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    by Sebastiano Battaglia October 07, 2023 9 min read

    CBD for Inflammation and Pain - What You Need to Know

    Inflammation is a key topic in science and here we will focus on the link between CBD and inflammation. We will also explore whether you can, or should, use CBD for inflammation as a natural remedy for your dog.

    Simply put, the term inflammation refers to the natural response of your body against injuries or infections. Inflammation comes and goes, however, when it does not go away it causes serious health issues with long-term consequences.

    Inflammation can be anywhere in the body. For example, when on the skin it causes redness and itchiness, in the joints it causes pain, in the lungs it causes respiratory problems, in the heart it causes serious cardiac issues, and so on. 

    Here we will address a few main questions such as: what is inflammation? What’s known about CBD for inflammation? What’s known about CBD and respiratory infections? Can you use CBD for itchy dogs? What’s the CBD dose for pain and inflammation?

    Let’s read on and find out.

    What is inflammation?

    First off, inflammation is not a bad thing. Inflammation is a life-saving defense mechanism used by your body to kill viruses and bacteria and to fix damaged tissues. There are three key players: immune cells, molecular mediators, and blood vessels.

    Immune cells are the “doers”, they are called into action once your body realizes that there is something harmful happening. Immune cells start releasing a bunch of molecules like histamines, prostaglandins, and cytokines into the bloodstream to prep the rest of the body to fight the insult (aka, the danger).

    These molecules increase the blood flow to the affected area to carry immune cells where needed, resulting in the redness and warmth often appearing with inflammation. These immune cells then attack and neutralize the problem and repair damaged tissues prior to leaving and shutting down.

    However, if immune cells keep going, or attack something that is not harmful (aka your own body), they cause chronic inflammation. This can lead to severe health issues such as arthritis or other autoimmune diseases.

    How are inflammation and pain related?

    Inflammation and pain are very closely related, when there is one, you will find the other in one way or another. When there is an injury or infection, the immune system starts working to protect and repair the damage. This process is quite complicated, and your body has to act as quickly as possible to prevent and repair damage. 

    Immune cells need to get to the damaged tissue ASAP, but some of the chemicals released can push fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. Swelling is a protective process, but it can stimulate terminal nerves and cause various degrees of pain. Pain is the language that your body uses to say “hey, I’m hurt!!”, and together with inflammation, it alerts the body so that it can fix the damage. 

    There is a strong connection between inflammation and pain, and when you give your dog CBD for inflammation you help with pain management too. 

    Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation

    Inflammation can be acute or chronic. Acute inflammation doesn't last long, and it is the most common response of your body in case of an injury or an infection. Once the danger is gone and healing has occurred, it all goes back to normal. 

    In contrast, chronic inflammation can last for several months, years, or for the rest of your, or your pet’s, life. This is often caused by never-ending infections, autoimmune diseases, and long-term exposure to bad stuff, like tobacco, smog, or other chemicals. And since chronic inflammation never really ends, it can severely damage organs causing fibrosis or tissue scarring. This is important because if you choose to use CBD for inflammation, you can address problems that can last a lifetime!

    During chronic inflammation, cells called macrophages, lymphocytes, and plasma cells, keep producing molecules (aka cytokines and chemokines) whose role is to keep inflammation going. These molecules are called pro-inflammatory cytokines, and they send messages screaming "Hey cells, over here!! Come here!! Kill this thing!!". 

    In summary, while acute inflammation is a healthy thing that helps your body, chronic inflammation is often quite bad and linked to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and even cancer.

    CBD for inflammation, the science behind it

    Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive molecule extracted from the hemp plant. Because CBD functions within the human endocannabinoid system, several labs around the world are interested in studying the link between CBD and inflammation. 

    How does CBD affect the immune system?

    Since inflammation is carried out by immune cells, using CBD for inflammation will naturally affect their function. But how does that happen?

    CBD can bind to immune cells by recognizing receptors on their surface, including the CB1 and CB2 receptors, FAAH, PPARgamma, and the adenosine receptor (Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. March 2020; 5(1): 12–31). Once CBD binds to these receptors, it changes the way they work and they basically tell immune cells to either slow down or stop working. 

