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CBD for Pain: Does it work? What does the science say?

How to use CBD for Pain: How much CBD should I take for pain?

You might have heard that CBD is perfect for pain and that lots of people are using it to feel better. But how? And more importantly, how much CBD should you use for pain?

CBD dosage is not as simple a topic as you might think. While it’s true that millions of people have benefited from CBD oil, the unique way our body processes this supplement makes it a little bit more complex than some other wellness topics. Don’t worry, we’ll make it simple as we go through this article. 

Below, we’re going to introduce you to an overview of CBD and pain and how the two interact, and then we’ll get into more detailed frequently asked questions about CBD and pain, such as how much you should take, when you should take it and a bit about the different types of CBD oil products.

Overall, remember that CBD is very safe, and rarely causes any side effects. So, after reading the guidelines below, you should feel comfortable deciding if, and how, to try CBD for your pain. But first, we’ll tell you briefly what we know about the science of CBD and pain.

CBD and Pain: A brief introduction

Scientists believe CBD can help in many different ways, because of how it connects with a unique human biological system.

While research is still ongoing, the human endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors found throughout our bodies, including our nervous system and all our major organs. Researchers think the natural compounds in hemp and cannabis interact with our bodies by effectively supplementing the natural cannabis-like compounds our bodies already make (called “endocannabinoids”).

The endocannabinoid system seems to help our bodies maintain balance, or homeostasis. When you smoke or ingest THC-rich cannabis (“marijuana”) it also interacts with our endocannabinoid system but, unlike THC, CBD won’t make you feel “stoned.” Research suggests that major effects of CBD could include both reducing swelling and improving how the body reacts to painful stimuli. 

Research is still ongoing into the many different ways CBD may help reduce pain. Promising initial research suggests CBD can help symptoms of discomfort conditions, as well as with more diffuse, harder-to-treat pain like from fibromyalgia.

Millions of people have used CBD to ease symptoms of pain. While it’s not a cure for any condition, it does seem to help a lot of people feel better by helping bring their systems closer to balance. 

How to pick the right CBD oil for pain

Not all CBD oil is created equal. If you’ve ever searched for CBD oil, you might’ve gotten overwhelmed by the number of options available. There are literally thousands of CBD products on the market.

Fortunately, there are some things you can look for if you want to separate quality CBD products from the ones that aren’t made with the same level of care. In general, you should be looking for companies that are as transparent as possible about their process. It should be easy to find out more about their products, from what kind of hemp do they use (is it organically grown? Do the farmers use pesticides?) to the full ingredients list in all their products. 

Quality matters from the ground up, especially because the hemp plant is especially good at absorbing nutrients from the soil… along with toxins if it’s grown in poor conditions. Quality CBD brands rigorously test their hemp and CBD products multiple times to ensure it’s clean and pure, with no unwanted chemical residue. 

On that note, you should be able to easily find lab test results (also known as COAs, or Certificates of Analysis) for any CBD products you buy. These should be performed by an impartial, third-party lab (not the brand themselves). A good, thorough set of lab results will show you how strong your CBD oil product is, what terpenes and additional cannabinoids it contains, and also confirm that there are no heavy metals, pesticide residues, mold or other unhealthy impurities. 

Finally, it should be easy to talk with customer service and get more information. If you have questions, ask them! If the brand seems evasive about how they make their products, or their sourcing, you should probably look elsewhere.

What are the different types of CBD oil products?

