Can cannabis help heal broken bones?
A look at the research.
KIBUTZ NAAN, ISRAEL – MARCH 09: A nurse prepares a cannabis injection for a patient at the Hadarim nursing home, on March 09, 2011 in Kibutz Naan, Israel. In conjunction with Israel’s Health Ministry, The Tikon Olam company is currently distributing cannabis for medicinal purposes to over 1800 people in Israel. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
According to some research, certain compounds in the cannabis plant can be administered to improve the health of bones by reversing bone loss processes, regulating bone tissue regeneration, and even speeding up the healing of fractures.
Researchers have found that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in a way that helps to regulate cellular function in the human body. In 2009, one study from Scotland conducted on mice concluded that since endocannabinoids are produced in the bones, administering cannabinoids—like delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)—may help to regulate your bone metabolism. This is a process by which bones regenerate their tissue, replacing old cells with new ones, a function that keeps them healthy and strong.
Another study, also published in 2009, similarly reported that THC activates the body’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. The CB2 receptor assists in the formation of bones and helps to prevent age-related bone atrophy.
While most of the research on the subject of cannabis and bone health focuses on cannabinoids’ ability to proactively regulate bone health, one 2015 study found that administering CBD could actually help heal fractured bones, too. This study was conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University in Israel, and published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
However, since the study was carried out on rats, it’s difficult to say whether these results would be transferable to humans. Even the authors of the study claim that because this is the first study on this topic, and it was conducted on rats, it’s too early to draw any firm conclusions.
This is a common trend in cannabis research, which has long been painstakingly difficult to conduct due to the research barriers presented by cannabis’ Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act. A more recent study from 2017 that actually used human participants and examined the relationship between cannabis use and bone mass density, for example, found no association.
Still, existing research on cannabis’ potential role in bone health shows promise for certain cannabis compounds—specifically CBD—to assist in the health of bones, and even provide retroactive treatment for fractures. While it’s too early to say for certain, these early studies suggest that cannabis may possess yet another exciting application for human health and wellness.