis. In all, a healthy adult body will replace about 10% of your bone structure each year.
An article published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2011 found that fatty acid amides (FAAs) help coordinate the process of bone metabolism by interacting with cannabinoid receptors.
FAAs are important because they are broken down by a particular enzyme that’s blocked by CBD. That enzyme is called FAAH. It’s been known for quite some time that CBD inhibits FAAH. This means that it prevents the enzyme from breaking down bone-forming compounds.
The exact implications of this are still unclear in the scientific research. But, nonetheless, the endocannabinoid system plays a part in preserving the strength of your bones and combatting bone diseaeses.
According to lead study authors Itia Bab and Reem Smoum,
…Inhibition of FAAH, the FAA degrading enzyme, may prove as a useful therapeutic strategy to combat osteoporosis and perhaps other skeletal deficits.
Cannabis and bone diseases
Aside from breaks and fractures due to accident or injury, there are a couple of bone diseases that cannabis may be able to help. Namely, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Here’s an explanation of how cannabis may prevent these painful bone diseases.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become brittle from either aging or a lack of proper nutrients. Thanks to bone metabolism, your bones are constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when new bone cells aren’t being created as fast as older bone cells are diminishing.
In terms of maintaining bone strength, nonpsychoactive CBD is a supplement worth exploring. But, other cannabinoids also might prove to be potent preventative medicines. Cannabigerol (CBG) is another nonpsychoactive cannabis compound, and it is currently being examined for its potential bone healing properties.
THC, the chemical that gives you the ‘high’ when you consume cannabis, may also hold some value in preventing brittle bones. Turns out, CB1 receptors are found inside bones, in the brain, and throughout the gut. The CB1 receptor is one of 2 primary cell receptors that THC connects to in your body.
THC connects to cell receptors in all of these areas. The cannabinoid then influences the biochemical processes at work in these regions.
A 2009 study published in Cell Metabolism found that the CB1 cell receptor is linked to the development of age-related osteoporosis. The research used mice as test subjects. According to the study, mice that didn’t have any CB1 receptors at all developed thick bones but still suffered from osteoporosis.
When the British research team further examined bone density in these mice, they found that they had more fat deposits inside the bone. This area is supposed to be filled with bone marrow.
More fat inside bones = osteoporosis
Simply explained, the CB1 receptor protects bones by regulating how much mature bone material is broken down and reabsorbed in the body. This is why mice without the receptor had thicker bones. Old bone material wasn’t being slumped off and reused by the body.
They also articulate that the CB1 receptor controls how much fat was stored inside the bone, along with the formation of new bone cells. When you’ve got a lot of fat in your bones, they’re more likely to break. Fatty bones lead to osteoporosis.
Another 2009 study conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found a connection between CB2 receptors and bone density in mice. CB2 receptors are the other primary cannabinoid receptor in the body. Mice with mutated CB2 receptors had a lower bone density than those that did not.
The researchers reported that one major role of the CB2 receptor was to protect against age-related bone loss. It did this by regulating balanced bone metabolism. Both CBG and THC interact with the CB2 receptor.
The report also found that alterations in the gene responsible for coding CB2 receptor may cause post-menopausal osteoporosis in humans. All of these findings are strong evidence that the endocannabinoid system is a promising therapeutic target for bone diseases, particularly ones that are age-related.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. It affects most people as they age. Yet, injuries, obesity, and repeated stress can also cause this type of arthritis. Over time, the cartilage between bones and surrounding joints begins to break down. This results in severe pain, achiness, and difficulty moving the affected body part.
This disease most often impacts joints around the hip, knee, hand, and back. Common symptoms include:
- Grinding sensation in joints
- Bone spurs
- Loss of flexibility
Cannabis slows arthritis progression
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, a handful of studies show that marijuana has some interesting potential. Back in 2000, a team of British researchers tested the effects of CBD on arthritis in mice. The mice were injected with forms of collagen-induced arthritis, which is meant to mimic the symptoms of human arthritis in the rodent’s body.
Once the mice began showing symptoms, the researchers treated them with pure CBD. The CBD stopped the progression of arthritis in the rodents.
But that’s not all. A different team had success with cannabinoids in human cartilage earlier this year. Researchers treated pieces of cartilage with synthetic cannabinoids. The cartilage contained proteins associated with osteoarthritis. The team found that cannabinoids deactivated the arthritis-associated enzyme proteins, slowing down the decay.
There’s also some potential for cannabinoids in cartilage engineering. An experimental paper published in 2010 suggested that cannabinoids prolong the lives of mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells can be used to create new cartilage, making them very important to the future of arthritis treatment.
The study authors hypothesized that we may be able to use cannabinoids to better engineer cartilage replacements.
Though results from these studies have positive results, clinical trials in humans are needed in order to tell if CBD and other cannabinoid therapies are effective in halting arthritis progression in our own bodies.
Managing arthritis pain
So, cannabis has the potential to slow cartilage breakdown in osteoarthritis. What else can it do? Recent research suggests that cannabinoids may ease osteoarthritis pain in a unique way.
