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Marijuana and inflammation

Medical Marijuana and Inflammation

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.

What Is Inflammation?

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 defense system, known as the 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 lined with inflammation include:

  • Gouty arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatic
  • Shoulder bursitis or tendonitis

Various causes of inflammation include the following most common origins:

  • Foreign objects (thorns, slivers), scrapes or other external injuries
  • Germs (pathogens) like viruses, fungi or bacteria
  • Effects of radiation or chemicals

Conditions or diseases that cause inflammation tend to have an “-itis” ending in its name such as:

  • Bronchitis — bronchi inflammation
  • Cystitis — bladder inflammation
  • Dermatitis — skin inflammation
  • Otitis media — infection of the middle ear

These are only a few examples of the many possible causes of inflammation.

Types of Inflammation

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:

  • A sprained ankle
  • An infected ingrown nail
  • A sore throat
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Tonsillitis

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 short-term, occurring in “wear and tear” conditions. You can find it in the following autoimmune diseases:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Asthma
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • And more

Environmental or habitual factors can also lead to chronic inflammation, such as:

  • Poor Diet
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to Pollution
  • Poor Oral Health

History 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 BC and 45 AD, Aulus Celsus, described the main four signs of inflammation as:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Warmth

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.

Effects of Inflammation

Inflammation symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Redness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Swollen joints, sometimes warm to the touch
  • Loss of joint function

Most times, only a few of these symptoms appear.

Sometimes, inflammation also presents flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of appetite

There are also mental effects associated with inflammation.

Mental Effects

Anxiety and depression link 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.

Chronic inflammation contributes to mental illness

Researchers have also conducted studies that examined this process. Now, there’s substantial evidenceshowing that 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 in 2010 and 2012 studies that together reviewed data retrieved from 53 studies and a few postmortem studies. Extensive related research confirms the linkage between psychiatric symptoms with inflammatory and autoimmune activity in the brain.

Numerous studies link depression and inflammation

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 or not it’s the depression or not that’s driving the inflammation.

Inflammation Statistics

The following statistics for specific chronic inflammatory diseases show:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 66 percent of adults struggle with obesity.
  • A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study concluded that by 2048, all individual adults in the U.S. would become obese or overweight if we continued at the present rate.
  • Almost eight percent of the population (24 million Americans) has diabetes, according to 2008 statistics.

Also, one study involving 276 healthy participants found that prolonged stressful situations contribute to the inability of immune cells in responding to hormonal signals that typically regulate inflammation.

Inflammation and stress

Current Treatments Available for Inflammation and Their Side Effects

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:

  • Modify or avoid activities that provoke and worsen pain.
  • Take analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain.
  • Use splints, braces or canes as needed to decrease stress on your joints.
  • Participate in physical therapy to maintain muscle strength.
  • Determine medications to treat the inflammatory disease.


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:

  • Corticosteroids (prednisone)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen)
  • Anti-malarial medications (hydroxychloroquine)

Side effects of anti-inflammatory medications may include:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heartburn and stomach pain
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Allergic reactions like wheezing, rashes and throat swelling
  • Ringing in the ears
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney or liver problems


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:

  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, collards and spinach
  • Fruits, such as blueberries, oranges, strawberries and cherries
  • Fatty fish, especially mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna

Other foods and drinks can reduce your risk or prevent inflammation altogether. Apples, blueberries and leafy greens that 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.

How Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Inflammation

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).

Medical marijuana is effective at reducing inflammation

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 for inflammation strains can be helpful for individuals with extreme inflammation.

What Symptoms of Inflammation Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

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:

  • Muscle tone
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Mood state
  • Inflammation

There are over 100 different cannabinoids in cannabis for inflammation giving it the capacity for numbness and analgesia through neuromodulation in descending and ascending pain pathways, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective mechanisms.

Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Inflammation

Medical cannabis for inflammation 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.

  • Cannatonic (Hybrid): Treats depression, anxiety, migraines and inflammation.
  • Avi-Dekel (Hybrid): Treats Depression, appetite loss, fatigue, Colitis, Digestive disorders, heart disease, diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, liver inflammation and inflammation.
  • Rafael (Sativa): Treats chronic pain, anxiety, Crohn’s and Colitis, arthritis and inflammation.
  • God Bud (Indica): Treats depression, stress, inflammation, pain and insomnia.
  • Purple Urkle (Indica): Treats insomnia, pain, inflammation and depression.
  • Great White Shark (Sativa): Treats pain, inflammation, stress, migraines and nausea.
  • ACDC (Sativa): Treats inflammation, neuropathy, tumors, tremors, nausea and seizures.
  • Charlotte’s Web (Sativa): Treats pain, muscles spasms, tremors and seizures.

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.

Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment to Use to Treat Inflammation

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 and inflammation therapy, there are some factors you should consider when evaluating the medical marijuana providers. These include:

  • Selection of cannabis available
  • Quality of marijuana
  • Attention to customers
  • Price of weed
  • Safety and health regulations
  • Delivery and location services
  • Transparency

Treat Inflammation with Medical Marijuana

Browse our medical cannabis dispensary across the country for location, hours, delivery information, reviews and more. 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.

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Updated on October 17, 2018