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Are You Ready to Revolutionize Your Arthritis Treatment with Cannabis?

"In the depth of illness, I discovered the resilience of my spirit and the poetry of life. My story isn't about suffering; it's about overcoming." – Maya Angelou

This article explores the question, "Does cannabis help arthritis?" with a keen focus on easing discomfort and preserving functionality. Just like Maya Angelou says, your struggles don't have to  define you. To go beyond the confines of pain, we’ll examine how cannabis might offer relief and support in managing arthritis. The goal is to explore options that improve well-being and help you overcome challenges with grace and strength.

Understanding Arthritis: The Basics

If you have joint stiffness and discomfort, particularly in the hands, knees, and spine, you may be developing osteoarthritis (OA). Symptoms include pain when you move, tenderness in your joints, or reduced flexibility. Catching symptoms early can make a big difference in your comfort and long-term mobility. Or, if you've been experiencing OA symptoms for some time and notice they're getting worse, you may soon have a new tool for managing and coping with symptoms. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition distinct from OA. RA mostly targets the linings of your joints, leading to pain and swelling, especially in smaller joints like those in your hands and feet. The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are subtle. Again, early monitoring is important to maintain functioning and manage pain. Proactive engagement may help in lessening the frequency and intensity of RA flare-ups.

Arthritis manifests in over 100 variations, with pain as a common factor. Let’s begin with a very brief overview of existing medications to understand all available choices.

Exploring Current Treatments

The conventional approach to managing osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) focuses on symptom management, lifestyle changes and non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Severe cases may require corticosteroid injections or surgery.

Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) center around  Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) and biologics. DMARDs slow RA progression by targeting inflammation that attacks joint linings. Biologics, a newer category of DMARDs, target specific immune system molecules. Both alter immune function— raising safety concerns.

RA patients generally report taking their meds, but at the time, share a poor quality of life and work ability. Only half of the patients with RA understand their condition and manage it effectively according to this study.

Living with a progressive health condition means that  you will be consistently making informed decisions about treatment options so it’s really helpful to get what’s happening inside your body. To improve the quality of your life, manage inflammation, and slow arthritis progression without severe side effects, you may have considered exploring cannabis for arthritis but felt unsure. In that case, let's start with cannabidiol (CBD).

Ease Into Cannabis Therapy for Arthritis with CBD

Products that isolate CBD from THC attract individuals looking for health benefits without the mind-altering euphoria linked to THC. Therefore, CBD—the non-intoxicating compound in cannabis, is sparking widespread interest. Findings from the Arthritis Foundation and a 2019 Gallup poll, cited in this blog from Harvard Medical School, show that nearly 50 million Americans have either tried or contemplated using CBD to manage arthritis. Survey participants polled indicate the following benefits using CBD: decreased pain and stiffness, better mobility, improved joint function, sleep quality, and overall well-being.

Targeted Study on CBD’s Effects on RA

There is no cure for arthritis, but cannabis may help reduce some of the symptoms. Much of the evidence supporting the use of cannabis for easing arthritis pain is anecdotal or comes from animal studies, yet here is a high-quality human study. Results indicate that CBD can help reduce inflammation in arthritis. Further, according to this study, CBD has the potential to preserve function by decreasing the inflammatory molecules that breakdown joint cartilage.

CBD: A Promising Alternative?

Given the limitations and risks linked to traditional drug treatments, CBD emerges as a compelling alternative. Side effects of CBD are minimal lightheadedness and dry mouth. 

Some online sources suggest CBD harms the liver, possibly stemming from a single study that administered high CBD doses, resulting in increased liver enzymes. The interplay between cannabis and liver well-being is complex. Research suggests a combination of potential benefits and possible cautions.

The key factors revolve around dosage, interactions with medications, the overall health of your liver, and other factors that extend beyond the scope of this discussion. Remember, no substance is devoid of risks; it is best to inform your healthcare provider if you are considering trying CBD. They can evaluate potential drug interactions and even monitor your liver function.

Individuals who don't find success with CBD alone may benefit from adding other cannabinoids, like THC. Understanding the stigma surrounding THC may help you make more informed choices about integrating it into your pain management care plan.

Apprehensive About THC?  Let's Briefly Unpack That.

During cannabis prohibition, government research focused only on highlighting risks and harms of cannabis. Strict rules limited scientists from sharing any proof that cannabis could have health benefits. Yet, over time, the data was becoming undeniable that cannabis had therapeutic value. People were becoming more informed. This growing support led to grassroots advocacy movements and state policies shifted. 

In 2022, the federal government enacted a  "Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act". More balanced research is coming! This law symbolizes a hopeful step toward integrating cannabis into mainstream discussions about health and wellness.

Understanding the stigma around THC and its effect on cannabis research is crucial. It highlights the need for informed decisions based on emerging research rather than outdated prejudices.

Translating Research into Relief

If you're concerned about THC's mind-altering effects yet interested in its benefits, it's important to note that many people successfully use THC in low therapeutic doses that relieve symptoms without the high. 

