Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
People have enjoyed and appreciated marijuana for many years due to its intoxicating results, but they’re now praising it for its medicinal effects as well. Despite the scrutiny that’s been focused on the plant for years, astonishing new aspects of the herb are continuing to crop up. For instance, people now recognize it for its anti-inflammatory properties, making medical marijuana for inflammation an exciting treatment alternative.
When the white blood cells in your body detect a foreign substance like a virus, your immune system starts working to protect your body from further complications. However, sometimes your immune system triggers an inflammatory response even though no foreign threats are present in the body. The result is that your own cells attack your body, often causing the inflammation you notice
Medical marijuana for inflammation is effective at reducing inflammatory-related pain and chronic inflammation due to its two primary cannabinoids, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Both CBD and THC help reduce inflammation associated with several diseases. However, beta-caryophyllene, another compound found in marijuana, affects your CB2 receptor. During a 2008 study, researchers analyzed mice with swollen paws. The researchers gave the mice oral beta-caryophyllene doses that resulted in a 70 percent reduction in inflammation. Mice that didn’t have CB2 receptors didn’t show any improvement.
Both CBD and THC not only work to treat and prevent inflammation, but they also demonstrate efficacy in reducing both the production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also cut LPS-induced STAT 1 transcription factor activation which contributes to certain inflammatory processes. Since researchers find that CBD is most effective in tackling inflammation, CBD-rich marijuana strains can be helpful for individuals with extreme inflammation.
CBD helps support the concentration of endogenous cannabinoids that provide your body with the ability to ward off disease and self-heal.
Endocannabinoids help to control:
There are over 100 different cannabinoids in marijuana, giving it the capacity for numbness and analgesia through neuromodulation in descending and ascending pain pathways, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective mechanisms.
Not all states allow patients to receive medical marijuana for inflammation. Meet with a licensed medical marijuana doctor in your state to find out if you qualify. A doctor can answer your questions and help you get the treatment you need.
These days, cannabis makes a great alternative to prescription medication that can come with serious addictive properties and side effects. In many cases, medical cannabis for inflammation can also provide a better quality of life solution than traditional medication.
Methods of administering cannabis and inflammation treatment include:
Vaporizers are the latest “go to” for patients looking to take the inhalation route of getting their medical marijuana.
Oral ingestion of medical weed offers different pharmacokinetics than inhalation. With the oral route, titration of doses is a bit more difficult, and the onset of action is delayed. It’s also a relatively inexpensive and convenient marijuana and inflammation treatment delivery system.
CBD and THC cannabinoids are alcohol and fat soluble. Formulations that contain cannabinoids pass from the patch to your skin and into your bloodstream.
Topical applications come in lotions, oils, creams and patches. Topical applications act particularly in the area of harm. They’re long-lasting, non-psychoactive, non-invasive and easy to use.
If you’re looking for some heavy-duty help, suppositories might be it. While an uncommon method of delivery, it can be a useful route if you’re looking for therapy “on the road.” Refrigerate the medication beforehand. This method is fast, long lasting and efficient.
Sublingual come in tinctures and essential oils. They’re fast and easy to control your dose. They’re convenient and are the preferred method for children.
When you’re ready to start your marijuana therapy for inflammation, some factors you should consider when evaluating the medical marijuana providers include:
Medical cannabis strains rich in CBD appeal to patients looking for anti-pain, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasm effects, all associated with inflammation. The suggested strains below can help treat inflammatory diseases and the symptoms that go with them. They also treat symptoms related to the treatments for the diseases like pain, inflammation, spasms, depression, anxiety and more.
This is just a short list of available strains. There are thousands of cannabis strains, and new ones are created all the time. Work with your dispensary budtender and experiment to find the strain that works best for you. Know that each strain works in a slightly different way for each person too.
When compared with other ways to treat inflammation and the potential side effects of traditional anti-inflammatory medications, marijuana is a safe and natural alternative with little risk. While marijuana can have various effects on the body, side effects are generally mild and go away when you aren’t using cannabis.
Some of the common side effects of marijuana include:
Inflammation can cause significant discomfort and complications. Many patients find the various potential side effects of medical marijuana worth it to help treat their inflammation. Marijuana is an affordable and natural option when compared with traditional anti-inflammatory medications and other forms of treatment.
The following statistics for specific chronic inflammatory diseases show:
Also, one study involving 276 healthy participants found that prolonged stressful situations contribute to the inability of immune cells to respond to hormonal signals that typically regulate inflammation.
As the numbers indicate, inflammation is a serious problem for a significant amount of people. Medical marijuana has proven to be an effective treatment for inflammation symptoms, and a deeper understanding of what inflammation is can show us why marijuana is such an excellent treatment option.
Inflammation is the human body’s response to infection or injury. Inflammation often works to heal wounds, but it also plays a role in a variety of chronic diseases. On a large scale, inflammation is the body’s way of signaling to the immune system that it needs to heal damaged cells or defend against foreign invaders like bacteria and other infections. However, the inflammation can then affect the body in a variety of ways.
Acute inflammation and chronic inflammation are the two main types of inflammation.
Acute inflammation occurs after you get a scrape or cut on your skin. It also can happen with:
Acute inflammation is short-term with its effects subsiding after several days. You may perceive acute inflammation as “good” since it’s your body’s attempt to heal itself after you’ve had an injury. It’s your body’s way of responding to a problem you would otherwise be unaware of.