    Specifically, and this is for the nerds out there, CBD prevents the activation of pro-inflammatory genes in the Nuclear Factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer (NF-κB) signaling pathway (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Dec 14; 56(25): 2115–2125.). This consequently decreases the overall production of inflammatory cytokines.

    CBD for inflammation of the lungs

    CBD and respiratory infections in the lung

    Given the interesting findings on the role of CBD for inflammation, scientists studied the potential link between CBD and respiratory infections. 

    A research article published in the journal Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology (Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2015 Feb;37(1):35-41) by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of São Paulo, investigated the potential therapeutic effects of CBD as a way to improve on lung function and reduce inflammation in mice with lung injuries.

    Scientists used something called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (Front. Physiol., 05 February 2020, Sec. Respiratory Physiology and Pathophysiology, Volume 11 - 2020) to induced a very strong inflammation response and acute lung injury (ALI) in mice. Six hours after that, mice were treated with CBD and researchers measured whether it helped or not. 

    In this study, mice who received CBD for inflammation had significantly improved lung function, measured as lung elasticity, and reduced inflammation, measured as reduced leukocyte migration into the lungs, decreased myeloperoxidase activity in lung tissue, and reduced protein concentration in the bronchoalveolar lavage supernatant. 

    Another recent study looking for the association between CBD and respiratory infections was published in Frontier Immunology (Front Immunol. 2022 May 16:13:875546), and studied a phenomenon called “cytokine storms”. Cytokine storm is a very severe situation where immune cells produce a ton of inflammatory molecules leading to hyperinflammation.

    To highlight how dangerous this can be, during COVID-19 patients with cytokine storms often died because of the large damage caused to the lungs. Yet, this study aimed to explore the potential anti-inflammatory effects of high-THC and high-CBD extracts on cytokine production.

    Interestingly, a specific high-CBD extract, termed CBD-X, significantly reduced the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines produced by immune cells. When they treated mice with CBD-X, bad molecules (aka pro-inflammatory cytokines TNFa and IL-1b) went down, while good molecules (aka anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10) went up.

    Furthermore, the study found that CBD-X extract hindered T-cell migration and activation. This indicates that fewer immune cells went in the lungs trying to build up an attack towards intruders.

    CBD for itchy dogs with canine atopic dermatitis

    A common problem with dogs is that they can get very itchy. So, can you use CBD for itchy dogs?

    In a 2022 study from the Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences at the University of Bologna in Italy, (Front. Vet. Sci., 15 September 2022, Volume 9 - 2022), researchers examined to evaluate the levels of cannabinoid receptors in their skin and inflammatory cells of eight dogs with atopic dermatitis (AD).

    AD is a form of inflammation of the skin that causes pruritic disease (aka, a bad itchy need) in dogs. If left untreated it can lead to serious skin problems. Thus, it is important to learn whether you can use CBD for itchy dogs, as a way to reduce inflammation in the skin. This also offers a natural treatment for dogs that need relief from the symptoms of AD. 

    The results from this study indicated that the inflammatory cells have high levels of the receptors bound by CBD. Specifically (for the nerds), mast cells and macrophages have high levels of CB2R, GPR55, TRPA1, and TRPV1. T cells instead had high levels of CB2R, GPR55, and TRPA1, while neutrophils expressed GPR55.

    Overall, the results from this study suggest that the endocannabinoid system could be a potential target for helping dogs with AD, meaning that using CBD for itchy dogs can offer significant benefits.

    CBD as an antioxidant

    CBD has several beneficial functions, but its potential role as an antioxidant is often undervalued.

    In a study from 2013 (Molecules. 2013 Oct; 18(10): 12663–12674.) researchers calculated the potential antioxidant functions of THC and CBD. While THC and CBD are very similar and both can function as antioxidants, THC seemed to have a slightly higher potential than CBD. 

    In a separate study from 2008 (J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2009 Mar; 328(3): 708–714.) CBD was studied for its ability to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell death. Mice received chemotherapy with cisplatin followed by a dose of CBD.

    Cisplatin is a common drug for patients with cancer, but it also causes a lot of oxidative stress and kills a lot of healthy cells. That’s why there are so many side effects of chemotherapy, especially in the kidneys.

    In this study, researchers demonstrated that mice treated with CBD had lower renal damage, reduced inflammation, and fewer free radicals. This happened because CBD can limit the production of peroxidase enzymes, and lower the levels of inflammatory molecules such as TNFa and IL1b (for the nerds). 