For example, this compelling human study comparing low-THC inhaled cannabis and an oral THC formulation illustrates that both can significantly decrease pain sensitivity, with the oral form providing a longer lasting pain relief effect. Data like this dismantles the belief that cannabis use is strictly associated with harms. Scientific evidence can empower individuals like you to confidently discuss using cannabis for arthritis pain with your healthcare provider. 

To explore how cannabis can be a bridge from chronic pain to relief, visit my blog, "From Chronic to Manageable – Is Cannabis Effective for Pain?” Learn about combining quick inhalation relief with lasting benefits of oral ingestion. But for now, let's investigate some essential information comparing two popular oral cannabis formulations: edibles and tinctures.

Dosing Tips and Tricks

Before you visit a cannabis dispensary to buy a tincture or an edible, here‘s what you need to know to avoid a bad experience with edibles or tinctures. As always “start low and go slow.” Finding your ideal dose is a personal journey. According to Bonni Goldstein, MD, in her book Cannabis is Medicine, the low and slow method involves careful self-titration to find what works best for you.


Very importantly, edibles like gummies, chocolates, and cookies may take 1-2 hours to begin working. Many uncomfortable cannabis experiences arise from "edible impatience" - the intense eagerness felt while waiting for edibles to take effect. My nursing opinion on this is to not take another edible. It’s better to experience zero effects than to over-consume edibles. Use this info to adjust your edible dose for the next time. Experimentation like this determines your THC dose in milligrams which is important when using THC to manage pain. Also, until you have more experience of the mind-altering and euphoric effects of THC, steer clear of homemade edibles with undefined THC levels. 


Tinctures offer a quicker onset, usually 15 to 45 minutes, and are often easier to dose accurately because effects are known faster. Administering the tincture under the tongue allows cannabis compounds to enter the bloodstream directly through sublingual blood vessels, ensuring a quicker effect. 

While most of the tincture is absorbed into the bloodstream, the liquid is eventually swallowed, meaning a portion of the cannabinoids will still be processed by the digestive system. This dual method of absorption provides two distinct avenues for the medication to enter the body, potentially offering a more comprehensive therapeutic effect.

Finding the right THC dosage in milligrams is key to a consistent therapeutic cannabis experience. Tinctures, with their clear milligram markings on the dropper make it easy for you to find your dose. 

Alright, cool, thanks for staying with me. Dosing is so important. More dosage talk below before we wrap up this blog.

Final Thoughts on Dosing Cannabis

To ensure a positive experience with cannabis, we’ve covered how important it is to start with a low dose and adjust based on your body's response. No response means —the next day— you still start with a low dose, but only 1-2 mgs higher until you find a dose that addresses symptoms without unwanted side effects. 

How many milligrams is a high dose for beginners? A 2018 review recommends a daily THC intake under 30 mg to prevent tolerance. Tolerance means you will keep needing higher doses for the same effect, sometimes even diminishing benefits and/or even opposite effects.

Knowing the 'ideal' dose varies significantly among individuals; some may not require doses as high as 30 mg, others might find this a starting point.

Many states that have legalized cannabis define 10 mg of THC as one serving, but don’t be fooled by that low sounding number because some people can feel intoxicated from even 2.5 mg of THC.

After you find your milligrams of THC, you still have to incorporate a few other factors that influence your cannabis experience such as mindset, setting, tolerance, metabolism, and the unique workings of your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). For tailored guidance, consulting with a licensed medical cannabis specialist is advisable.

A Nurse’s Words of Caution and Confidence

With more states green-lighting cannabis, many are wondering if cannabis will work for them. My goal here isn't just to weigh the pros and cons but also to give you tips and tricks on making cannabis work for you. Because, let’s face it: cannabis is not a cure-all. For some, it's a game-changer; for others, not so much. Furthermore, some individuals may require professional guidance to find the necessary risk vs reward ratio.

That's why you’ll see studies in this blog – to show you how it can help, but also to remind you results vary from person to person and day to day even. This means easing into cannabis to find what works best for you. And if you're feeling stuck or unsure, a chat with a cannabis-savvy nurse might just be the lifeline you need.

Finding Your Path to Relief

Living with arthritis, be it osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is loaded with challenges. Resilience and strength are required. This article highlights the role cannabis may play for you in alleviating arthritis symptoms while simultaneously reviewing current treatment options to make the most informed decisions. One thing about alternative healing is the idea that wellbeing encompasses physical, emotional and psychological dimensions. Every effort you make to manage your holistic health is a step toward regaining control over your story. 

registered nurse maureen smyth headshot

Contributed to Weedgets LLC by Maureen “Mo” Smyth, BSN RN — Health Revolutionary, cannabis content writer, Founder of Cannabis Public School at Smyth Med.

As a registered nurse, it's important that I clarify using cannabis is not a replacement for medicine or medicinal options. Always consult your chosen healer or physician before use. Weigh your options. Use with caution. Be intentional. 


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