Pain is a significant health problem in Michigan. Three out of 10 people report living with daily chronic pain, which affects more of our citizens than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
It’s no coincidence that pain is the number one reported condition for medical marijuana cards across the United States. Whether acute or chronic, research has shown that cannabis, and CBD or cannabidiol, in particular, can be highly effective in pain management, with much fewer symptoms than other pharmaceuticals, such as opioids.
So what is it about CBD that is so effective for treating pain?
CBD and ‘the entourage effect’
To understand how CBD works, we have to look at the cannabis plant as a whole. Of the over 100 chemical compounds found in cannabis, CBD has been commonly associated with pain relief and its therapeutic effects. Unlike its more famous cannabinoid sister, THC, CBD is not psychoactive and won’t get you “high” — however, it works best together with terpenes to produce a phenomenon known as “the entourage effect.” CBD is believed to boost THC's painkilling properties while lessening the unwanted side effects of consuming too much THC. When CBD is combined with low doses of THC, you’ll get a much more amplified effect, so it’s often recommended to look for “full-spectrum” products with varying levels of CBD to THC ratios.
Find your perfect ratio
There is no one-size-fits-all guide for THC: CBD ratios to treat pain. The “perfect ratio” for you depends on your specific symptoms, (do you have nociceptive or neuropathic pain? Chronic or acute?), the time of consumption and your tolerance for the psychoactive effects of THC.
If you have no experience with cannabis, begin with a small dose of high CBD to low THC and see how you feel. Some people find a higher ratio of THC to CBD works better for relieving their symptoms, while others can manage pain and go about their day with a very high CBD to THC ratio.
As a general guide, a 2:1 or 1:1 is considered a balanced ratio and can be psychoactive at moderate doses. Something closer to 8:1 or 4:1 is less balanced and more CBD heavy. Higher ratios (10:1 or more) are unlikely to be psychoactive at all.
Applications for pain
How you use CBD for pain will depend on your specific condition and personal preference. If you suffer from arthritic pain, you may opt for a topical cream to apply to the affected area. For headaches, inflammation and generalized pain, a tincture or vaporizer can provide instant relief. Got back pain? A CBD-heavy patch might do the trick.
No matter your chosen method of ingestion, Dr. John Pierce, a wellness expert and chief cannabis chemist at Common Citizen, says cannabis is “remarkable” for treating a variety of symptoms, including pain. “I’ve seen it time and time again,” he says. “The lotions we make, for example, I always say, “Here, try this, I think it will help you,’ and it’s very humbling to see somebody get well.”
CBD versus Big Pharma
Despite plenty of anecdotal evidence, medical science knew very little about how cannabis compounds can treat pain until very recently. “In the United States medical system, complementary medicine isn’t part of formal training,” explains Dr. Pierce. “In other countries, like Germany, natural products are part of their formal training.”
Part of the issue, of course, is legality. Cannabis remains a Schedule One controlled substance under federal law, with no “accepted medical use.” This draconian categorization makes medical research on cannabis and CBD difficult.
Thankfully, cannabis and cannabis extracts are slowly beginning to establish their legitimacy in the medical community. One 2016 study that looked at the use of CBD in rats with arthritis found reduced inflammation and overall pain in the rats’ joints. Another 2016 University of Michigan study found that cannabis reduced use of opioids on average by 64% and improved quality of life. Indeed, the safety and effectiveness of cannabis for treating pain is being well documented and is poised to shake up the pain management industry.
Is CBD right for you?
In Michigan, there are a number of qualifying pain-related conditions for medical marijuana and CBD products, including chronic pain, arthritis and pain associated with IBS. Visit Common Citizen and speak with one of our highly-trained Citizen Advisors to find out more about the best strains, ratios for managing your pain symptoms.