A review published in 2014 suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in osteoarthritis pain. The article articulates that cannabinoids may be crucial medicinal targets for osteoarthritis management. The endocannabinoid system has been shown to influence the body’s inflammatory and pain responses, and also helps maintain joint and bone health.
Another study published the same year confirmed that the CB2 receptor contributes to osteoarthritis pain. Researchers wanted to see if synthetic cannabinoids would ease arthritis pain in both human and animal models. So, they began by treating osteoarthritic rats with a synthetic cannabinoid.
When they activated the CB2 receptor, pain signals in rodents decreased. The research team then turned to humans. They found that the spinal cord tissue lit up with CB2 receptors. The spinal cord is one of the primary pain messengers in the body. When you feel a sensation of pain, your spinal cord helps coordinate the message from your body to your brain.
The researchers also noticed something else. There is a clear link between the severity of arthritis and the amount of CB2 receptors in the spinal cord. One of the study authors, Victoria Chapman, explains,
This finding is significant, as spinal and brain pain signalling pathways are known to make a major contribution to pain associated with osteoarthritis. These new data support the further evaluation of the selective cannabinoid-based interventions for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain. – Chapman
Cannabis and broken bones
Cannabinoids may prove beneficial for helping you recover from broken bones and for preventing bone diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. But, marijuana can also be a useful aid for coping with the pain caused by these injuries and weaknesses. Here are a few additional ways cannabis can help:
The ache and sharp pains from a fracture can drive you crazy. Fortunately, there are a few ways cannabis may be a useful coping tool. With any break, you’re likely to receive a temporary prescription for painkillers from your doctor.
More often than not, people with broken bones are prescribed opioids. Some studies show that smoking cannabis in tandem with opioids enables you to consume lower doses of both substances with enhanced pain-fighting abilities.
Though, if you live in a state without legal medical cannabis, opioid contracts will prevent you from being able to consume cannabis. If you’re looking to avoid opioids altogether, other studies have shown that cannabis is a viable alternative as a strong pain reliever.
Chronic post-injury pain
If you’ve broken a bone at any point in your life, it’s not uncommon to feel pain in that area long after the injury has healed. Prescription painkillers are often lacking when it comes to managing of chronic pain, be it from ache after a break or arthritis pain. Staying on prescription painkillers for extended periods of time can lead to tolerance, harmful side effects, and addiction.
This is where cannabis comes in. Cannabis is often seen as a far safer and more effective medicine for the long-term treatment of chronic pain. Not only can cannabinoids help bones heal faster, but the endocannabinoid system helps regulate your body’s pain response.
Compounds like THC and CBD are potent analgesics that engage this system, alleviating pain while also avoiding some of the harsh side-effects of prescription painkillers.
Inflammation plays a big role in all bone diseases. In the event that you fracture or break a bone, the area is going to swell up fast. In arthritis, painful inflammation surrounds the joints where bones rub together. Some inflammation is healthy. But, if it persists, it will prevent you from healing. Inflammation can also lead to a build-up of scar tissue.
Cannabis fights inflammation in a few ways. You can consume it orally via vapor, oil, or an edible. You can also use it topically, to deliver potent pain and inflammation-fighting medicine right to the source. Rubbing a cannabis topical (recipe below) over the inflamed area can reduce the amount of fluid buildup and tissue damage that occurs around the break.
Those who want the benefits of the herb without a high might also enjoy dietary cannabis. In a way, cannabis is the ultimate superfood. You can make anti-inflammatory juices and smoothies out of raw cannabis fan leaves and buds.
Using fresh cannabis enables you to get a much stronger dose of inflammation-fighting compounds and antioxidants than you do with smoked bud. For more information on the benefits of dietary cannabis, click here.
DIY bone-protecting creations
Whether you have a bone disease and are interested in experimenting with medical cannabis, or if you’re looking for some much-needed pain relief from a fracture or arthritis, here are a few home remedies that you might find useful:
- Cannabis Pills: Also known as “cannacaps” these DIY marijuana pills can be made with either high CBD or THC-dominant strains. Many patients with medical conditions purchase caps like these for $20-50 at a local dispensary. If you make them yourself, you can save a bit of money. These capsules are concentrated so they make for very potent pain relievers.
- DIY Cannabis Topicals: This basic salve is perfect to rub on stiff joints or brush over an injury site. If you continue to have chronic pain in one area post-injury, this is a great external product to use to numb the affected area and decrease inflammation.
- Marijuana Tea: This recipe relies on cannabutter to make the tea psychoactive. If you’d like to experiment with easy relief for aching bones, you can opt to make butter out of either a THC-based strain or a strain high in CBD. Both substances are fat-soluble. If you’d rather not have a psychoactive experience or want to reap the full benefits of CBD, opt to make your butter with one of these top strains.
As always, we won’t have clear answers as to how exactly marijuana affects our bones until clinical trials are completed. However, there is strong evidence that compounds in cannabis may help prevent brittle bones and preserve bone health.
It’s been shown in animal models that CBD can help broken bones heal faster as well as halt the progression of arthritis. The plant also works wonders in treating the pain and inflammation surrounding bone breaks, fractures, and arthritis.
Have you used cannabis to cope with a break? What about bone diseases like osteoporosis or arthritis? Share your experience with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.