When it comes to using CBD for pain, you have a lot of different options in different types of CBD products. Here’s an overview of some of the major types available:

  • CBD Oil – This is one of the most common and popular forms of CBD oil. It’s sometimes also called a CBD tincture. Typically, it contains CBD oil with a simple oil like MCT oil as a “carrier” to help get the CBD into your body. 
  • CBD Topicals – Topical CBD products are designed to be applied on your body directly, wherever you need relief. They usually combine the benefits of CBD with added botanicals and natural compounds to warm, cool, or otherwise soothe muscles and irritated joints.
  • CBD Capsules – Just as the name implies, CBD can be put in a capsule or softgel. This makes it easy to swallow, and easy to take the same dose every time. If you already take other medications or vitamins in capsule form, it can be easy and convenient to add a CBD capsule to your existing routine.
  • CBD Gummies and other edibles – Almost everyone loves a sweet treat. Just like many vitamins and other supplements are now available in gummy form, you can get CBD oil gummies too. While edibles like gummies (or capsules) can be a little slower to go into effect, they’re still a good way to feel CBD’s all over benefits.
  • Hemp flower and CBD pre-rolls – Along with CBD oil, the fastest way to experience the benefits of hemp is by smoking it. High CBD hemp flower is a form of hemp designed to be put in a pipe, rolled into a “joint,” or even baked with to create your own edibles. It looks (and smells) a lot like high-THC cannabis, but it’s still completely legal. It still won’t get you high, but does bring all of CBD’s potent relaxing effects, fast. 

A lot of people start with one form of CBD oil product, then expand into using others. For many people, especially those who deal with severe pain, or who have multiple symptoms they wish to ease, using multiple CBD products through the course of your day can be highly beneficial.

Do full spectrum CBD products work better for pain?

Beyond the form a CBD product takes — CBD oils or topicals, for example — there are different ways CBD products can be made. And that can matter for people using CBD to help with pain. 

The CBD products you can buy online begin as hemp plants. The flower-like tops of the plants, known as buds, are processed, usually with a clean extraction process that uses CO2, heat and pressure to create raw CBD extract. At this point, the extract contains just about everything found in the plant. In addition to CBD, there are hundreds of other compounds including terpenes, and trace amounts of other compounds like THC, CBN, and more.  

Legally, hemp-based CBD products need to contain less than 0.3% THC, much less than the amount in marijuana that makes people feel high. But all those trace compounds contribute to something called the entourage effect. This is when, researchers believe, all the different natural chemical work in synergy to enhance the overall benefits.

When this raw extract undergoes relatively little processing before it’s mixed into the final product, this is known as a “full-spectrum” product. Sometimes, the product undergoes further filtering to remove the THC, to create a “broad-spectrum” product. However, this filtering often removes other beneficial compounds, like terpenes, too. Finally, some products are filtered until they contain just CBD. These are known as CBD isolate products.

Perhaps because full spectrum hemp CBD products retain more of those additional trace compounds, many consumers report they feel better effects from them when compared to broad spectrum or CBD isolate products. Some preliminary research supports this idea, too.

How do I use CBD for pain and how much CBD oil should I take?

The best way for new CBD consumers to get started is to take CBD consistently. That will help you evaluate if and how it’s helping you, and help you figure out how much to take. 

Many people choose to begin by taking CBD every night before bed. CBD often promotes a restful sleep, so it’s a great place to start with this supplement. Take the same amount every night for two to three weeks, and then you can experiment by adding more, taking it more times a day and so on.

Since everyone is different, it’s hard to recommend a dosage for everyone. In general, the advice is to “start low, and go slow.” In other words, begin with a relatively low dose and only increase it gradually over time. Take a half dropper of CBD oil, a single capsule or gummy, or smoke half a hemp flower pre-roll and see how you feel.

For a lot of people, about 15 – 30mg is a good starting dose. This lets you adjust to taking CBD before you consider taking more. While side effects are rare, as we said, they most often involve a bit of sleepiness and often fade over time. Many people eventually end up feeling optimal benefits from taking CBD multiple times a day, and consume total daily doses of 100mg or more.

How can I calculate CBD dosage? 

A good, quality CBD product should make it easy to figure out your dosage. The product should be clearly labeled with either the total amount of CBD in the package, the amount per dose (such as per capsule or gummy). If you have trouble finding this kind of basic information, you probably should look for a different product!

