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Cannabis and Broken Bones
Cannabis has been long known to possess a variety of health benefits. In old historical records you can find people referring to it as ‘food from gods’. From antioxidant to its anti-inflammatory properties, cannabis throughout history has been used to address various ailments. First mentions of cannabis usage date back thousands of years to shamans and ancient settlements hosting elaborate healing rituals. However, despite thousands of years of use, it appears that we still don’t know and fully appreciate powers of this plant. Recent studies have found that cannabis may even help heal our bones and give them strength.
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 give hope for new treatment options for people suffering from 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.”
While more work still needs to be done, CBD promises long awaited hope to people suffering from serious bone affecting conditions without the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis use. This is nothing short of great news and could serve as another step towards removing the stigma from cannabis use.
“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
However, as always in life there is no silver bullet. 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 utilized in bone health.
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 are 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.
Another study done in 2009 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.
Still early days
The bottom line is this: Despite thousands of year of experience with the plant we are just starting to scratch the surface of the knowledge around cannabis plant and discover its potential. Since “war against drugs” in the 1960’s, when stringent prohibition put a stop to all cannabis research, a lot of researchers were turned away from this field.
With legalization sweeping through the US and countries like the UK and Israel turning back their attention to researching cannabis, will we hopefully gain a clear perspective on what cannabis and its components can be truly 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 utilize 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 in our body.