Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory, autoimmune, and chronic disease that results in pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. RA gets worse over time and may eventually lead to the loss of limb function entirely. The condition can be disabling and often has a great impact on patient’s quality of life.
Since it is common knowledge that marijuana is often used as an effective pain reliever, many people who suffer from RA report having used it in an effort to alleviate their own symptoms.
Despite this, there are only a few studies that have ever investigated how effective marijuana could really be as a treatment option. Still, the few studies that do exist have offered some promising results, and should pave the way for more such research in the future.
The Anti-inflammatory Properties of Marijuana
Marijuana has long been considered an effective anti-inflammatory. This is because the marijuana plant contains various compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds have demonstrated an ability to decrease swelling and inflammation, and may offer a potential treatment model for inflammatory conditions. This was the conclusion of researchers in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.
The authors also noted that cannabinoids had “immune-modulatory effects.” This is great news for conditions such as RA, which it is both inflammatory and autoimmune. Marijuana may be able to effectively deal with both aspects of the disease.
The Anti-Arthritic Properties of CBD
One of the main cannabinoids in marijuana is the non-psychoactive compound known as CBD. CBD has been extensively studied for its therapeutic benefits, and a study published in the year 2000 further added to this body of evidence.
Researchers in this study looked at how effective CBD was in treating arthritic mice. They noted that CBD had a “potent anti-arthritic effect.” It had anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and was able to effectively protect joints from severe damage.
Success with a Synthetic CBD
This line of research continued with a 2004 study which looked at the anti-arthritic effects of HU-320, a synthetic form of CBD. Once again mice were used, and once again the cannabinoid turned out to be an effective treatment. Researchers were also excited that HU-320 showed no psychoactive effects, though one does wonder how it was possible to determine whether or not the mice experienced a nice buzz along with their pain relief!
Success with Sativex
Sativex is a patented mouth spray developed by GW pharmaceuticals. It is somewhat of a unique treatment option. Most other pharmaceutical cannabinoid medicines contain synthetic compounds such as the one described above, and usually only one of those compounds at a time. Sativex, on the other hand, contains a mixture of compounds from the marijuana plant, particularly THC and CBD.
Sativex was used in a 2005 clinical study which followed 58 RM patients as they were administered the spray over 5 weeks. Researchers noted that the effects were variable among participants, but that on the whole Sativex was able to “significantly suppress” the symptoms of RM.