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While CBD isn’t proven to help arthritis pain, some early research suggests it may help. The best products include topical CBD balms, creams, and salves.

Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.

In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular remedy for a variety of issues. CBD is nonintoxicating, and research shows it has promise with helping ease pain and anxiety and improve sleep. It’s popular with people looking for symptom relief and wanting to avoid the mind-altering effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

In December 2018, the United States removed hemp from its list of controlled substances. That’s why there are limited studies on how CBD can benefit arthritis pain.

But there are promising early studies and results that suggest CBD may help relieve joint pain without the side effects and habit-forming risks associated with some medications.

We used the following standards for safety, quality, and transparency to make our selections. Each product we selected:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made by a company that discloses the source of their hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3% THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients, including any added ingredients for pain relief
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
  • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

CBD glossary

If you’re a first-time CBD shopper, labels can be a jumble of unknown terms and claims. Knowing how to read a CBD label can help you find the right product. Here are some of the most common terms you’ll find on CBD products:

  • Cannabis: This is the plant from which CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids are extracted.
  • Cannabinoids: These plant compounds are found naturally in cannabis, and they produce a number of benefits. CBD and THC are just two cannabinoids. Cannabis has dozens, possibly hundreds, of these chemicals.
  • Full-spectrum CBD: A full-spectrum CBD product contains all the cannabinoids found in a particular cannabis plant.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: Broad-spectrum CBD contains all cannabinoids but THC.
  • CBD isolate: This highly purified extract contains only CBD.
  • THC: This cannabinoid is responsible for the euphoric effects of cannabis. It’s also the substance that shows up on a drug test.
  • Terpenes: These organic compounds are responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis.
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Other than Epidiolex, a prescription medication for epilepsy, no CBD products have been approved by the FDA. In fact, no government agency regulates CBD products for safety, potency, or effectiveness.

Regardless, many companies are open and transparent about their processes. That makes finding a high quality product easier. But it’s important to know how to read a label properly so you can find a reputable product.

Ingredients

When looking for a high quality CBD product, be sure to read the ingredients label. CBD isn’t found in hemp seeds, so instead, look for a product that contains hemp extract.

The product does not contain CBD if it lists only:

CBD source

Look for U.S.-grown hemp that is, ideally, organic. In the United States, hemp is regulated by agricultural standards, so you can trust that it meets the requirements for the limit on THC.

Test results

Reputable CBD companies seek out and prominently share their third-party testing results. The company should post a COA on the product’s page or on the company’s website in a prominent place. If they don’t, request the COA by email before you purchase.

Read the COA to verify that the product passes tests for heavy metals and other contaminants like mold and pesticides.

Double-check the cannabinoid profile on the COA. This will show you if the product meets the brand’s stated potency.

Extra ingredients

Flavored oil and gummies often have added extracts and sweeteners. These increase the palatability of the product, but they don’t improve performance. For arthritis pain, look for products with ingredients shown to help reduce pain and inflammation, such as turmeric, camphor, arnica, and eucalyptus.

Carrier oils, like coconut oil and MCT oil, make CBD extracts easier to consume. They rarely add any flavor or benefits to the extract.

There are several ways to use CBD products, and each has its own pros and cons. CBD gummies and CBD oils provide all-over relief and last for several hours. They’re also easy to take and dose.

But your arthritis pain may be isolated to one or two joints. In that case, a topical option, such as a balm or lotion, may seem like a better solution. You can rub it on your joints.

Topical CBD does not reach the bloodstream, and therefore, side effects are rare and unlikely. It’s not clear how much CBD makes it through your skin, and unlike gummies or oils, a dose of a topical product isn’t clear-cut. You may have to use the product several times, increasing your dose until you find the right amount for your pain.

Avoid taking additional doses at once. Wait several hours between each dose so you understand how the product affects you.

CBD is still a new research topic, but it’s considered to be relatively safe, according to recent research. Study results show few side effects or complications.

People who do experience issues most commonly report fatigue and dizziness. Diarrhea and changes in appetite and weight also occur in some people.

CBD can interfere with some prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. It’s important to talk with a pharmacist or CBD-friendly clinician to understand if you can safely take CBD.

Also, new research suggests avoiding using CBD products by mouth if you eat or plan to eat high fat meals. High fat foods may dramatically increase concentrations of CBD in your blood. That may increase your risk of side effects.

Finally, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking CBD.

Joint pain can happen to anyone. But if you’re experiencing joint pain that interferes with your daily activities, you may have arthritis.

Some forms of arthritis can cause permanent damage if left untreated, which is why it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor or another healthcare professional if you’re experiencing joint pain along with:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • stiffness
  • joints that are warm to the touch
  • pain that doesn’t go away
  • pain that comes and goes

While CBD is considered safe to use in general, it does have some potential side effects, including fatigue and dizziness.

In addition, a topical CBD product may cause skin irritation, much like any new lotion or cream. Before using a new product more widely, it may be best to apply a small amount to your skin to make sure it does not cause irritation.

If you want long-term, all-over relief, products like oils or gummies may be best. However, if you want to target relief to a specific joint or area that’s painful, a topical treatment or lotion may be your best choice.

Read more about the methods of taking CBD to understand how each works and what type of relief they provide. This can help you select the right product for you.

CBD dosage depends on a number of variables, including your weight, body composition, the condition you want to treat, and more.

In general, start with a small dose, then gradually increase until you find a dose that produces the desired effect.

Prepared products like gummies are often pre-measured in 5- or 10-mg doses. But oils and tinctures are administered with droppers. Read the package to learn if a serving is a whole dropper, half, or just a drop. Be sure to read carefully so you can select the best dose for you.

This is a personal choice. If you want to avoid THC altogether, look for a product that is THC-free, such as a CBD isolate product.

If you don’t mind THC, a full-spectrum product may have the added benefit of the entourage effect. However, it could also show up on a drug test.

It might.

A 2016 animal study found that topical CBD can help minimize joint pain and inflammation in rats with arthritis.

A 2018 research review found that CBD may help with certain types of pain, like cancer pain, nerve pain, and fibromyalgia. But the study didn’t look specifically at topical CBD.

A 2022 study involving people with arthritis found that CBD may have therapeutic benefits. Participants were self-selected and completed an online survey about their symptoms and CBD use. Of the 428 participants, 83% said they had improvements in pain.

More research is needed to determine whether CBD cream is a good alternative to other pain treatments.

If you’re considering CBD for the first time, know that many types of CBD products are available. Each type has an array of benefits. Be sure to research each type to find the product that’s best suited to your needs.

While CBD typically has few side effects, it isn’t risk-free. It’s a good idea to talk with a clinician or pharmacist about your interest in CBD. They can help you find a product that works for you.

Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.