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Medical Marijuana for Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

In this rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and cannabis article we’ll be covering what exactly is arthritis, the difference between osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and the research surrounding how hemp cannabinoids interact...

In this rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and cannabis article we’ll be covering what exactly is arthritis, the difference between osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and the research surrounding how hemp cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to bring balance to this condition. For more information, please view our article Is CBD Good for Arthritis.

What is Arthritis

Arthritis simply means joint inflammation. It is also a term used to describe around 200 conditions that affect the joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. Arthritis can be a debilitating condition that prevents people from living out their daily lives to the fullest. So naturally, anything that can bring relief to the condition would be of value.


There are a variety of symptoms localized to the joints that can cause sufferers to feel as though their pain is not just localized but widespread throughout the entire body. Some symptoms of arthritis are as follows:

  • Painful joints of the, ankle, back, fingers, hands, muscles, neck, or wrist
  • Intermittent or sharp pains
  • A bump on the finger or bony outgrowth in fingers or toes
  • Whole body fatigue
  • A feeling of whole body illness or discomfort that is difficult to identify
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, or swelling
  • Decreased range of motion, difficulty, walking, or muscle weakness
  • Deformity, flare, skin redness, or stiff neck

As you can tell from reading those arthritis symptoms, they can range from mild to severe in their intensity making this condition chronic that can last an entire lifetime if a solution is not found. Often though, treatments using medications often come with a long list of negative side effects.


Some rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis sufferers will opt for as many natural solutions as they can before reaching for pharmaceutical options, some of which include:

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Resistance training
  • Wholefood plant based diet
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Quality sleep

Other options that involve traditional western medical intervention include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroids
  • Analgesics
  • Narcotics
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Surgery / joint replacement

After covering some of the various treatment options for arthritis, next we’ll be covering the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis so we can gain more clarity on the differences and similarities before we move forward into understanding the deeper layers at cause here.



cannabinoids and arthritis hemp

While both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis involve inflammation of the joints that lead to pain, the reasons for the symptoms are different. In the following, we’ll cover the various states that cause each condition, and introduce research surrounding cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, specifically relating to arthritis and the surrounding pain condition.


The cartilage, a flexible connective tissue that covers the ends of bones gradually wears away as we age. As this material breaks down, less of it is available to cushion the area where the two bones meet, leading to pain during movement. As the disease progresses, nerve damage can also occur.

Nerve damage is often called neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is associated with damage to the neurons themselves, following an infection or injury to the area, resulting in pain signals being sent to the central nervous system. Neuropathic pain is often described as “shooting pain.”


marijuana rheumatoid arthritis osteo pain

Inflammatory pain is a part of the nociceptive pain entity. Nociceptors are a type of receptor that exists to feel all and any pain that's likely to be caused by the body being harmed. This is helpful when we’re injured and we need the body to tell us about a surface or internal wound, but not helpful when it goes haywire and sends pain signals 24/7.

One of the receptors, CB receptor 1 (CB1), is expressed predominantly by the cells in the central nervous system, whereas CB receptor 2 (CB2) is expressed primarily by immune cells.

The ECS is defined as a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), ligands, and enzymes required for ligand biosynthesis and degradation, which are predominantly located in the brain, the CNS, and in the peripheral nervous system. The ECS is involved in many physiological processes, including pain sensation, appetite, mood, and memory.

In other words, the ECS is about as important to your brain and body, as water is to your wellbeing. If you’re dehydrated, you'll find you won’t feel or function at your best and this gets worse the longer and more dehydrated you get. As far as the ECS is concerned, it’s been chronically ‘dehydrated’ of cannabinoids since you were breastfed (or in the womb, if you were formula fed as a baby).

hemp breastfeeding

An overwhelming body of convincing preclinical evidence indicates that cannabinoids produce the action or process of blocking the detection of a painful or injurious stimulus effect in inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

In other words, we find that cannabinoids help alleviate the sensations of pain. This is big news for RA and osteo sufferers, and many others who suffer from chronic pain conditions.

“The results of clinical studies consistently demonstrate efficacy of cannabis and cannabinoid receptor agonists in reducing diverse neuropathic pain states in humans.”

Simply stated, cannabinoids assist in regulating and decreasing the sensations of soreness.

“In sum, the endogenous cannabinoid system contains multiple promising therapeutic targets and provides a strong impetus to develop cannabinoid-based medications to treat inflammatory and neuropathic pain.”

