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Around 33 million people in the United States live with overactive bladder syndrome, a chronic condition that causes the frequent urge to urinate.

An overactive bladder may happen for many reasons, including:

Whatever the cause, an overactive bladder makes it difficult to hold in urine. You may often feel the need to run to the bathroom and may have accidents, or experience urine leakage.

When it comes to managing an overactive bladder, you have plenty of options, from natural remedies like herbs to medical treatments like Botox and medication.

But maybe you’ve tried all the treatments available to you and noticed little improvement. Or perhaps you simply want a different option. Emerging research does suggest another possible remedy to consider: cannabidiol (CBD).

Read on to learn how CBD could help improve overactive bladder symptoms and what to know about trying it.

Understanding how CBD works on an overactive bladder, or any other part of the body, requires a little insight into the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a cell-signaling system that plays a key role in regulating several functions and processes throughout your brain and body.

In a nutshell, your body produces molecules called endocannabinoids that stimulate endocannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are structurally similar to CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are found in the cannabis plant.

This similarity means CBD can also stimulate these endocannabinoid receptors — including the ones that affect bladder function.

When you use CBD, then, the cannabinoids in the product bind to those receptors and activate them. This triggers certain actions that appear to help an overactive bladder.

It can help relax your bladder

CBD may help an overactive bladder by reducing contractions of the detrusor muscle. This muscle has a key role in the function of your urinary system. Here’s how that system works:

  1. Your kidneys produce urine and send it to your bladder.
  2. The detrusor muscle, which connects to the urethral sphincter, relaxes so your bladder can store urine.
  3. Once your bladder gets around halfway full, your brain receives a signal that it’s time to urinate.
  4. This signal triggers a contraction from the detrusor muscle, which pushes your urine through to the urethral sphincter.
  5. The detrusor contracts and the sphincter relaxes to allow urine to exit your body.

Typically, you can hold in your urine long enough to get to the bathroom.

But if you have an overactive bladder, the signals between your brain and bladder cause your muscles to contract involuntarily. In other words, the urge to urinate comes on so suddenly that you can’t wait. This may happen before your bladder becomes full.

But CBD may act on the cannabinoid receptors within the detrusor muscle, helping relax it to prevent detrusor overactivity and contractions.

It can help regulate signals between your brain and bladder

CBD can also have an impact on the signals between your brain and bladder.

If it’s a signaling disconnect causing the detrusor muscle to spasm and contract erratically, cannabinoids may help reduce the number of misfires that make your bladder run on overdrive.

It can help ease inflammation

CBD can help regulate the body’s inflammatory response and reduce neuroinflammation. These properties may also help reduce bladder overactivity.

Neuroinflammation, in particular, is associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease. These conditions can involve an increased risk of overactive bladder.

Though evidence remains limited, existing research into the effects of cannabinoids on the bladder does show some support for the benefits of CBD.

One 2006 study considered the effects of cannabinoids on urge incontinence in 630 people with MS. Researchers divided participants into three groups. One group received cannabis extract, another group received THC, and the third group received a placebo.

At the end of the trial, all three groups showed a reduction in urge incontinence episodes. The cannabis extract and THC groups showed the highest reduction: 38% and 22%, respectively, compared with the placebo group’s 18%.

Researchers in a 2017 review considered three studies with a total of 426 participants with MS who experienced bladder control issues with MS. Participants in the studies received either THC/CBD capsules or oromucosal spray.

Researchers found evidence to suggest cannabinoids as a potentially effective way to help reduce incontinence episodes.

That said, researchers also emphasized the need for larger, high quality trials to support these promising findings.

While experts have studied cannabis for some time, CBD products remain fairly new, comparatively speaking. What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate CBD products, so evidence-based dosing guidelines don’t exist yet.

To complicate matters, figuring out the correct dose depends on how you consume CBD, since doses vary among the different product types. Your weight and body chemistry will typically also factor into how much CBD you use.

You’ll also want to check the THC content in a CBD product, especially if you only want CBD, which doesn’t produce the “high” feeling.

Start with our guide to CBD dosing.

A healthcare professional can offer more guidance on finding the right dose for you.

Tips to consider

Here are a few helpful suggestions for using CBD:

  • Shop smart: Stick with licensed dispensaries when buying CBD. These products are largely unregulated in the United States. Many people report poor quality control, mislabeling, discrepancies in ingredient strength, and undeclared THC from non-reputable shops.
  • Go low and slow: It’s best to start with the lowest dose of CBD and gradually increase it, making sure to give it time to work. As a general rule, it’s best to wait 1 week before upping your dose.
  • Use it at bedtime: Use CBD before bed or when you have time to relax and ride out any drowsiness you may experience. Drowsiness is the most common side effect of CBD.
  • Consider the legalities: The laws around CBD products vary depending on where you live, the product’s THC content, and whether the product is made from hemp- or cannabis-derived CBD. Check your state’s laws and the laws of anywhere you intend to travel with CBD.
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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 legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so 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.

An overactive bladder can be frustrating and disrupt your daily life.

Though you might feel inclined to pass off bladder overactivity as a natural part of the aging process, you don’t have to live with your symptoms. You can often manage them with:

If you’re beginning to notice symptoms of overactive bladder, or you feel unsatisfied with your current treatment plan, ask a healthcare professional about other options for treatment.

Experts continue to study the potential benefits of CBD for overactive bladder syndrome. Existing evidence does seem promising.

Many people tolerate small doses of CBD well, so it could offer another option to help manage an overactive bladder.

If you’d like to learn more about trying CBD and finding the right dose, ask a healthcare professional if this approach could work for you.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.