How Can Cannabis Treat Bone Fractures and Bone Diseases?

Both research and clinical practice demonstrate the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating a long list of diseases. The focus of this articlewill be on their potential to prevent and treat bone fractures or diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: an area of clinical practice in which recent research offers promising results.

Phytocannabinoids have been under close scientific scrutiny for the last two decades for their therapeutic potential. One such scientific enquiry has been regarding the role that phytocannabinoids play in bone health, fracture, and repair. In addition to speeding up the recovery from bone fractures, researchers have found that CBD makes bones even stronger than they were before the fracture. 

Data has long indicated that there is a connection between cannabinoids and bone health. What has not yet been fully elucidated is the exact and precise role that endocannabinoids, the cannabinoids produced by our own body, play a role in bone development.

What seems clear, however, is that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in maintaining bone health. It fulfills an important task in its development, preservation, and strengthening by enabling a process known as bone metabolism or bone remodelling. The endocannabinoid system is also expressed throughout the immune system, which is known to have frequent interactions with the skeletal system.

Our bones and their tough life

Over the course of our lives, a highly regulated process of bone remodelling takes place. Old bone material is constantly replaced with new material, ensuring that bones remain healthy and strong. This process also plays an essential role in the release and regulation of certain nutrients into the bloodstream. Interestingly, an adult’s body replaces around 10% of its bone structure every year.

In addition to age-related changes in the skeletal system, we may experience other types of bone problems, such as a bone fracture or fissure caused by injury. We can also develop common and painful bone illnesses such as arthrosis and osteoporosis, which we will discuss later in this article.

The following is a review of some of the most relevant and interesting scientific literature from recent years. The research helps to better understand how cannabinoids affect bone health, and how cannabis can help in the prevention and treatment of bone injuries and diseases.

How can cannabis help bone fractures?

The way the body responds to a bone fracture is very similar to the way it responds to soft tissue injuries, at least in the initial phase. In the event of a fractured or broken bone, there is a discontinuity between its two ends. In the initial phase of bone healing, a hematoma is formed to coagulate in between and around the ends of the fracture or break.

In the second healing phase of a fracture, the “fibrous corn” is formed. This is the first regenerative response of the bone and also the moment where the first bond between its broken ends is formed. In the third phase, the hard corn or bone callus is formed, providing stability to the fracture. In the fourth phase or remodelling phase, the bone returns to its natural shape.

In 2015, a very influential and popular study, within and outside the cannabis sector, was published by the Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The data obtained by the researchers showed that cannabis’s main non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD, can help fractured bones recover quicker.

The research team used two groups of mice that had suffered the same femoral fracture. One group was injected with a CBD-based mixture, while the other group received a combination of CBD and THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Eight weeks later, the results surprised the researchers.

Rodents that had only been injected with CBD not only healed faster, but the fractured bone also became 35-50% stronger. However, in the group of mice that received a combination of CBD and THC, no impact in terms of accelerating the rodents’ own healing mechanisms was observed.

It has long been established that our skeleton contains cannabinoid receptors that react to the cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant and that they can help regulate and activate bone formation. Moreover, in this specific case, they were also shown to help strengthen the bond between broken bones.

As Dr. YankelGabet, an Israeli researcher, put it, “our organism is equipped with a cannabinoid system, which regulates vital and non-vital systems. We respond to cannabis because we are made up of receptors that can be activated by cannabis plant compounds.”

The skeletal endocannabinoid system

Since the first research papers on the skeletal endocannabinoid system were published around 2005, there has been increasing scientific interest in the role of cannabinoids in the regulation of bone mass and remodelling. A scientific review, in which Gabet is also involved, describes that to date, more than 1,000 basic, translational and clinical research articles have been published on the subject.

The review focuses on the role of the endocannabinoid system in skeletal biology through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Since endocannabinoids play an important role in bone formation, reabsorption and growth, possible therapeutic approaches targeting the endocannabinoid system and its relation to skeletal disorders were analyzed.

In a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2011, it was shown that fatty acid amides (AAG or FAA) help regulate the process of bone metabolism through interaction with cannabinoid receptors. In the skeleton, FAAs activate both the CB1 receptor in the sympathetic nerve terminals and the CB2 receptor.

According to the study, thanks to CBD, “inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the degrading enzyme of FAAs, may be a useful therapeutic strategy to treat osteoporosis and perhaps other skeletal deficiencies”. This conclusion was drawn because CBD is a known inhibitor of the FAAH enzyme. The paper also calls for more studies focusing on the entire profile of these lipids and their receptors in bone tissue to elucidate their function and mode of action.

How can cannabis help patients with bone disease?

Bones are an integral part of the anatomy of the human body’s skeletal system. While some bones are hard and compact, others are light and porous. Bones and cartilage, that is, fibrous connective tissue, constitute the internal hard framework of the body.

For good bone health, bones need to have enough minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, and a protein known as collagen. Otherwise, bone disease may develop. In addition, bone disorders may have a genetic origin, or they may develop degenerately over time.

