How Does CBD Oil Help With Inflammation? Benefits Explained

Inflammation is the underlying cause of many chronic health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s. CBD oil offers a natural means of combating inflammation and reversing its effects while defending the cells from damage. It stimulates the body to produce endocannabinoids which aid in downregulating inflammatory activity and soothe its symptoms where they occur. More users are turning to CBD as an alternative to pharmaceuticals in providing targeted inflammation relief, due to its lower risk of side effects and better safety profile. Let’s explore how CBD oil lowers inflammation and why it might be a suitable substitute for anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals like NSAIDs.

What Causes Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural response from your body’s immune system to protect the body from harm as a result of injuries, infections or foreign irritants. It occurs at the cellular level. Any part of your body can become inflamed. When this occurs white blood cells are working to attack and remove infections or repair damage. The end goal and purpose of inflammation is to get your cells and tissues back to a healthy, functional state.

It can be categorized based on its length of action. Acute inflammation is an inflammatory response that has a short, discrete length of action. It’s typical of injuries or infections where the body becomes inflamed for a period until the problem is cleared. Symptoms of redness, soreness, pain and swelling can occur. This is to increase blood flow to the region and support the repair process.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand is continuous and can last for months or even years. It may not be linked to a direct injury or infection and can result in a persistent immune response. When this occurs the body will continuously be inflamed on some level – chronic inflammation can be mild or intense depending on the individual and cause. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation symptoms are generally caused by underlying issues like autoimmune problems, lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol use, toxins, and exposure to environmental stressors like sunlight or pollution.

Why is Chronic Inflammation Problematic?

While acute inflammation is a normal and healthy reaction that defends your body, chronic inflammation is a source of health issues and diseases. Because inflammation is the immune system attacking cells that are damaged or infected, it can cause excessive cell damage and declines in tissue function if left unabated. Healthy cells will decline in function and become irreparably harmed. Many chronic health conditions can result from this phenomenon. For example period pain and endometriosis are caused by inflammation in many cases due to the uterus lining becoming inflamed and painful. Its also responsible for triggering allergies in many people, where irritants known as allergens cause the body to overreact and release inflammatory compounds like histamines.

For example, chronic inflammation can cause arterial plaque to develop from cardiovascular damage. The body will identify this plaque as an irritant and attempt to attack it. Over time the immune response to this causes the build-up of plaque components in the artery walls, causing high blood pressure and heart disease risk. This is known as atherosclerosis. 

Many autoimmune conditions like psoriasis are the result of chronic inflammation. These are cases where the body’s immune system attacks its tissues due to misidentifying irritants. Cancers can also be caused or even worsened by this type of inflammation due to the cellular and DNA damage it causes. Its also an underlying cause of numerous neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Neuroinflammation in the brain leads to a reduction in cognitive function and neuron signalling over time. Diabetes is also caused or worsened by inflammation in many cases. It contributes to insulin resistance and impacts pancreatic function. Further, arthritis is caused or amplified by inflammatory issues. It causes the joints to degrade, becoming tender, stiff and painful.

How to Reduce Inflammation

There are a range of methods and lifestyle practices. Some of these include: exercising more which has an anti-inflammatory effect, eating foods rich in antioxidants like vegetables, reducing exposure to inflammatory agents like alcohol or tobacco smoke, lowering stress levels, sleeping more and supplementing with anti-inflammatory compounds.

In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications may need to be employed if inflammation is severe or chronic. For example, NSAIDs or Corticosteroids are frequently used to combat inflammation in the body. These are often prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, endometriosis or other conditions resulting from excessive inflammation. The problem with these compounds is they are very taxing on the body and have a range of side effects. Particularly they strain the liver and kidneys which process them and eliminate the toxins they contain. CBD is offering a natural alternative to NSAIDs and similar anti-inflammatory drugs, providing users with a better way to soothe their bodies in many cases. 

Pharmaceutical Anti-Inflammatories and Their Side Effects

Anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals work by modulating the inflammatory response in the body and lowering the discomfort or pain it causes. To do this they have a few mechanisms of action which vary by drug. The most common drugs used for anti-inflammatory purposes are NSAIDs, corticosteroids and DMARDs. Let’s take a look at how these work plus their side effects.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are extremely commonly used and you have likely taken them before. They inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes which are responsible for prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins are pro-inflammatory (inflammation-causing) lipid compounds in the body. By suppressing their production, NSAIDs help to reduce inflammation and its associated pain. Common NSAIDs include mild concentration formulas like Ibuprofen which is suited for mild inflammation, or Diclofenac such as Voltaren, which is high strength and prescription only. 

The side effects of NSAIDs can be extensive and severe. Common side effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues: Stomach pain, indigestion, indigestion, ulcers, and bleeding can occur with prolonged NSAID use.
  • Cardiovascular risks: some NSAIDs can cause an increased risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems
  • Kidney problems: kidney damage can be caused or worsened
  • Allergic reactions: ranging from mild skin irritation to anaphylaxis can occur.
  • Drug interactions: NSAIDs can cause adverse reactions (eg. liver damage) when mixed with blood thinners, diuretics, or other medications.