    Lastly, a study published in PNAS (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jul 7; 95(14): 8268–8273.) compared CBD and THC with antioxidants like α-tocopherol (Vitamin E) or Vitamin C. They evaluated the ability of each molecule to protect neurons from oxidative stress by running a series of experiments. Interestingly, researchers found that CBD and THC have a 30% to 50% higher antioxidant activity than Vitamin E and Vitamin C. 

    Considering that CBD, unlike THC, is not psychoactive, they suggest that CBD could be a “useful therapeutic agent for the treatment of oxidative neurological disorders such as cerebral ischemia”.

    In summary, CBD has a unique ability to function as an antioxidant.

    CBD dose for pain and inflammation

    When using CBD for inflammation it is important to use the correct dose. Since no pet is the same (just like for humans), we suggested already general guidelines for finding the best dose of CBD for your pet.

    But before looking at the actual numbers, it is important to remember:

    • always start within the lower range to allow your pet to get used to CBD and to observe any potential side effects. 
    • Increase the dose gradually so that you can find that “sweet spot” that helps your pet feel better
    • Do not overdo it! More is not always better, for example, if you see a positive effect at 2mg/kg, there is no need to jump to 6mg/kg!

    For example, in the study with CBD and cisplatin, researchers used 2.5 to 10 mg/kg of CBD. In a study on cardiomyopathy and oxidative stress, 1, 10, or 20 mg/kg of CBD were administered. In the study on the effect of CBD on lung inflammation, animals received 20 and 80 mg/kg of CBD.

    Now, if you are using CBD for inflammation, translated into dog measurements, a 1mg/kg dose of CBD equals giving 22mg of CBD to a 50lb dog.

     Depending on the size of your pet, starting around 1mg/kg of CBD for inflammation is a good conservative start. Some dogs and cats will receive no benefits at this dose and may require higher doses.

    Yet, the potential side effects are mostly linked to the presence of THC, and since all of our products are THC-free and lab-certified, the likelihood that you will observe adverse events is quite minimal.

    That said, everyone’s different, and some dogs are more sensitive to CBD than others. That’s why you need to start from a low dose, and gently increase as needed. 

    CBD vs. THC vs. Hemp

    Since we use a lot of terms I thought it would be important to quickly summarize the similarities and differences between CBD, THC, and hemp. 

    • CBD is non-psychoactive, there is a lot of it in the hemp plant and is known for reducing anxiety and relieving chronic pain. 
    • THC, on the other hand, is the psychoactive compound from cannabis responsible for making you 'high'. It has some medicinal use but also has a number of side effects. 
    • Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It has a high CBD and low THC, making it a popular source of CBD products. It's also used for its fiber, and it is used in products like clothing, food, and even some building materials.

    How to choose the correct CBD product for inflammation

    CBD comes in many shapes and forms, it can be given to your pet as a cookie, as an oil, or as a simple treat. But not all products are made the same. 

    • Prioritize quality and safety. Look for products derived from hemp, and ensure they contain no THC or less than 0.3% THC to comply with federal regulations. 
    • Full-spectrum products contain THC, while broad-spectrum has CBD but no THC. And since THC is toxic to dogs, do not use products containing THC!
    • Look for the Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party independent lab, which verifies the product's cannabinoid content and ensures it's free from harmful contaminants. 
    • Buy from a reputable brand that provides transparent lab results and avoid those unwilling to share this information. 
    • Needless to say, in case of uncertainty, always consult with your veterinarian before starting your dog on CBD, especially if other medications are being administered.

    Best CBD for inflammation

    CBD for inflammation - CBD cookies - CBD oil

    At GiandWin we consider quality and safety our two priorities. That’s why our CBD cookies, CBD food topper, CBD treats, and CBD oil are a crafted blend of potency and wellness, with a unique infusion of pure THC-free CBD and human-edible healthy ingredients. 

    Sebastiano Battaglia
    Sebastiano Battaglia

    Seb has been a research scientist for the past two decades and is the founder and owner of My Blissful Pet. Seb grew up with cats and dogs and married his passion for science and animals with My Blissful Pet by wanting to help dogs and cats live healthier lives.

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