Medical Marijuana and CBD

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2023

More and more people are using medical marijuana and CBD to treat conditions like axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA). Although they are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these therapies may offer relief to some people.1

But knowing which one to use and when can be confusing. Understanding the differences between medical marijuana and CBD, as well as their potential effects on the body, can help you make an informed decision about these therapies.1

What is the difference between cannabis and medical marijuana?

Cannabis and marijuana are both forms of the plant species Cannabis sativa. Cannabis is any form of marijuana used either for fun or to help with a medical problem. Medical marijuana is cannabis prescribed by a doctor to help treat certain health conditions.2

What are CBD and THC?

CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical in cannabis that may have many positive effects, such as reducing inflammation, pain, and anxiety. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in cannabis that causes a user to feel “high.” THC also may have positive effects on the body, such as reducing nausea and muscle tension.2

Medical marijuana usually has more CBD and less THC than recreational marijuana does. CBD is also sold on its own. Medical marijuana and CBD can come in various forms, such as oils, creams, and foods.2

Both THC and CBD can have therapeutic effects. But they may also have side effects, so check with your doctor before using either one.2

How do CBD and medical marijuana work in the body?

Medical marijuana and CBD interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is made up of receptors found all over your body. Your ECS helps control:2

  • Your mood
  • How hungry you are
  • How much pain you feel
  • Your memory

When you use medical marijuana or CBD, its active ingredients interact with your ECS receptors. This can lead to various effects, depending on the kind of marijuana you use, how much you use, and how your body reacts to it. For example, medical marijuana and CBD may help:2-4

  • Reduce inflammation and pain
  • Ease nausea and vomiting
  • Ease muscle tension
  • Increase appetite
  • Reduce feelings of anxiety

Different people will have different results when using medical marijuana. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using it. Your doctor can help determine the best type for you and the proper dosage. Also, they can monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments.2,3

How might medical marijuana and CBD help with axSpA?

There is not a lot of research yet on using medical marijuana or CBD for axSpA. But some studies look promising and suggest that there might be benefits.2,4

In one study, some people who were given a combination of medical cannabis, CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids reported that their pain and inflammation decreased. Other studies have found that CBD may help reduce symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety.2,4

Medical marijuana and CBD are not approved by the FDA to treat axSpA. You should always talk to your doctor before using either one.4

Are medical marijuana and CBD legal?

The legal status of medical cannabis and CBD varies from state to state. Check the laws in your state and talk to your doctor before using either one. And remember that the sale and use of marijuana are illegal according to federal law.1

Before beginning treatment for axSpA, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs. With guidance and information from your doctor, you can decide whether these therapies might help your axSpA symptoms.

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