Can THC & CBD Help With Occasional Discomfort?— What We Know So Far

Can THC & CBD Help With Occasional Discomfort?— What We Know So Far

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The topic of THC and temporary discomfort has drawn up a lot of curiosity from the cannabis and scientific community alike. This blog post contains several links to studies on the subject matter. Still, it's best to keep in mind that due to decades of prohibitionist legislation and stances, cannabis research is still in its early days with often limited sample sizes. Fortunately, because of the legalization of hemp, researchers have never had better access to compounds such as THC, CBD, and others. 

If you have issues with consistent physical discomfort, we urge you to do your research and consult a licensed physician. 

What Exactly Is THC?

close-up of a cannabis bud in palms

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most famous psychoactive compounds found in cannabis, but it's not the only one. In fact, scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids within the plant. 

Compared with the other known cannabinoids, THC is distinguished for its ability to produce the euphoric feeling many of us associate with cannabis. It can promote pleasant effects like sleepiness, relaxation, and laughter.

But THC isn't just a fun treat. Many people have added this cannabinoid to their wellness routine (for example, to support exercise and mindfulness). Still others- over 3.8 million in the U.S. alone- rely on cannabis to relieve temporary discomfort.

How Does THC Work?

If you are an avid reader of our blog, you have likely heard of the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). This vast network of receptors and chemical messengers, called endocannabinoids, manages several internal biological processes. 

These receptors and neuromodulators work together in complex ways to help handle our response to physical discomfort, mood, appetite, and a whole lot more. They operate like natural circuit breakers for our bodies. "Phytocannabinoids", like CBD and THC, just happen to work through the same physiological channels as the endocannabinoids our bodies naturally produce.

THC, in particular, stands out for its strong affinity to bind with the CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain and throughout our central nervous system (as well as some peripheral tissues). 

This means that even if THC is most notable for the euphoric feeling caused by its relationship to the CB1 receptors in our brain, we often experience additional beneficial effects elsewhere in our bodies

Examining The Research: THC & Physical Discomfort

man at his desk, holding hand on neck as he copes with physical discomfort and pain

Before we jump into the findings, it's important to note why there is much interest in researching the relationship between THC and temporary discomfort.

Studies show that our central nervous system contains a high concentration of CB1 receptors. They've also discovered that these receptors are located in areas of our brain involved in alleviating physical discomfort, stress, fear, and anxiety, like the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia, and peripheral nerves. And as mentioned earlier, THC binds to these exact receptors

Usually, when it's functioning properly, our endocannabinoid system creates its own chemical signals in response to stress and physical discomfort. These are synthesized on an as-needed basis and offer short-term relief of symptoms.  

Findings From Research into Cannabis & Physical Discomfort

For the record, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved cannabis as a treatment for physical discomfort, but there is a lot of exciting investigation happening already. 

Here are a few of the most recently published indications of scientific support:
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported finding several major and robust systematic reviews with substantial evidence of cannabis's effectiveness in treating physical discomfort in adults. This includes 28 randomized trials with 2,454 patients. In the institution's 2017 report, they concluded that cannabis can be effective for physical discomfort
  • A study published on U.S. Pharmacist found that a growing body of clinical research and a history of anecdotal evidence supports cannabis for the relief of some types of physical discomfort.
  • 2022 review of randomized control trials summarized that cannabinoids are relatively safe with few severe adverse events for alleviating temporary physical discomfort
It's also important to remember that everyone is different, and more investigation is needed before we can conclusively make sweeping statements about this in either direction. 

Research On Other Cannabinoids and Physical Discomfort

The interest in cannabis and physical discomfort doesn’t just revolve around THC. Remember those 100-plus cannabinoids we mentioned earlier? Enthusiasts and researchers have also taken an interest in the properties of other compounds.

One of the most popular is cannabidiol (CBD). This gentle cannabinoid does not have psychoactive properties like its cousin, THC, which makes it the preferred choice for some individuals.

In surveys, physical discomfort is actually among the top three conditions people report consuming CBD for, but remember this information should not be taken as an all-encompassing recommendation, as it comes from people’s subjective experiences. The best way to find out if CBD can fit your physical discomfort needs is to try it for yourself. 

Scientifically speaking, there isn't as much research out there about CBD oil for physical discomfort as there is about THC. Interestingly enough, there is some research out there about the added benefit of combining CBD with THC to produce a phenomenon known as "the entourage effect."

This theory suggests that the combined effect of different cannabis compounds (including cannabinoids like CBD and THC) enhances the overall impact compared to consuming one cannabinoid alone. Originally popularized by researcher Ethan B. Russo, the entourage effect is particularly relevant to the topic of physical discomfort. 

While research into this idea is only in the preliminary stages, at least one recent review has reported enhanced effects from full-spectrum cannabis products (which contain a mix of cannabinoids). But, as you'll often see at the bottom of research papers, the authors state that "definitive studies in analgesia are still required." Although promising, take it with a grain of salt since, as we mentioned earlier in the article, cannabis research is still in its infancy. 

Final Thoughts

woman dealing with physical pain

Due to decades of prohibitionist stances, cannabis research is still in its infancy. However, it’s fascinating to see what’s already out there regarding research on cannabinoids and physical discomfort. And we’re excited to see what new findings lay ahead with the wide availability of cannabinoids thanks to the legalization of hemp. 

Whatever path you choose to find relief, we hope you continue to mind your mind!

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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