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Cannabinoids have been well-studied as a target for treatment of neuropathic pain in the medical literature. According to some researchers, they hold the most potential as a natural solution since nearly all pharmaceutical treatments fall short and have caused researchers to conclude that pharma “treatment options for neuropathic pain have limited efficacy and use is fraught with dose-dependent adverse effects.”2

Due to this extreme shortcoming of Western medicine treatment for neuropathy, many neuropathy patients are understandably curious about cannabis, namely cannabidiol, as a potential option for pain management. Nature provides us with many healing plant compounds that don’t have adverse side effects, and many people are starting to wake up to that fact.

Relief From Chronic Pain Is Here: CBD and Neuropathy

Chronic pain has become an epidemic, especially as the Boomer generation approaches old age. In Europe, chronic pain effects 1 in 4 elderly people.3

In Australia, this epidemic is of massive proportions, extending to over half of the elderly population, and as high as 80% of patients in nursing homes.4

In the US, responses to an ABC News poll indicate that as many as 38 million adults in the US deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, and as many as 12 million US citizens have used cannabis to help alleviate this pain.

To this point, the available medications for attempting to treat this pain are limited to anti-steroidals, opiates, and anti-depressants – all hardcore drugs with harsh side effects of their own, and limited effectiveness. It’s almost as though the patient is trading a half-cure for being put on even more drugs to deal with the debilitating side effects. My opinion here, but this system is fucked up.

What Causes Neuropathy?

It’s probably pertinent to give a quick background with regards to exactly what is neuropathy. I find that it always helps to understand the underlying causes of health issues if you have any intention to solve the problem and not just put a band-aid on it.

Peripheral neuropathy has many causes. At its core, it is nerve damage due to chronic inflammation in the body. I’ve discussed inflammation at length here on the blog already, but essentially what it is is your body’s natural warning response that is triggered due to behaviors and incoming stimuli that threaten your health, put simply. Most people ignore this inflammation and develop chronic health issues over years of abusive habits. It is only after the diseases and health problems arise and becoming nagging that they seek a solution.

Neuropathy symptoms can arise due to inflammation related to:

  • Alcoholism: nutrient deficiencies, stress, excess estrogen, and liver complications
  • Autoimmune diseases: these typically develop due to chronic inflammation that goes unaddressed
  • Diabetes: a vast majority of diabetics develop neuropathy
  • Exposure to toxins: environmental toxins, pesticides, plastic polymers, and other endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause inflammation in the body
  • Nutrient deficiencies: key micronutrients are needed for proper nerve health, namely B vitamins, antioxidants like Vitamin E and C, and minerals like the electrolytes Calcium, Sodium, Magnesium, and Potassium
  • Trauma: accidents or traumatic injury can cause nerve damage that leads to neuropathy

These are just a few of many potential causes of neuropathy, albeit the most statistically common.

cbd and neuropathy

Cannabidiol, CBD May Aid In Calming Neuropathic Inflammation

An oromucosal spray named Sativex was approved back in 2005 by the Canadian government for use in treating neuropathy.5 While Sativex itself is a brand name and must be obtained with a prescription, the important thing to note is that it is essentially just a combination of THC and CBD, cannabidiol, not much different than just using a full spectrum hemp extract in combination with THC. Let’s be real: it literally is just a full spectrum cannabis extract, extracted with ethanol, packaged up and branded by GW Pharmaceuticals. This is something you could buy yourself.

Sativex (THC + CBD) was found in multiple clinical trials to be extremely effective in controlling neuropathy pain in MS patients, as well as arthritis. It was later approved by the United States FDA in 2006 for trials to control cancer-related neuropathy.

Historically, and quite ironically, Western understanding of the biological underpinnings of the pain system in the body was originally glimpsed through the lens of studying the plants Cannabis, opium poppies, Willow bark, and chile peppers.

Out of the study of these plants – and the naturally effective medicine inherent in them – pharmaceutical companies formulated synthetic, highly addictive, drugs such as morphine, codeine, oxycontin.

Due to lack of commercial feasibility and patentability, pharmaceutical companies, before the early 2000s, have not made any endocannabinoid drug-derivatives.6 Cannabinoids, however, are very well known for their analgesic effect in controlling pain in humans.7 Ask any anesthesiologist and they will agree, activation of the CB1 receptor (cannabinoid receptor 1) will lead to almost immediate alleviation of pain and inflammation.8 This pain reduction can be seen in fibromyalgia patients when treated with cannabis910 and even in cases of intestinal pain with IBS.

Cannabinoids like CBD, cannabidiol have been shown to alleviate this pain by also activating glycine receptors.11

This study found some really convincing evidence for this neuropathic pain control in rats.12 According to the researchers,

“The non-psychoactive compound, cannabidiol, or CBD, is the only component present at a high level in the extract able to bind to this receptor: thus cannabidiol was the compound responsible for the antinociceptive behaviour observed.

CBD Looks Promising As A Neuropathy Treatment

In conclusion, CBD oil is looking really promising for neuropathy patients and I’d say it’s definitely worth a shot, especially if you’ve been using opiates, NSAIDs, or antidepressants to try and control your neuropathy to no avail.

What have you got to lose? This also comes after a careful analysis of the clinical trials of Sativex, which just appears to be a full spectrum cannabis extract similar to the ones found on this page, in combination with THC.

Medical References

1.

Hampson A, Grimaldi M, Lolic M, Wink D, Rosenthal R, Axelrod J. Neuroprotective antioxidants from marijuanaAnn N Y Acad Sci. 2000;899:274-282. [PubMed]

2.

Fine P, Rosenfeld M. Cannabinoids for neuropathic pain. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2014;18(10):451. [PubMed]

3.

Frondini C, Lanfranchi G, Minardi M, Cucinotta D. Affective, behavior and cognitive disorders in the elderly with chronic musculoskeletal pain: the impact on an aging population. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2007;44 Suppl 1:167-171. [PubMed]

4.

Gibson S. IASP global year against pain in older persons: highlighting the current status and future perspectives in geriatric pain. Expert Rev Neurother. 2007;7(6):627-635.[PubMed]

5.

Russo E. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245-259. [PubMed]

6.

Pacher P, Bátkai S, Kunos G. The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacol Rev. 2006;58(3):389-462. [PubMed]

7.

Walker J, Huang S. Cannabinoid analgesia. Pharmacol Ther. 2002;95(2):127-135.[PubMed]

8.

Richardson J, Kilo S, Hargreaves K. Cannabinoids reduce hyperalgesia and inflammation via interaction with peripheral CB1 receptors. Pain. 1998;75(1):111-119.[PubMed]

9.

Schley M, Legler A, Skopp G, Schmelz M, Konrad C, Rukwied R. Delta-9-THC based monotherapy in fibromyalgia patients on experimentally induced pain, axon reflex flare, and pain relief. Curr Med Res Opin. 2006;22(7):1269-1276. [PubMed]

10.

Massa F, Monory K. Endocannabinoids, and the gastrointestinal tract. J Endocrinol Invest. 2006;29(3 Suppl):47-57. [PubMed]

11.

Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. J Exp Med. 2012;209(6):1121-1134. [PubMed]

12.

Comelli F, Giagnoni G, Bettoni I, Colleoni M, Costa B. Antihyperalgesic effect of a Cannabis sativa extract in a rat model of neuropathic pain: mechanisms involved. Phytother Res. 2008;22(8):1017-1024. [PubMed]

About Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has a degree in Neuroscience from Duke University, and is the research writer for The Universal Plant. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women around the world educate themselves and take action to improve their health with natural plant-based and nutrient therapies. Follow him on Instagram @_christopherwalker