These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This article is written for educational purposes only.
Can I use CBD for inflammation? That’s the question we sought to shed some light on in this article. To give you all the information you’ll need, we’ll first dive into what inflammation is, when it’s healthy vs unhealthy, and some of the lifestyle factors that can help promote or reduce inflammation.
Then we’ll explain how CBD affects your health and homeostasis through its ability to interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Finally, we’ll wrap up with an overview of some important new studies investigating the potential benefits of CBD for inflammation.
We should start with the basics first, though, to make sure we’re all on the same page about what inflammation actually is.
What Is Inflammation?
The word “inflammation” might call to mind images of pain, redness, and swelling. There tends to be a negative connotation with the word. But in reality, inflammation is actually a natural and healthy reaction…sometimes.
Inflammation is an immune response made by your body to protect itself from injury, sickness, or infection. It works by sending white blood cells to the affected area. In fact, that’s what causes the redness and swelling: blood cells!
There are two different kinds of inflammation:
Acute inflammation is what happens when your body is faced with an acute stressor—such as kicking your shin against the furniture, getting a splinter in your finger, or getting an infection. This kind of inflammation is an important part of the healing process when something has happened to throw your body out-of-whack in one way or another. You can often recognize acute inflammation by one or more of these five cardinal signs of inflammation:
- Loss of function
Chronic inflammation, sometimes called systemic inflammation, is also an inflammatory response. But instead of being a short-lived response that goes away after a few hours or days, chronic inflammation stays around. In a sense, it means your body’s immune system is turned on all the time in reaction to a chronic irritant or toxin—such as cigarette smoke, excess body fat, or certain viral infections.
To sum it up: inflammation is a healthy immune response to irritants or injuries. But when inflammation goes on too long, it can start to break down healthy tissue and create health problems. It can contribute to problems like atherosclerosis and create symptoms like bloating, pain, fatigue, and “brain fog.”
Now that you know chronic inflammation is something to be avoided, you may be wondering: what causes chronic inflammation, anyway?
Lifestyle Risk Factors for Chronic Inflammation
In some cases, chronic inflammation may be the result of factors beyond your control—such as autoimmune disorders or viral infections. In cases like these, your best bet is to talk with a doctor.
However, many causes of chronic inflammation are related to lifestyle and dietary factors that are under your control. Here are some of the known risk factors for chronic inflammation:
Smoking. Smoking cigarettes is a well-known contributor to chronic inflammation. It induces several pro-inflammatory molecules while also impairing the production of helpful anti-inflammatory substances.
Obesity. Did you know that adipose tissue (AKA fat) is actually considered an organ, part of your endocrine system? It’s true. And fat tissue is responsible for storing and secreting a variety of hormones and cytokines.
When your body is at a normal weight and your fat tissue is working properly, these hormones are kept in a healthy balance. But too much body fat can lead to an excess of certain substances that contribute to inflammation (such as IL-6, an inflammatory cytokine). This effect can be especially pronounced in the case of visceral fat (the fat that’s present in between your bodily organs), which can create up to three times more IL-6 than other fat cells.
Age. Unfortunately, older age also appears to contribute to higher levels of inflammation. This is even the case in older people who are otherwise healthy, and may be the result of a build-up of oxidative damage over time.
Irregular sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to have more chronic inflammation than people who consistently get enough rest every night.
Diet. What you eat appears to have an impact on inflammation as well. Diets high in saturated fat and trans fat, in particular, have been tied to higher levels of inflammatory markers. And this appears to be especially true for people with other inflammatory conditions, such as obesity or diabetes.
Another significant cause? Over-consumption in general. Some studies have shown that simply eating a reduced-calorie diet can help to curb chronic inflammation.
Chronic stress. Whether it’s keeping up with a demanding job, raising kids, or processing difficult world events, it seems like we’re all stressed these days. Intermittent episodes of acute stress are one thing…but when your stress levels are consistently elevated, that can contribute to chronically elevated inflammation markers. This appears to be true for both physical stress and mental stress.
Lifestyle Factors That Decrease Inflammation
Now, it’s time for the good news. Most of the inflammation risk factors we talked about in the last section are under your control—which means that with some lifestyle modifications, you can take steps to help curb systemic inflammation. Here are a few:
Eat a healthy diet. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of lots of plant foods with less red meat and less processed foods like soda and sugary cereals. Two nutrients that can be particularly important include antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods that fall under these categories include fruits & vegetables, salmon, whole grains, beans & lentils, and green tea.
Maintain a healthy weight and stop smoking. We talked about these two risk factors in the last section. The good news is that these are both things you can change. Losing weight and stopping smoking may not be easy, but they’re two of the most effective ways to reduce your chronic inflammation levels.
Get some exercise. Another way to cut down on inflammation is to get up and get moving! And here’s more good news: you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym or run for miles on end to reduce inflammation. One study shows that even a single 20-minute session of moderate cardio helps to reduce inflammation levels.
