Time and time again, cannabis has been shown an effective treatment for chronic pain and conditions like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Now, recent studies are suggesting that cannabis may also heal our bones and make them stronger.
If only it were that simple.
You see, while cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to help broken bones heal quicker and stronger, other research suggests that cannabis may reduce bone strength in younger people. These mixed results indicate that numerous variables should be taken into account before cannabis can be utilized for bone health.
Groundbreaking Israeli Study
In a groundbreaking, 2015 study, Israeli scientists injected either pure CBD or a combination of CBD and THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) into rats with broken thigh bones. Rats injected with pure cannabidiol (CBD) had bones that not only healed faster than those in the control group, but they also turned out stronger. In fact, the researchers estimated that bones treated with pure CBD were about 35-50% stronger than bones left to heal by themselves, making them less likely to break again in the future.
These findings could lead to new treatment options for people suffering from certain bone-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, which plays a part in up to 8.9 million fractures annually worldwide, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
The Tel Aviv University research team believe the results are related to the way that the plant’s cannabinoids interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system. They highlighted a possible connection between the body’s cannabinoid receptors and bone growth stimulation.
“We only respond to cannabis because we are built with intrinsic compounds and receptors that can also be activated by compounds in the cannabis plant,” one of the researchers from Tel Aviv University commented in a press release.
The study also highlighted the importance in detaching the therapeutic uses of cannabis with its psychoactive effects. Speaking to the Times of Israel, Dr. Yankel Gabet from Tel Aviv’s Bone Research Laboratory, said: “The clinical potential of cannabinoid-related compounds is simply undeniable at this point,” Dr. Gabet said. “While there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies, it is clear that it is possible to detach a clinic therapy objective from the psychoactivity of cannabis.” [Gutierrez, D. 2015]
Therefore, CBD (and cannabis rich in CBD) have the potential to treat certain conditions, such as bone disease and osteoarthritis without the psychoactive effects commonly associated with marijuana. This is nothing but good news, and it will go along to remove the stigma that still surrounds cannabis use.
“After being treated with CBD,” Gabet continued, “the healed bone will be harder to break in the future. Other studies have also shown CBD to be a safe agent, which leads us to believe we should continue this line of study in clinical trials to assess its usefulness in improving human fracture healing.” [Gutierrez, D. 2015]
Not Quite That Simple
Unfortunately, as is the case with much of the research surrounding cannabis, things are not quite that simple when it comes to cannabinoids and human bones.
A 2016 study found that chronic cannabis consumption might be associated with a lower bone density. The study looked at 170 participants and found that bone fractures were more abundant in those who were ‘heavy consumers’ of cannabis (in that they had consumed cannabis over 5,000 times throughout their lives).
There are few things worth noting about this study, however – not least of which is the finding that ‘moderate consumers’ did not experience an increased risk of fracture. The study’s authors also articulated that many of the cannabis consumers had a lower than average weight and BMI, which may have accounted for or increased the risk of a reduction in bone density.
There is also a 2009 study that found cannabis may reduce bone strength in younger people. The same study then goes on to say that cannabis has the opposite effect in older adults, with the authors even going as far to suggest that these findings may be beneficial for the future treatment of osteoporosis.
This last bit of research falls in line with other studies that have found cannabis could have disruptive effects on the developing brain while still preserving brain function in older subjects. Although much more research need to take place before any definitive conclusions can be gleaned from these findings, it does seem to suggest that cannabis may be more beneficial later in life, and perhaps damaging for developing youths.
More Time and Research Needed
The bottom line is this: Very little is currently known about cannabis, the most controversial plant on the planet. Since Nixon’s “war on drugs” in the 1960’s, when stringent prohibition put a stop to all cannabis research, the mainstream has been pumped full of lies and myths surrounding marijuana.
Only now, with legalization sweeping the U.S., and countries like the UK and Israel turning their attention to researching cannabis, will we start to gain a clear perspective on what cannabis and its components can be used for.
Let us also remember that the endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the 1990’s and that research into it is very much in its infancy. What we do know, however, is that the endocannabinoid system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, digestion, hormone levels, memory, and much more. It seems to work to produce a kind of natural balance in the body, which, in turn, leads to wellness.
Over the coming years, research will undoubtedly reveal more and more about how this miraculous plant works within the body, and in time, we will learn how best to utilize cannabis in a therapeutic setting. And, judging by recent research into marijuana and bones, cannabis-derived medicine may very well be one of the most novel and efficient treatments for healing and strengthening broken bones.