Chronic inflammation is long-term, occurring in “wear and tear” conditions. You can find it in the following autoimmune diseases:
Environmental or habitual factors can also lead to chronic inflammation, such as:
Inflammation occurs when the chemicals and white blood cells in your body protect you from a foreign substance like viruses, bacteria and infection.
However, in certain diseases, your immune system triggers an inflammatory response inappropriately when no foreign substances are present to fight off. These disorders are known as autoimmune diseases. They occur when your normally protective immune system causes damage to its tissues. Your body then responds as it would if the healthy tissues were somehow abnormal or infected.
A good example would be some types of arthritis that result from misdirected inflammation. Some types of arthritis linked with inflammation include:
Various causes of inflammation include the following most common origins:
Conditions or diseases that cause inflammation tend to have an “-itis” at the end of their name such as:
These are only a few examples of the many possible causes of inflammation.
Physicians in the distant past began developing much of the terminology we still use today to classify visible signs of inflammation.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, detailed and careful microscopic and morphologic investigations laid the foundation for researchers understanding of the physical inflammatory process today. Since researchers back then were limited in the tools they had for studying cause and effect relationships, they were left only with their imagination to provide the missing information between the phenomena they closely examined.
A Roman writer living between 30 B.C. and 45 A.D., Aulus Celsus, described the main four signs of inflammation as:
In the 20th century, doctors and researchers made rapid advancements in understanding the underlying mechanisms and nature of the microvascular inflammatory responses.
In recent years, immunology and molecular biology investigators have brought essential additions to the arsenal of understanding the inflammatory process.
Inflammation symptoms include:
Most times, only a few of these symptoms appear.
Sometimes, inflammation also presents flu-like symptoms such as:
There are also mental effects associated with inflammation.
Anxiety and depression are linked to changes in your brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. Antidepressants can often modify the level of neurotransmitters in your brain. Inflammation is a significant cause of low neurotransmitter levels, especially serotonin.
Chronic inflammation contributes to mental illness in a variety of ways. Research mainly focuses on cytokines, which are immune system proteins that start and organize an inflammatory attack on bacterial or viral invaders. Cytokines are also the main instigators of “sickness behavior,” such as fatigue, loss of appetite, depression and sleep disruptions associated with chronic inflammation.
Researchers have also conducted studies that examined this process. New research shows body inflammation can cause anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.
An association between a depressed mood and immune system activation would help in explaining the reports of many observational studies. These studies showed that depression is more common in patients with conditions involving chronic inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Numerous studies link depression and inflammation, two of which included studies in 2010 and 2012 that together reviewed data retrieved from 53 studies and a few postmortem studies. Extensive related research confirms the link between psychiatric symptoms and inflammatory and autoimmune activity in the brain.
However, researchers continue to investigate how extremely aggressive immune activity, infection and other causes of inflammation may contribute to mental illnesses like depression. They’re also investigating whether it’s the depression driving the inflammation.
Several possible treatments for inflammatory diseases include medications, surgery, exercise and diet. The kind of inflammatory therapy your doctor might prescribe depends on your age, the type of illness you have, your overall health, the medications you’re taking, the severity of your symptoms and your medical history.
The goals of treatment are to:
Many medicines are available to help decrease inflammation and swelling, joint pain and minimize or prevent the progression of your inflammatory disease. Some medications may include:
Side effects of anti-inflammatory medications may include:
Studies, both clinical and epidemiological alike, show you can reduce markers of inflammation through extended exercise over the long-term. For example:
Although there is no cure for chronic inflammation, as it’s a wear-and-tear condition, various factors trigger it and there are ways you can avoid it. One prevention method is to consume the proper types of food.
Some foods and drinks have anti-inflammatory effects. By choosing the right food, you can reduce your chances of illness. However, if you’re continually selecting the wrong menu, you can speed up the inflammatory disease process.
Certain foods that might help you combat inflammation include:
Other foods and drinks can reduce your risk or prevent inflammation altogether. Apples, blueberries and leafy greens offer protective compounds as they are high in polyphenols and antioxidants.
Studies have shown that nuts reduce inflammation markers and lower your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Drink your coffee too. Java contains anti-inflammatory compounds and polyphenols that protect against inflammation.
Although a variety of possible forms of relief for inflammation exist, patients often pursue medical marijuana for inflammation since it offers more immediate pain relief than changing your diet and exercise routine alone. While these lifestyle changes are certainly encouraged alongside medical treatment, patients may find it difficult to get through daily tasks when lifestyle changes prove to be insufficient for easing certain everyday pains.
When this happens, patients without medical marijuana may pursue medications such as prednisone or ibuprofen in the pursuit of their anti-inflammatory, painkilling effects. However, these medications often aren’t supposed to be taken long-term, and they can present a host of possible negative side effects.
Medical marijuana is an all-natural alternative to traditional painkillers. It serves as an excellent supplement to a healthy diet and lifestyle, and when combined, these methods have been shown to produce exceptional results for many patients suffering from inflammation.
Our medical cannabis dispensary list features dispensaries across the country and includes all the information you need including location, hours, delivery information, reviews and more. You can also search for a marijuana doctor in your area today to find a knowledgeable and vetted physician who complies with state laws and can work with you on your cannabis and inflammation solution.