Get consistent sleep. Getting enough sleep each night is a simple yet powerful way to help give your body the rest and recuperation it needs to keep inflammation levels in check. One way to do that is by practicing good sleep hygiene: keep your room dark & cool, maintain a regular sleep schedule, and avoid TV and caffeine close to bedtime.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can be one of the most insidious causes of inflammation, because it’s such a slippery concept. But it’s a very real phenomenon in our lives, and it’s something we all have to deal with to some degree. Consider whether you can avoid certain stressful situations, or if you can adopt a calming practice like yoga or meditation to help keep your stress levels in check.
OK, so now that you’ve got a good overview of what inflammation is, what causes it, and what fights against it, let’s switch gears and talk about CBD and how it affects your body in a positive way.
The Endocannabinoid System: Your Body’s Key to Balance
To understand how CBD works, you need to be familiar with something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is the part of your body responsible for maintaining balance and homeostasis across a wide variety of important functions, like your moods, hormones, sleep cycles, and more.
More to the point of this article, the ECS also helps to modulate stress and inflammation and has been referred to as an emerging key player in inflammation. So it only makes sense that in order to help manage stress and inflammation levels, it’s important to keep your ECS healthy and working properly.
How can you do that?
Your ECS contains specific receptors. Think of these receptors like keyholes. And in order for your ECS to function properly, these receptors need to be matched with a key that fits the lock—and the keys your ECS needs are called cannabinoids.
How CBD Helps to Stimulate Your Body’s Endocannabinoid System
We’ve just established that in order to work properly, your ECS requires cannabinoids.Some cannabinoids are made by your body. These are called endocannabinoids. Others are made by plants and can be consumed—these are called phytocannabinoids. Some phytocannabinoids have been shown to effectively interact with your ECS and help support your body’s ability to stay in homeostasis.
One of the most well-known such phytocannabinoids is CBD, or cannabidiol.
Taking CBD orally—through concentrated CBD oils, tasty CBD gummies, or convenient CBD capsules—can help supplement your body’s levels of cannabinoids and make sure your ECS has the resources it needs to keep your body humming along in good health and harmony.
We already know that taking CBD can bring significant benefits, including…
Helps navigate everyday stress and anxiety.* Taking CBD helps your body to better deal with the little stresses and anxieties that can build up over time, helping you to feel more resilient and in control.
Supports healthy sleep cycles.* Taking CBD consistently helps regulate your sleep cycles and encourage deep, regular sleep. It’s amazing how much more energetic and hopeful a good night’s sleep can make you feel, and that can make a big difference in your daily life.
Supports a sense of calm.* By supporting the function of your endocannabinoid system, CBD helps you to maintain a sense of calm focus—rather than the scattered, agitated feelings that can creep up on us when our ECS is running low on cannabinoids.
But what about CBD for inflammation specifically? Well, let’s take a look at the studies and see what the research has to say.
What Do Published Studies Say About CBD and Inflammation?
Here at Charlotte’s Web™, we strive to only make claims that we can back up with definitive science. So rather than telling you that there are definite benefits of taking CBD for inflammation, instead we’re going to share the results of some of the most recent and compelling studies done on the topic and let you make up your own mind.
It should come as no surprise that strenuous exercise can cause damage to muscle fibers. What you may not know is that this exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) can trigger an inflammatory response. Some inflammation is beneficial as part of the healing process, but too much can prolong soreness and delay recovery.
CBD has been shown to stimulate your body’s production of anti-inflammatory cytokines while inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species, assisting your body in the recovery from exercise-induced inflammation.
Another investigation showed that relatively higher doses of CBD were able to reduce plasma levels of inflammatory markers including IL-6 and TNFα, while also reducing tissue degradation.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Is CBD anti-inflammatory?”, this narrative review of clinical evidence may hold the answer.
This clinical review discusses the evidence for cannabinoids to suppress inflammation in some models through several mechanisms of action: the induction of apoptosis, the inhibition of cell proliferation, the suppression of cytokine production, and the upregulation of T-regulatory cells.
In the words of the authors: “Manipulation of endocannabinoids and/or use of exogenous cannabinoids in vivo can constitute a potent treatment modality against inflammatory disorders.”
This research review cites several studies demonstrating the ability of CBD to support the normalization of systemic inflammation. Based on the strength of the available evidence, the authors reach the conclusion that “cannabidiol, which may interact with the endocannabinoid system but has actions that are distinct, offers promise as a prototype for anti-inflammatory drug development.”
This study measured the effect of CBD for inflammation in the intestines. The researchers administered croton oil to stimulate motility and cause inflammation in the intestinal tracts of mice. Then, they gave CBD to some (but not all) of the mice.
The results were encouraging: the mice that had been given croton oil but no CBD experienced increased motility (inflammation) levels. The mice that had been given croton oil and CBD were able to maintain normal motility levels.
These results suggest (in the words of the researchers) that, “Cannabidiol may represent a good candidate to normalize motility in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.” The study also found that CBD did not affect the intestinal function of healthy mice, indicating that it contributes to intestinal balance.
What Can We Conclude about the Use of CBD for Inflammation?
In conclusion, preliminary scientific studies are promising, but more studies need to be conducted to see if CBD for Inflammation could help. We cannot definitively make the CBD for inflammation connection currently. What we know for sure is that CBD is good for sleep, calm, stress, and exercise induced inflammation.