Posted on: January 21, 2019 at 8:43 pm
Last updated: February 11, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Is there hope for the 54 million people suffering from arthritis?  In 2015 The Arthritis Society issued a grant to conduct studies to explore breakthrough therapies, utilizing medical cannabis (1,2).


One of the world’ foremost pain researchers, Dr. Jason McDougall, received the Strategic Operating Grant by the organization to complete a three-year study on cannabis and it’s potential to effectively repair arthritic joints. McDougall is also a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1,2).

This was the first cannabis research funded by the organization. They were looking to discover whether cannabis-based medicine could provide more benefit than just dulling the pain, the idea was to look into its potential in reversing the damage (1,2).


President and CEO of The Arthritis Society, Janice Yale stated that,

“People living with arthritis pain are looking for alternatives to improve their quality of life. We need research to help answer the many important questions about medical cannabis and its use. Our goal is to give Canadians the ability to make informed choices about their treatment options and to give physicians evidence-based guidelines to make treatment recommendations for their patients. This project is an important step to achieving those goals.”

This research branches off of a previous study from Chinese scientists (3).  Their finding indicated that extremely high concentrations of CB2 receptors are found within arthritic joints – which may suggest a pathway for treatment (3). In simple terms, a CB2 receptor functions as a doorway into the cell wall, allowing cannabinoids to enter.

While the body produces its own endocannabinoids that enter these CB2 receptors, another study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B found that outside cannabinoids influence the body’s endocannabinoid system to release antioxidants which help to repair cell damage (4).


McDougall’s team already knows that cannabis-based medicines act directly on CB2 sites to suppress pain and inflammation by mediating immune responses at the site of inflammation.

As our knowledge of the body’s endocannabinoid system evolves, we are likely to discover innovative ways of treatment and potentially an ability to reverse the damage done.

Some Anecdotal evidence even enlivens the potential of cannabis-based medicine after a woman prepared cannabis-infused smoothies which provided so much relief for her rheumatoid arthritis that her symptoms went into remission.

Study Results

What came of the studies commissioned by The Arthritis Society’s operating grant? Since funding over 3 years ago, there have been two papers published by McDougall (5,6), with one being of particular interest. The study in question was published in December 2017 in the journal Pain (5).

The 2017 paper was an animal study conducted on male Wistar rats. Obviously, animal studies have their limitations, however, what they did find sounds promising. According to McDougall’s findings,

“… local administration of CBD blocked OA pain. Prophylactic CBD [cannabidiol] treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these OA [osteoarthritis] joints. These findings suggest that CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.” (5) 

In, other words, CBD, when applied topically, it worked in for acute pain. Moreover, when it was used as a preventative measure (prophylactically), it was able to help avoid pain and nerve damage in joints affected by osteoarthritis.

The Take Away?

Can CBD from cannabis repair or reverse damage caused by arthritis? They’re not sure at this point. However, there are two things that seem to be true.  Not only can it help with acute pain, but it has the potential help prevent further arthritic development. The next would be human trials to confirm, and the future looks promising.

  1. Cannabis Could Be Reversing Damage To Arthritic Joints
  2. Dal Study Looks At How Marijuana May Help Repair Joints, Relieve Pain | Cbc News
  3. Gui, H., Liu, X., Wang, Z., He, D., Su, D., & Dai, S. (2014). Expression of cannabinoid receptor 2 and its inhibitory effects on synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology,53(5), 802-809. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/ket447
  4. Endocannabinoids in Nervous System Health and Disease
  5. Philpott, H. T., Oʼbrien, M., & Mcdougall, J. J. (2017). Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis. Pain,158(12), 2442-2451. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001052
  6.  O’Brien, M., & Mcdougall, J. J. (2018). Cannabis and joints: Scientific evidence for the alleviation of osteoarthritis pain by cannabinoids. Current Opinion in Pharmacology,40, 104-109. doi:10.1016/j.coph.2018.03.012


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