It is well-known that broken bones are scarier and more dangerous the older you get, as your ability to heal those bones diminishes. Being able to break a bone and be totally fine 3 weeks later is a thing of the past to anyone over the age of 20 or so.
However, thanks to some new research, we might actually be able to increase the rate at which we can heal bones as adults thanks to CBD.
Not only that, but we can increase the amount of work that our damaged bones can do while they’re healing.
Take that, children!
What is CBD?
Before we can explore whether or not CBD can influence our bones’ ability to heal, we need to understand what CBD is.
CBD, properly known as cannabidiol, is one of the primary cannabinoids within cannabis and hemp plants. In addition to its more party-friendly cousin THC, CBD exists as a result of evolution. When ingested by mammals, THC causes the trademark psychoactive high that most reasonable animals would consider undesirable, so they would hopefully refrain from eating and kill the plants. CBD was one of the many other cannabinoids that evolved alongside THC, but this one lacks any psychoactive effects whatsoever.
When you consume CBD, it enters the bloodstream to be carried around the body, interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as it goes until it is eventually metabolized by the liver.
This health system, the ECS, is responsible for a huge number of different bodily functions, and it is able to be influenced by CBD thanks to its two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2.
These receptors, located throughout the body, are triggered by the presence of CBD and THC. However, CBD acts differently from THC – instead of attaching itself to the receptors and over-stimulating them, causing the psychoactive effects, CBD instead triggers them calmly and slowly, indirectly influencing the receptors through creation of natural endocannabinoids. This is what allows for CBD’s potential healing effects.
The two different receptors triggered by cannabinoids, CB1 and CB2, are responsible for different bodily functions dependant on their location.
The CB1 receptor is mostly located within the brain and central nervous system, meaning that its stimulation results in the release of brain chemicals like serotonin, as well as modulating the sensation of pain.
Meanwhile, the CB2 receptors are more generally spread throughout the body. This wide range of influence results in them being able to interact with the regeneration rate of dead cells, as well as controlling the body’s inflammation response.
The sheer variety of different ways CBD interacts with the body means that CBD could be able to help treat a myriad of different conditions.
However, what about your bones? Can CBD actually affect the rate at which your bones heal themselves?
How Does CBD Affect the Bones?
Your skeletal structure, consisting of hundreds of different bones, is extremely durable. They’re designed to hold up your arms, keep you standing straight and moving throughout your day. However, no matter how hard something is, it is still possible to break it.
Most people will break a bone at some point in their life, so the experience is something we all share – the main difference is how quickly you heal.
Certain people heal much faster than others, mostly linked to the amount of iron within their bloodstream or their white blood cell count. Inability to heal bones properly is actually one of the early signs of several forms of cancer, so it’s a good idea to stay aware of how quickly your body repairs itself.
In recent years, researchers have been considering the possibility that CBD is able to help reduce the amount of time it takes to heal.
The logic behind this is that CBD is already responsible for the rate at which new cells are created to replace dead or dying ones, as highlighted in a study by Prenderville et al. for the British Journal of Pharmacology.
Since new skin and brain cells can be created faster and more efficiently with CBD, why not new bone cells?
Studies, such as this significant piece by Aymen Idris and Stuart Ralston for Front Endocrinol, have shown that the endocannabinoid system actually plays an important role in the regular of bone cell activity, as well as bone remodeling. The shape and eventual purpose of new bones being formed in both children and adult bodies is apparently actually determined by the ECS.
With this in mind, researchers began looking into whether or not the rate of bone healing can be increased utilizing CBD.
In a landmark study by Kogan et al. for the Journal of Bone & Mineral Research, researchers tested the healing rates of rats with mid-femoral fractures. The study looked at both the maximal load of the damaged bones, which is the amount that the bones could sustain without further damage or breakage, as well as the work to failure rate, which is the rate at which bones could become damaged due to overuse.
Researchers tested different groups of rats with the same mid-femoral fractures using CBD, as well as a different group with only THC, then again another with both THC and CBD.
The results showed that the rate of bone regrowth was drastically increased by the presence of CBD; in the CBD group, the rats showed the same regrowth at 4 weeks as the control group managed to achieve at 6 weeks.
The precise science of it is that CBD stimulates collagen crosslinking, which leads to a faster acclimation between the damaged bone cells. The more bone collagen is present, the easier it is for the bone to knit itself back together.
Researchers also looked at the size of the fracture as it healed, comparing it to fractures on rats without CBD dosage. By using micro-computed tomography, researchers were able to demonstrate that the size of the fracture, and not just the rate of new bone cells, was improved with CBD as well.
The two other metrics used in the study, work-to-failure rate and maximal load, were also both improved by the dosage of CBD. The rats were able to push their healing fractures much more than rats not dosed with CBD, showing that CBD not only increased the speed at which the injuries were healed, but it also made the process of healing a lot easier on the rat.
Is it Just CBD, or Does THC Have a Place?
During the study, researchers were not just looking at CBD, but also the effects of THC on bone regrowth. The effects that CBD had on healing bones were not also present when dosed with THC, suggesting that CBD alone has the ability to influence the bone cell regeneration rate.
Although THC doesn’t contribute to the healing of bones in the same way that CBD does, it actually does do something very interesting – it might be able to increase the efficacy of CBD’s effects on the bones.
Though the exact mechanics of how this works aren’t yet clear, THC potentiates the CBD’s effect on the work to failure rate of the bones. At both 6 weeks and 8 weeks post-fracture, there was a noticeable improve in failure rate when both THC and CBD were used.
This means that, for some reason that researchers aren’t entirely sure of yet, the positive effects CBD has on your bones’ ability to heal is actually improved if a small amount of THC is taken at the same time.
Interestingly, it’s not the effects of the THC on your bones, but the effect of the THC on the CBD within your system; it would appear that they share a unique interaction when they both interact with the Endocannabinoid system.
What Does This Mean for Us?
Though this study was done on rats, the implication for humans is absolutely amazing – not only does the study demonstrate that CBD helps bones heal themselves faster, it also shows that a mix of THC and CBD is the most effective.
Perhaps even more importantly, it demonstrates the importance of THC when taken with CBD. This is significant for the endless fight against the federal government for legalization. Only very recently, CBD was federally legalized for the purpose of treating two specific forms of epilepsy.
With one more piece of concrete evidence for the benefit of THC when mixed with CBD, the legalization argument can shift away from simple recreational use towards medicinal necessity.
True legalization is a long way off, but by introducing the idea of medicinal uses for both CBD and THC to the government, we can make them understand how useful they are.
Additionally, thanks to this study we now know that we could be using CBD to improve our health both pre- and post bone fracture.
As you get older, bones heal a lot slower, especially if it’s a serious injury or in a location you use every day like your hip or your back. By being able to take a medicine ourselves that could increase our rate of healing, we can finally start to heal the same way we did when we were kids.
No more limping around in casts for months anymore!