Cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, is a medicinal product derived from cannabis (marijuana). Many of the primary chemicals in cannabis are cannabidiols. However, CBD oils do not contain THC, the compound in marijuana that makes you “high.”

Researchers have recently starting focusing on CBD oil’s effects on several conditions that cause pain, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). So far, the results are promising. Keep reading to learn more about what recent studies suggest about CBD oil as well as tips on how to use it.

The first controlled trial to evaluate the use of cannabis-based medicine to treat RA happened in 2006. Researchers concluded that, after five weeks of use, a cannabis-based medication called Sativex reduced inflammation and significantly improved pain. Participants also reported improved sleep, and most of the side effects were mild.

A 2008 review of the use of CBD to treat chronic pain similarly concluded that CBD reduced pain and improved sleep without any negative side effects.

In 2016, another study was done using CBD gel on rats. Researchers again found that the CBD gel reduced both joint pain and inflammation without any side effects.

While all of this research is very promising, the existing studies have been relatively small. Many more studies, especially on large numbers of human participants, are still needed to fully understand the effects of CBD oil and other cannabis-based treatments on RA symptoms.

CBD oil affects brain activity, but not in the same way that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, does. CBD oil interacts with two receptors, called CB1 and CB2, to reduce pain and the effects of inflammation.

CB2 also plays a role in your immune system. RA involves your immune system attacking the tissue in your joints. So this relationship to the immune system could explain why CBD oil seems to work well for RA symptoms.

In addition, CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects could also help to slow down or stop the progression of RA, which causes permanent damage to your joints over time. These effects could also reduce several other inflammation-related RA symptoms, such as fatigue and fever

CBD oil comes in the form of both a liquid and a capsule. You can take a capsule by mouth or add CBD oil to food or water. You can also mix CBD oil with your favorite lotion and apply it directly to your skin to help with stiff, achy joints. Some brands also offer therapeutic salves you can apply directly to your skin.

Work with your doctor to figure out the best dosage for you. Some products contain as little as 2.5 milligrams (mg) of CBD per dose, while others contain more than 1,000 mg. It’s best to start with a very small dose so you can see how your body reacts. If you don’t notice any side effects, you can try slowly increasing your dosage.

When choosing a CBD oil, make sure it’s from a trusted provider and includes a full list of ingredients.

It is also possible to apply CBD oil topically and many cream and lotion products are becoming available for purchase.

CBD oil doesn’t come with any serious potential side effects. However, you might experience some mild side effects, especially when you use it for the first time. If you have been on RA drugs for some time, these side effects may be more profound. These include:

In the United States, CBD oil is legal for medicinal use in certain states. In most of these states, you’ll need a recommendation from your doctor before you can purchase it. Check this map to see what the laws are in your state.

Can’t get CBD oil in your area? Learn about other alternative treatments for RA symptoms.

So far, studies looking at the benefits of CBD oil for people with RA are promising. However, there’s a need for larger human studies to fully understand its effects. Keep in mind that CBD oil isn’t approved by the FDA and remains illegal in several states.