This post was last updated on 9/10/2018.
Burning fingertips, sensations of walking on glass, and sleepless nights. Living with neuropathic pain is no way to live at all.
Yet thousands of people like you and me have to deal with, largely unpredictable, bursts of pain.
You’re not alone if you feel like your whole life is governed by pain. This post will give a brief overview of the prevalence of this class of pain as well as the causes before going into the evidence indicating the cannabinoid CBD can be effective in treating neuropathic pain of all kinds and causes.
After that, we’ll talk about how to use CBD oil for neuropathic pain, as well as other product options (including which products to pick and where to get them). But first let’s get a lay of the land.
A World of Pain
Chronic pain has become an epidemic, especially as the Boomer generation approaches old age. For example, 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 seems broken.
What Causes Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy has many causes. At its core, it is nerve damage due to either chronic inflammation in the body or sudden trauma. Inflammation is your body’s natural response triggered by incoming stimuli that is perceived to be a threat to your body.
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 nervous system 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: The Research & Advancements
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.
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 hadnt’ 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 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 behavior observed.
A recent review by Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California compared the effectiveness of cannabis against tricyclic antidepressants, gabapentin, anticonvulsants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Cannabis was more effective than all except tricyclics at reducing neuropathy. 11
Cannabis as a treatment of neuropathic pain is one of the topics with the most substantive collection of studies in the medical literature behind it.12 This study also goes through the effective cannabinoids for neuropathic pain.12 And now, according to some researchers, cannabinoids hold the most potential for providing relief for thousands of sufferers, since nearly all pharmaceutical treatments fall short and have lead 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 Western medicine’s inability to formulate an effective treatment for neuropathy, many neuropathy sufferers are understandably turning to cannabis, namely hemp’s cannabidiol, as an alternative for pain management.
Treating Neuropathy with CBD
For a detailed guide about treating neuropathy with CBD, the kinds if neuropathy you may be experiencing, and recommended products shown to work against neuropathy for readers in the past, see our Neuropathy page.
CBD and Neuropathy: A Promising Future Ahead
In conclusion, CBD oil looks really promising for nerve pain and neuropathy patients. CBD is probably good alternative treatment for neuropathic pain. CBD may have the ability to lower pain which is linked to its potent effect as an antioxidant and ability to lower inflammation significantly, and quickly. In fact, when put head to head against the other well-known antioxidants alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E) and ascorbate (Vitamin C), cannabidiol beat out both of them in effectiveness with regards to lowering glutamate toxicity in neurons.1
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.