Osteoporosis is a crippling disease. It affects 10.2 million Americans over the age of 50, with three million more new diagnoses each year. Many more people suffer from low bone mass (osteopenia), meaning they’re at risk of developing osteoporosis in the near future. A life with the disease may mean a life of fractures, falls, and decreased mobility.
Thankfully, though, CBD may help. And how it may help is pretty interesting!
You probably already know that cannabidiol possesses a long list of amazing health benefits. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, and anti-anxiolytic, among many other properties.
Cellular Growth Cycles
CBD is also considered to be anti-proliferative. What does that mean? In this case, it means that CBD may slow down the growth, or proliferation, of malignant cells. It doesn’t impact regular cells in this way, though. Somehow, the CBD molecule is able to differentiate.
That “somehow” is the responsibility of the human endocannabinoid system. By gauging the metabolic state of developing cells, it helps the body recycle damaged cells and focus its energy on the formation of healthy new ones. This selective ability probably explains the impressive effect that cannabinoids have on cancers and other malignant growths.
CBD’s anti-proliferative qualities don’t apply solely to fighting cancer—they can mean good things for bone health, too.
To fully appreciate this mechanism, it’s important to keep in mind that most cells share a multiphase life cycle. They are created (usually through cell division), specialize, thrive (hopefully), and then either divide again or get recycled. In the moments between its creation and functional life the cell begins to take on specialized qualities.
The initial life cycle of a bone cell looks like this: first, bone-forming cells called osteoblasts combine to form a special type of collagen. This mixture then solidifies, creating groups of osteocytes, or finished bone. The third type of cell, osteoclasts, help maintain the structure of the matrix once it’s been established. It’s a dynamic process that goes on constantly within every bone.
CBD For Bone Health
This cycle is relevant for one main reason: type-2 endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the bone. They’re especially active on osteoblasts—the undifferentiated, future bone cells that eventually comprise the final product. When collagen networks are forming to create new bone, CB2 activity swells up in tandem.
All this means that CB2 receptor agonists like CBD or 2-AG may help modulate—and speed up—the process of new osteoblast growth. By being present at the initial stages of bone growth, endocannabinoids help ensure that everything is differentiated correctly. And when everything is differentiated correctly, bones become strong and thoroughly woven.
What happens when this process is thrown out of balance?
One study found that when aged mice were deficient in cannabinoid receptors the development of osteoporosis was accelerated. The researcher also posited that CB2 saturation, on the other hand, might “suppress bone resorption, increase bone mass, and protect against bone loss;” these qualities are virtually the opposite of what happens in osteoporosis. As a result, CBD is a promising avenue for further research in humans.
Another study, done in 2015, found that four weeks of CBD use “markedly increased” the strength and endurance of recently fractured bones in mice. It did this by stimulating an enzyme responsible for “cross-linking” collagen networks. Study authors reported:
“these data show that CBD leads to improvement in fracture healing and demonstrate the critical mechanical role of collagen crosslinking enzymes.”
While some of this is still more theory than scientific fact, real-life applications are out there. Increasing numbers of people with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and related diseases have reported good results with CBD. The idea that CBD offers hope is increasingly tangible.
Osteoporosis and Optimized Dosing
For osteoporosis, no definitive dose has been determined and doses vary from person to person, anyway. Dr. Gabet, from the fracture study, conceded that “there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies.” His research did show that, in mice, CBD alone is more effective for bone healing than in combination with THC.
Dosing may depend on one’s progression into osteoporosis, too. Those who have low bone mass may want to use CBD as a holistic preventive measure, alongside other lifestyle practices.
Those with severe osteoporosis might do better with a dose on the higher end of the 1–5 mg/kg/day spectrum that Dr. Ethan Carruthers, a pharmacist and cannabis consultant, advocates for. For a 150 lb adult, that would equate to between 68 and 340 milligrams of CBD every day. Hitting this level with a combination of CBD oil and a CBD-rich topical may be ideal.
In the future, there will likely be more evidence regarding whether CBD works to improve bone strength in people with osteoporosis and, if so, what CBD dosage would work best. For now, though, finding the dosing strategy that works for you may require taking charge of your own intuition.
It’s a good idea to document your experience, too, as you attempt to quantify what CBD is doing in your body. Living life elevated may take time, especially when attempting to overcome a chronic disease like osteoporosis. But with CBD and courage, you can do it!