Does CBD help against rheumatism?

Close-up of a hemp plant with the chemical structural formula of cannabidiol


People with rheumatoid arthritis often suffer from severe pain. In this case, drugs such as cortisone are usually prescribed. However, cortisone is also associated with long-term side effects such as weight gain and thin skin. So it's little wonder that sufferers start looking for options that promise relief from their symptoms while still being gentle. Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is said to have such an effect. This is why the active ingredient in cannabis has also become interesting for rheumatism research in the recent past.

Close-up of a hemp plant with the chemical structural formula of cannabidiol ©Erin_Hinterland CC0 Public Domain

Is CBD more than a trendy remedy? Recent studies suggest a positive effect in rheumatoid arthritis.

What is CBD?

CBD is currently almost unavoidable. Everywhere a wide variety of CBD products such as CBD OilCBD tinctures, creams and even bath balls are being advertised everywhere. CBD is sold in its various forms online, in drugstores and pharmacies. And it is supposed to help against almost everything. From nervousness and tension to Sleep disorders to pain, many ailments are said to improve with the help of CBD. With such a large presence in the media and advertising, and such a broad spectrum of effects, the suspicion is obvious that CBD is one thing above all: a trendy drug.

Looking at it objectively, CBD is first of all one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. However, unlike THC - which is also a cannabinoid - CBD has no psychoactive effects. That is, it is not intoxicating. Therefore, the sale of CBD products is also legal in this country, as long as a maximum level of THC content in the product is not exceeded and thus an intoxicating effect can be excluded. This maximum level is 0.2 percent.

Scientifically, there are now actually some positive effects of CBD. For example, CBD products have been shown to reduce epileptic seizures in children. In most cases, traditional therapies achieve remission in epilepsy patients, but in about one-third, standard medications don't work and they continue to suffer disease-related seizures. Researchers from Mattel Children's Hospital found that certain CBD products significantly reduced these seizures in children with the disease. As a result, CBD is now used to treat rare types of epilepsy, some of which are resistant to treatment.

How CBD affects the body

The fact that cannabinoids have an effect on the human organism is associated with the fact that they dock onto special receptors of the human nervous and immune systems. These receptors and their ligands - their binding molecules - together form the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This ECS was first uncovered in the 1990s by research groups in Israel and the United States. The molecular structure of CBD had already been deciphered at that time. However, the fact that this fundamental interaction of cannabinoids and ECS has been discovered does not mean that the exact mechanisms of action are understood. How the cannabinoids and the docking sites work together in detail is the central question of research on CBD.

Incidentally, with regard to pain therapy, research assumes that the effect of cannabinoids builds up gradually. Thus, there is first an improvement in sleep, with subsequent muscle relaxation and finally a reduction in pain.

Close up of wooden hand with open sky in background. ©Eukalyptus CC0 Public Domain

Mobility decreases, pain increases. Can CBD help with rheumatism?

CBD against rheumatism

What does this mean for the effect of CBD on rheumatic diseases? First of all, it should be noted at this point that rheumatism is in principle a generic term for over 100 different diseases. What they have in common is that they primarily manifest themselves in chronic pain. However, very different areas of the body can be affected. One of the most common forms of rheumatism is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is a chronic inflammation of the joints with a gradual onset. Characteristic are the stiff, Painful and swollen joints.. RA is not considered curable and is caused by an attack of the immune system on the patient's own body. Especially with regard to RA, interesting research results have emerged in recent years in connection with CBD.

A 2019 study took an in-depth look at the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids. It found that cannabinoids achieve an anti-inflammatory effect by activating cannabinoid type 2 receptors, which reduce cytokine production and immune cell mobilization. Highlighted was the role of CBD, of which it says, "Moreover, the nonpsychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) showed antiarthritic effects independent of cannabinoid receptors."

In addition to controlling inflammation, according to the research, cannabinoids reduce pain by activating specific receptors as well as CBD-sensitive non-cannabinoid receptor targets.

This means that cannabinoids may be a suitable treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, but it is important to activate the right receptors in the right place. For further clinical trials, the researchers suggest CBD, among others, for inducing cannabinoid receptor-independent anti-inflammatory effects.


The last word on the effect of CBD against rheumatism has not yet been spoken, but positive testimonials from sufferers underscore the research results to date. Further studies would be desirable.

Editorial principles

All information used for the content comes from verified sources (recognised institutions, experts, studies by renowned universities). We attach great importance to the qualification of the authors and the scientific background of the information. Thus, we ensure that our research is based on scientific findings.
Danilo Glisic

Danilo Glisic

As a biology and mathematics student, he is passionate about writing magazine articles on current medical topics. Due to his affinity for facts, figures and data, his focus is on describing relevant clinical trial results.

The content of this page is an automated and high-quality translation from DeepL. You can find the original content in German here.

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