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Cannabis and Broken Bones

Whilst cannabis has been shown time and time again to be effective at treating chronic pain and managing conditions like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, recent studies have found cannabis may even help heal our bones and make them stronger.

If only it were that simple, however. You see, while cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to help broken bones heal quicker and stronger, other research has shown that cannabis may reduce bone strength in younger people. This alludes to the fact that, while cannabis may have great potential in assisting the healing of broken bones, there are numerous variables which need to be taken into account before we know best how cannabis can be utilised in bone health.

Groundbreaking Israeli study

In a groundbreaking study published in 2015 by Israeli researchers, scientists injected either pure CBD or a combination of CBD and THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) into rats with broken thigh bones. The results showed that pure cannabidiol (CBD) helped the broken thigh bones of rats heal quicker and stronger than those in the control group.

Remarkably, the researchers estimated that bones treated with pure CBD were 35-50% stronger than bones left to heal by themselves, making them less likely to break again in the future.

These findings could lead to new treatment options for people suffering from certain bone-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, which plays a part in up to 8.9 million fractures annually worldwide, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

The team of researchers at Tel Aviv University that tested the effect of THC and CBD on rat subjects explained the results of their study via the cannabinoid’s interaction with the body’s own endocannabinoid system. They highlighted a connection between our bodies’ cannabinoid receptors and bone growth stimulation.

“We only respond to cannabis because we are built with intrinsic compounds and receptors that can also be activated by compounds in the cannabis plant,” one of the researchers from Tel Aviv University commented in a press release.

The study also highlighted the importance in detaching the therapeutic uses of cannabis with its psychoactive effects. Speaking to the Times of Israel, Dr. Yankel Gabet from Tel Aviv’s Bone Research Laboratory, said: “The clinical potential of cannabinoid-related compounds is simply undeniable at this point,” Dr. Gabet said. “While there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies, it is clear that it is possible to detach a clinic therapy objective from the psychoactivity of cannabis.”

Therefore, CBD and cannabis rich in CBD has great potential to treat certain conditions such as bone disease and osteoarthritis without the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis use. This is nothing but good news and will go along to remove the stigma around cannabis.

“After being treated with CBD,” Gabet continued, “the healed bone will be harder to break in the future. Other studies have also shown CBD to be a safe agent, which leads us to believe we should continue this line of study in clinical trials to assess its usefulness in improving human fracture healing.”

Not quite that simple

Unfortunately, as is the case with much of the research surrounding cannabis, when it come to cannabinoids and human bones, things are not quite that simple.

A 2016 study found that chronic cannabis consumption was associated with a lower bone density. The study looked at 170 participants and found bone fractures were more abundant in those who were ‘heavy consumers’ of cannabis (in that they had consumed cannabis over 5,000 times throughout their lives).

There is few things worth noting about this study, however. Not least the finding that ‘moderate consumers’ did not show an increased risk of fracture. The study’s authors also articulated that cannabis consumers had a lower average weight and BMI, which may well account for the reduction in bone density.

There is also a 2009 study which found that cannabis may reduce bone strength in younger people. The same study then goes on to say that cannabis has the opposite effect in older adults, with the authors even going as far to suggest that these findings may be beneficial for the future treatment of osteoporosis.

This complements research which has indicated cannabis’ disruptive effects on the developing brain while proving to be beneficial in preserving brain function in older subjects. Although much more research need to take place before any definitive conclusions can be gleaned from these findings, it does seem to suggest that cannabis may be more beneficial later in life.

It’s a confounding paradox. On one hand, evidence suggests that cannabis can make you more susceptible to fracture. Whilst on the other, CBD seems to be extremely useful when you need to heal bones.

Still early days

The bottom line is this: Very little is currently known about cannabis, the most controversial plant on the planet. Since Nixon’s “war against drugs” in the 1960’s, when stringent prohibition put a stop to all cannabis research, the mainstream has been pumped full of lies and myths surrounding cannabis.

Only now, with legalization sweeping the US and countries like the UK and Israel turning their attention to researching cannabis, will we start to gain a clear perspective on what cannabis and its components can be used for.

Let us remember that the endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the 1990’s and research into it is very much in its infancy. What we do know, however, is that the endocannabinoid system is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, digestion, hormone levels, memory, and much more. It seems to work to produce a kind of natural balance in the body, which in turn leads to wellness.

Whilst we are aware that cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, with many studies on cannabis and health proving very promising, many are also often confusing and contradictory.

Things are looking good, though. Over the coming years, research will undoubtedly reveal more and more about how this miraculous plant works within the body, and in time we will learn how best to utilise cannabis in a therapeutic setting. And, judging by recent research into cannabis and bones, cannabis-derived medicine may very well be one of the most novel and effective treatments for healing and strengthening broken bones.


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