Osteoporosis is a crippling disease. It affects 10.2 million Americans over the age of 50, with 3 million more new diagnoses each year. Many times more people suffer from low bone mass, meaning they’re at risk of developing osteoporosis in the near future. A life with the disease usually means a life of fractures, falls, and decreased mobility.
Thankfully, though, CBD can 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, amongst many other things.
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 full 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 the cannabinoids have on cancers and other malignant growths.
CBD’s anti-proliferative qualities don’t apply solely to fighting cancer - they 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. It’s the moments between a cell’s creation and its functional life that 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. A third type of cell, osteoclasts, help maintain the structure of the matrix once it’s been established. It's a dynamic process, one 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 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 mice deficient in cannabinoid receptors quickly developed osteoporosis-type symptoms. 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. That would make CBD virtually the perfect antidote.
Another study, done in 2015, found that four weeks of CBD use “markedly increased” the strength and endurance of recently fractured bones. 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 been experiencing amazing results with CBD. It's impossible to say just how many positive reports have come in, but the idea that CBD offers hope is an increasingly tangible one.
Osteoporosis and Optimized Dosing
As always, the best thing one can do with CBD is take it consistently. For osteoporosis, the best dosing method may not be set in stone, but that’s alright. Dosing ideals will vary from person to person anyways!
Even Dr. Gabet from the fracture study concedes that “there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies”. Thankfully, other parts of Gabets research were more conclusive. He affirmed CBD alone is sufficient for faster bone healing, for example, with no THC needed.
It’s likely that dosing depends on one’s progression into osteoporosis, too. Those who have low bone mass may not require more than a moderate dose of ~1mg CBD/kg/day. In their case, CBD could simply be seen as a holistic preventative measure, to be used alongside other lifestyle practices.
Those with severe osteoporosis, however, might do better with a dose on the higher end of the 1-5 mg/kg/day spectrum that Dr. Ethan Carruthers advocates for. For a 150 pound adult, that could 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 is usually ideal.
In the future, there will probably be more specific guidelines for what CBD dosages work best with osteoporosis. For now, though, finding the dosing strategy that works for you may require taking charge of your own intuition.