While it’s easy to take a consistent dose with a CBD capsule or gummy (just take the same number each time), it can be a little more confusing with CBD oil, at least at first. However, once you understand some basic math, it’s easy to calculate your dose. 

Typically, CBD oil comes in a one ounce, or 30 milliliter (ML) bottle. Each full dropper will hold about 1 ML of CBD oil. For a bottle containing 500mg of CBD oil, each dropper contains a little over 15mg of CBD. For a 1000mg bottle of CBD oil, each full dropper contains about 33mg of CBD.  

Can I take too much CBD oil?

When it comes to CBD topicals, feel free to use them as often as you need relief. Because our bodies process these products differently, it’s nearly impossible to take too much.

When it comes to orally consumed CBD, sometimes less is better than more. That’s why we advise starting with a lower dose and gradually increasing (or decreasing) as needed. However, that doesn’t mean you should worry too much about taking “too much CBD.” 

CBD is considered an extremely safe supplement. Even the World Health Organization has said that you can’t get addicted to or overdose on CBD. In general, research studies give subjects extremely high doses of CBD — far more than almost anyone would take in a day, normally at home — and find few or no side effects.

When side effects do occur, the most common feeling is sleepiness or fatigue. Some people describe feeling a bit detached and unfocused if they take more than their usual amount in a day. In some rare cases, people experience stomach upset or diarrhea from taking too much CBD. 

If side effects occur, try lowering your dose for a while. In many cases, they will pass given time.

Can CBD interfere with other medications I take?

It’s rare, but possible for CBD to interact with other supplements or medications. 

Doctors warn against combining quite a few prescription medications with grapefruit. These include a wide range of drugs, including mental health and heart medications. That’s because grapefruit could interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and eliminate the drug, potentially causing you to have too much in your system. 

Why do we bring this up here? Because some preliminary research suggests that CBD could have a similar effect at very high doses. Since we don’t know enough yet about this potential interaction, we recommend checking with a doctor first before combining CBD and one of these drugs which comes with a “grapefruit warning.” 

You should always do your research and check with your doctor before starting a new treatment for pain, or changing your existing treatment. That goes for adding CBD or almost anything else.

What about other cannabinoids like THC or CBG?

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with legal recreational or medical cannabis, then you might be interested in exploring high-THC cannabis for relief of pain.

It’s true that many people find relief from pain by smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana. There’s a lot of supportive research about using THC for pain, and countless anecdotal reports supporting its use for pain management. 

Above, we mentioned the entourage effect, where multiple natural compounds in hemp and cannabis work best together. That’s true for THC too. Many commercial THC products in legal states are high in THC, but relatively low in CBD. So lots of consumers use both to maximize their relief. If you live in a legal state, you could smoke cannabis and take CBD oil, or mix cannabis and hemp flower. 

There’s good news for people who don’t live where cannabis is readily available, or just want some of the same potential benefits without the high. Another cannabinoid, CBG, is rapidly growing in popularity. Just like CBD, it won’t make you feel high. However, researchers believe CBG interacts with many of the same receptors in our endocannabinoid system as cannabis. The result could be more relief from pain and discomfort, for some people.

Once again, CBD and CBG go great together. One of the most popular ways to take CBG is in 1:1 CBD and CBG oil products, which blend an equal amount of both (along with other trace cannabinoids and terpenes).

Final thoughts on finding relief

Living with pain can be challenging, even disabling. We offer the above guide in the hopes it helps you understand if and how CBD might be one tool that can help.

While some people do experience significant relief of unpleasant symptoms when they take CBD, it’s not a miracle cure. For many people, a combination approach offers the best possible relief from pain. That means considering all the possible options including supplements like CBD, exercise and lifestyle changes, and treatments from Western medicine too.

Whatever works best, we hope you find relief that helps you get through your day and live your best life. 

If you’ve got questions about picking CBD products, feel free to contact us at Absolute Nature. Whether it’s oil, gummies or a topical, we’ll always do our best to help you find the right CBD. 

Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.

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