Chronic pain is an emerging public health issue and neuropathic pain is quite common and often poorly treated. Pharmacological drugs used to treat the pain often have severe side effects.
A new study shows that mice treated with cannabis oil experienced significant pain relief. Therefore, it could offer a natural, relatively safe option to control pain in humans instead of using harmful drugs. Of course, further research still needs to be done to determine the effect on humans.
When the Farm Act was passed in the United States in 2018, cannabis production and distribution was decriminalized. Before this, it was difficult to do any cannabis research due to its illegal status. Now that more research can be conducted, there is certain evidence that appears to back up some of the anecdotal claims about its effectiveness.
What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain as “pain caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system”. It is basically pain that comes from problems with signals from the nerves. There are various causes and traditional painkillers like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories usually don’t help much.
Common treatment for neuropathic pain
Management of the pain is challenging. Several drugs are normally used as part of an overall treatment approach to improve the functioning and quality of life of sufferers. It may be treated by using antidepressant or anti-epileptic medications.
Opioids were commonly used to treat it in the past but now the consensus is that they shouldn’t be prescribed as the first line of treatment due to the potential for addiction. This use of opioids is currently one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Hemp oil versus cannabis oil
Hemp oil is not the same as cannabis oil, although they are both made from Cannabis Sativa. Hemp oil is made from the seeds or leaves of the hemp plant. The oil that is made from the leaves is used for medicinal purposes and is rich in CBD with very little THC. CBD oil is legal and doesn’t have the mind-altering effects of THC.
On the other hand, cannabis oil is made from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant and can contain a high concentration of THC. The U.S. law states that hemp is any part of the Cannabis Sativa plant that contains less than 0.3% of THC.
University of New Mexico Study
The University of New Mexico has already conducted various studies on the safety and effectiveness of using cannabis. Science Daily recently reported on a study they conducted in mice using cannabis hemp oil that was extracted from the whole plant. It reduced the sensitivity of the mice to pain significantly for several hours.
The pain model used by the researchers exposed the mice to pain equivalent to several years of chronic pain in human patients. For several hours after consuming the cannabis oil, the mice demonstrated relief from pain. In fact, they showed almost the same pain sensitivity as the mice in the control group.
The oil used in the study has been available legally in Mexico since 2019. It was grown by Organic-Energetic Solutions under carefully controlled conditions instead of the type of “fight or flight” conditions such plants may often be grown in.
People who use the products produced from these plants swear that they are effective in treating many physical and mental conditions. Hemp grower and co-author of the study, Anthony Ortiz, says changes in the hemp laws are now allowing such claims to be tested.
What is full-spectrum hemp oil?
Full-spectrum hemp oil is a whole plant extract. Hemp has very low levels of the cannabinoid THC that causes the high.
Legally it is to have less than 0.3% in the U.S. but still has high levels of other cannabinoids like CBD and various terpenes. The amount of THC found in full-spectrum hemp oil, even if it is low, has been found to produce different positive effects on the body than when taking a CBD isolate.
When you take full-spectrum hemp oil, you should start small and up your dosage on a weekly basis to accurately gauge the effects, although there is little risk of overdosing. As it contains low amounts of THC and CBD minimizes its effects, you don’t experience the typical high effects that you experience with marijuana.
The entourage effects
Cannabis plants contain a number of constituents, including terpenes and flavonoids, that contribute to its therapeutic benefits. Several clinical investigations in the past have found that when compounds are isolated, they don’t offer the same relief of symptoms.
They often have more side effects than when using the whole plant or “full spectrum” cannabis flower extracts. This is because the compounds appear to work best in synergy, as though they are all members of an orchestra where each one is needed to create the full symphony.
Value of animal studies
Several studies measuring the effects of cannabis consumption in humans have found that patients reported psychoactive experiences, whether or not what they consumed contained THC. The “placebo effect” is quite common. This means that animal studies where there is no bias or expectancy levels may be superior in some ways to clinical trials.
The authors of the study at the University of New Mexico do caution that there are few studies on the long-term use of cannabis oil due to the fact that it was illegal to cultivate and distribute for many years. They say that future research should focus on how oil extracted from the whole plant affects the bodily systems that process pain. Giving people access to a completely natural and effective therapeutic option that is easy and inexpensive to produce could be an exciting modern medical discovery.
International Association for the Study of Pain. IASP Taxonomy. Pain terms. Neuropathic pain. Updated 2017 Dec 14. www.iasp-pain.org/Taxonomy#Neuropathicpain
University of New Mexico. “Legal cannabis hemp oil effectively treats chronic neuropathic pain.” ScienceDaily, May 20 2020.