Cannabinoids are powerful anti-inflammatories and provide many applications for full-body based neuropathic pain.


ecs hemp

Rheumatoid arthritis, in contrast, is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the joints, leading to inflammation and swelling of the joint linings, also called the synovia.

We mentioned earlier that one of the receptors, CB receptor 1 (CB1), is expressed predominantly by the cells in the central nervous system, whereas CB receptor 2 (CB2) is expressed primarily by immune cells.

"The present study suggests that a selective CB2 substance once combined with a receptor could be a new therapy for RA that inhibits production of inflammatory chemical messages, from the cells that are found inside the joint of the soft tissue that lines the spaces of joints and tendons."

In other words, let’s keep the immune system from sending an army of sword fighters to attack your joints, by ingesting these freedom fighters called cannabinoids.


What does the research have to say about the potential of the endocannabinoid system to act on conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis? Here’s what we find from these peer reviewed medical journals:

“Increasing evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system, especially cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), has an important role in the disordered physiological processes of RA. Many members of the endocannabinoid system are reported to inhibit synovial inflammation, hyperplasia, and cartilage destruction in RA.”

The ECS plays a role in our immune process and how our bodies register pain. In patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, that system is altered. If we can bring the immune system back into balance and stop it from attacking itself, we could reduce the symptomatology of arthritis and start living healthy normal lives again. It turns out, the ECS is just the system to bring the immune system back into balance. All it needs are cannabinoids to activate it and bring it back online.

A study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy looked at the joint fluid of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients. Researchers found that both CB1 and CB2 receptors were present in the patients’ joint linings. They also discovered that AEA and 2-AG were present in the joint fluid of both types of arthritis patients, and not present in the fluid of healthy volunteers.

So we know that cannabinoid receptors are present in arthritis patients joint linings, and we can see that there are endocannabinoids present there, too. This is unusual, since neither were present in the fluid of healthy people’s joints.

The CB1 receptor is one of the most abundant receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) and is found in particularly high levels in the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum and brainstem.

So the CB1 is going to assist with nerve pain and blocking the rogue pain signals...

“The CB2 receptors are preferentially expressed abundantly in the immune system and intestines and in other tissues such as the lungs, uterus, pancreas, and skin.”

And the CB2 is going to assist with dealing with autoimmunity and bringing an overactive immune system back into balance and stop it from attacking itself (the user, you).


cannabinoids and arthritis

A system that regulates your body’s internal systems & function, put simply. Multiple systems of the body are affected with both Osteo and Rheumatoid arthritis so you need the ECS to be fully online and active to bring order to the chaos that’s causing arthritis symptomatology.

The ECS was discovered mid-1990 by researcher Dr. Ralph Mecholulam. It was found that the ECS is an integral part of our physiologies responsible for maintaining order and balance across all other systems of the body.

The ECS needs enough cannabinoids to remain active, otherwise it becomes dormant and we lose this incredible system of healing and balance.

What could the repercussions to our body be, if we had an entire source of dietary cannabinoids eliminated from our diet, from which it was once abundant? If it grew freely, if we ate it, and if animals ate it? It was fed to chickens, chickens laid eggs, we ate the eggs so we had dietary sources of cannabinoids.

If our bodies were used to a diet rich in cannabinoids, only to have that source of sustenance removed, then wouldn’t that cause our bodies to walk around in some kind of cannabinoid desert, dehydrated of these crucial compounds it needs to maintain balance and order? It makes sense when you think about it, and the clinical research has proven just how important cannabinoids are to our optimal health and vital functioning.

Hemp was made illegal with marijuana in the 1930s, before that, hemp was one of our main industrial crops used to make sails in ships, rope, feed for animals, clothing and medicine. Medical marijuana was once a common household item prescribed by doctors and used by people the world-over.


hemp marijuana

Keeping in mind, hemp isn’t marijuana. They’re both from the same plant genus, cannabis, but they’re different in that the THC level is significantly lower in hemp as opposed to MJ. Hemp legally mustn’t contain more than 0.3% THC, whereas marijuana typically contains 10-20% THC. You can read about the other differences of hemp vs marijuana in this article.

As you can tell, the clinical evidence is clear on the importance of activating the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids so as to relieve nerve soreness and autoimmunity in rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis sufferers. For more information, please visit our CBD and Arthritis article here.

If you found this article of value, be sure to view our other blogs covering the latest research on all things hemp, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system as it relates to various conditions and states of the body. As always, consult with your doctor for more information on disease modifying and common pain management strategies using medical marijuana.

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