Ailments such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, which is more prevalent in the aging population, cause the patient a great deal of inflammation and pain. They may also weaken the bones making them prone to fracture; hip fractures being the most frequent.

Recent research has implied that there may be a role for cannabinoids in the treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Let’s see how cannabis can help patients suffering from these conditions.

Osteoporosis treatment and cannabis: How can CBD help?

Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that causes bones to become brittle because of either ageing or lack of adequate nutrients. It is characterized by a loss of bone mass at a faster rate than bone deposition. This balance generally remains stable during youth, and it is somewhat controversial as to whether osteoporosis is a pathology or simply a part of aging. It tends to be more frequent in women, especially after the age of 60.

Non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD and CBG are currently being researched for how they may help bone diseases such as osteoporosis. In fact, the famous British company GW Pharmaceuticals has patented a cannabis-derived drug containing CBG as a possible osteoporosis treatment.

As mentioned above, over the last few decades, CB1 and CB2 receptors have been proven to play an important role in bone health. For example, blockage of the CB2 receptor is reported to protect from bone loss in mice. The same mechanism may also promote cell death of osteoclasts, which are the cells responsible for breaking down bone tissue.

Since CBD has shown great potency as an antagonist of CB2 receptor agonists, it may act as an inhibitor to bone loss. Although it does not directly block the CB2 receptor, it can inhibit the kinds of ligands that do activate the CB2 receptor.

This literature review also highlights the potential of pharmacological inactivation of the CB2 receptor as a potential target for osteoporosis treatment. The authors argue in favour of exploiting cannabinoid receptors as a novel treatment for this bone disease.

The cannabinoid receptor CB1 activity has also been shown to protect against the development of age-related osteoporosis. The study found that rodents lacking CB1 receptors developed thicker bones, although they remained osteoporotic. Researchers concluded that the CB1 receptor regulates peak bone mass through an effect on osteoclast activity.

The paper argued that the CB1 receptor regulates the amount of mature bone material that is disintegrated and reused in the body. In addition, the CB1 receptor controls the amount of fat that accumulates inside the bone, along with the formation of new bone cells.

Another study, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined the involvement of cannabinoids in reversing bone loss. The results confirmed the existence of a connection between CB2 receptors and bone density in mice with mutated CB2 receptors, which had lower bone density than non-mutated ones.

It appears that the main physiological role of CB2 receptors, the authors reported, relates to maintaining balanced bone remodelling, thus protecting the skeleton against age-related bone loss. In fact, the study also found that alterations in the CNR2 gene, responsible for encoding CB2 receptors, can cause postmenopausal osteoporosis.

All these results show that cannabis, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system are a promising therapeutic goal when treating bone diseases, especially age-related ones such as osteoporosis in menopausal women.

Using Cannabis to Treat Osteoarthritis: How does Cannabis Help Reduce Symptoms?

Arthrosis, also called osteoarthritis, is among the most common forms of chronic rheumatic disease. In brief, it is a chronic, degenerative disease caused by the wear and tear of cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the bone ends and facilitates joint movement.

When the cartilage surface is broken and worn, progressively and gradually, the most common symptoms are pain and stiffness in the affected joints. Although osteoarthritis can affect any joint, it most often affects the knees, hips, and small joints in the hands and at the base of the big toe, the “bunion joint”.

For thousands of years, cannabis has been used to help treat the symptoms of a multitude of medical conditions, including chronic pain. Anecdotal reports and patient data indicate that medical cannabis is often used to control arthritis pain. Moreover, the evidence supporting the analgesic potential of cannabinoids to treat arthritis pain is growing.

The review in question, published last year, summarizes the components of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and provides details of the latest research related to the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of arthritic pain. In addition, “there is recent preclinical evidence supporting the role of ECS in controlling OA (osteoarthritis, ed.) pain, as well as current clinical evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of OA pain in mixed patient populations”.

Findings from another recent study showed that topical administration of CBD may have long-lasting beneficial and therapeutic effects for the relief of pain and inflammation, without psychoactive side effects. Thus, topical use of CBD has potential as an effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology and is a good candidate for developing improved therapies for these debilitating diseases.

Almost two decades ago, the effects of CBD on osteoarthritis were studied in collagen-induced arthritis rodents. When the symptoms began to appear, they were given an oral treatment based on pure CBD, which literally stopped the progression of osteoarthritis in their bodies.

Another interesting study published almost a decade ago discusses how cannabinoids may help in tissue engineering, here for cartilage. The study suggests that cannabinoids prolong the life of mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs, which can be used to create new cartilage, making cannabinoids a very important option for future treatments of osteoarthritis.

In a more recent study on human cartilage and cannabinoids, in vitro cartilage samples containing arthrosis-related proteins were treated for the first time with the synthetic cannabinoid WIN-55. A new mechanism was discovered whereby cannabinoids can help prevent cartilage wear in osteoarthritis by deactivating arthrosis-related enzyme proteins and slowing the disease.

And, as a final example of what recent research has brought to light, another relevant study examines the role of the endocannabinoid system in the emotional and cognitive alterations associated with arthritic pain. The results confirmed that the endocannabinoid system plays a fundamental role in osteoarthritis and represents both a pharmacological target and a biomarker of this disease.

Science has stopped questioning the clinical potential of cannabinoids

There is no doubt that further research is needed to accurately determine the efficacy and safety of cannabinoids in the treatment of rheumatic diseases such as osteoarthritis. The lack of in vivo human studies also demonstrates a lack of understanding in the role of the ECS in certain pathologies such as osteoporosis.

However, scientists no longer question the clinical potential of cannabinoids, nor their benefits in the treatment of a multitude of diseases and disorders. Rather, they insist that further research is needed to develop appropriate therapies in the field of bone injuries and disease, and many believe that human clinical trials are the next logical step.

Today there is sufficient evidence to show that the active compounds in cannabis can help prevent bone fragility and preserve bone health. They also help broken bones heal faster, as well as to treat pain and inflammation caused by bone fractures or disease. Hopefully, international cannabis regulations will soon allow science to take the next logical and necessary step.

Are you one of the many people who suffer, or have suffered, a bone injury, fracture or disease? Have you ever used medical cannabis or any other cannabis byproduct, such as CBD oils or creams, to help you treat the symptoms of bone ailments? Tell us in the comments

  • Disclaimer:
    This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.

Comments

8 thoughts on “How Can Cannabis Treat Bone Fractures and Bone Diseases?”

  1. Irene Lovell

    I have suffered with this chronic disease nearly all my life, so if this works, why has it not made legal, the pain is so unbearable. It has made me house bound and ruined my life.

  2. jackouille la fripouille

    Any advices about: MYELODYSPLASIA SYNDROME Disease?

    Thank you for any Useful links

    Jackouille

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Dear Jackouille,

      Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately, as Sensi Seeds is not a medical practice, we are not able to provide any advice relating to medical situations other than to consult your doctor or other licensed medical professional. This article, written specifically for healthcare providers who may not be aware of the many properties of cannabis, may be useful to you in talking with your doctor. You could also try to contact local medicinal cannabis support groups, if you have not already done so. In the UK, there is the United Patients Alliance (you can find them on Facebook) and in the US and EU there are many branches of NORML (google NORML followed by your area name). We hope this is helpful.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  3. I have osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and have broken multiple bones some severely enough to require open reduction internal fixation three different times. I have been on pain management for many years and have recently discontinued my opioids and am using CBD oil. I am having much better control of my pain with the CBD oil than I did the opioids. I think the reason for the push for prescription drugs is Big Pharma and the money they make. I am a retired RN and became disabled due to my health. I am in favor of legalizing cannabis federally.

  4. I was diagnosed with cervical spondilotis 8 years ago I have osteoarthritis as well im crippled with pain an trapped nerves also, your article gives me hope but how to source the pure Cbd…how do you know what your getting..I’d love to know ..wish this treatment was easy to access.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear about your situation. As Sensi Seeds is not a medical agency or practitioner, we cannot give any kind of medical advice other than to consult your registered healthcare professional. This article about cannabinoids might be useful for you to show your healthcare provider if they are not familiar with them.

      You may also find it helpful to contact a support group for medicinal cannabis patients. In the UK there is the United Patients Alliance, and throughout much of the rest of the world there is NORML, who should be able to put you in touch with a group in your area (search United Patients Alliance or NORML followed by your area name).

      We also have our own range of CBD products which you can find here, and this is an article about how they are produced. Depending on where you live, you may be able to order them directly from us if you wish to do so. I’m sorry I can’t help you further.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  5. Hi, I have two very serious injuries. The first one was a compound fracture of my right ankle 15 years ago. The ankle was smashed into about 30 piece. Today I have limited movement and at times can get very stiff.
    The second injury is a broken neck. C4 to C7 is fused. Can CBD work for me

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear about your situation. As Sensi Seeds is not a medical agency or practitioner, we cannot give any kind of medical advice other than to consult your registered healthcare professional. This article about cannabinoids might be useful for you to show your healthcare provider if they are not familiar with them.

      You may also find it helpful to contact a support group for medicinal cannabis patients. In the UK there is the United Patients Alliance, and throughout much of the rest of the world there is NORML, who should be able to put you in touch with a group in your area (search United Patients Alliance or NORML followed by your area name).

      I’m sorry I can’t help you further.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Author and reviewer

  • Profile-image

    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
    More about this author
  • Sanjai_Sinha

    Sanjai Sinha

    Dr Sanjai Sinha is an academic faculty member at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. He spends his time seeing patients, teaching residents and medical students, and doing health services research. He enjoys patient education and practicing evidence-based medicine. His strong interest in medical review comes from these passions.
    More about this reviewer
Scroll to Top