Are derived from the stress hormone cortisol. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that help to lower the immune response and prevent it from causing excessive inflammatory damage to cells. Usually, they are injected or taken orally. Examples are prednisone, which is prescribed for inflammatory conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Hydrocortisone is another corticosteroid which is applied for skin conditions topically such as eczema or psoriasis.

Like NSAIDs, corticosteroids carry high side effect risks. Some of the side effects include:

  • Weight gain: Corticosteroids can increase appetite which can cause excess eating
  • Osteoporosis: bone loss can result from use which increases the risk of bone breaks.
  • Hyperglycemia: can happen with prolonged use. This is where blood sugar levels are chronically elevated and is a big risk for those with diabetes or a predisposition to it.
  • Mood changes: mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and even depression can occur.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs are compounds that help to downregulate excessive immune system action, similar to corticosteroids. They help with inflammation like arthritis and are used to help mitigate its symptoms to prevent joint degradation. Methotrexate and sulfasalazine are common DMARDs which are employed to treat arthritis.

DMARDs also carry the risk of numerous side effects.

  • Liver and kidney toxicity: DMARDs can cause liver and kidney toxicity. They need regular monitoring of liver and kidney markers to avoid this.
  • Bone marrow suppression: Some DMARDs can reduce bone marrow production, which impacts white blood cells, red blood cell, and platelet levels.
  • Increased susceptibility to infections: immune suppression is common which increases the risk of infections.
  • Lung toxicity: methotrexate can cause lung inflammation and damage over time.
  • Skin reactions: sulfasalazine is known to stimulate rashes, dry skin and other epidermal reactions.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is a therapeutic product that is created when the resin from cannabis sativa is extracted and refined into a concentrated oil. It contains the natural cannabinoid CBD or cannabidiol which is highly anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiolytic and helps with mood, energy, sleep plus immune function. These benefits are provided through its action on the endocannabinoid system in the body – triggering the release of therapeutic endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids can soothe the inflammatory response via several key pathways and help provide relief from chronic inflammation.

How Does CBD Mitigate Inflammation?

When ingested, CBD binds to the body’s cannabinoid receptors located throughout the CNS, brain, plus organs and peripheral tissues. After binding, the receptors activate and release powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals such as anandamide. Anandamide and other endocannabinoids have multiple key anti-inflammatory properties that make them both potent and effective at helping to sustainably target inflammation. They work on the body’s immune system, helping to regulate key immune processes, enzymes and signalling pathways.

Firstly, CBD can suppress the production of inflammatory compounds in the body such as cytokines and prostaglandins. These are an important part of the inflammatory response but run rampant when chronic inflammation occurs and can cause cell damage. In part, this is from the capacity of the cannabinoid to lower excess T cell and macrophage activity. While these immune cells are excellent at defending the body from threats and pathogens, they cause tissue and cell damage if produced excessively. Over time chronic inflammation results. 

Cannabidiol also helps to lower adenosine reuptake. Adenosine is a vital signalling molecule in the body used to control all movement. But it also has anti-inflammatory effects through the A2A adenosine receptor. Improving the available adenosine to bind with this receptor stimulates an improvement in excess inflammation and reduces its accompanying negative effects.

CBD is also capable of interacting with the PPAR-gamma receptor, which has a metabolic role in regulating the inflammatory response. In rodent studies, the cannabinoid’s CB2 receptor agonism also caused a decrease in TNF-alpha levels. TNF-alpha is a cytokine that plays a major part in many autoimmune conditions, plus contributes to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Decreasing its levels lowered oxidative stress and inflammation. Through the brain’s CB1 receptors, CBD has also been shown to lower neuroinflammation. It prevents neuron decay and damage from cytokine activity which helps prevent neurodegeneration. Neurodegeneration and inflammation of the brain’s neurons are the cause of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Is it a Good Substitute for Pharmaceuticals?

As CBD grows in popularity and use, it is being increasingly researched for its capacity to both supplements or even replace the use of conventional anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs. It provides many of the same effects as these drugs and even functions along the same metabolic pathways in many cases. Its efficacy is still dependent though on the individual’s physiology, the condition it is being used for, how severe the symptoms are and factors like tolerance levels. CBD is generally better in helping to prevent and reverse chronic inflammation as it can be used for long periods. It’s also better applied for less severe inflammation and can be used as an NSAID substitute. Severe or acute inflammation may require other treatment methods.

The big advantage it has over these compounds however is its much improved safety profile. CBD is all-natural and sourced from plants. It’s much better tolerated than pharmaceuticals and has a lower side effect risk. Let’s look at some of the main advantages it has over traditional pharmaceutical-based anti-inflammatories.

Lower Side Effect Risk: CBD is safer and better tolerated than pharmaceuticals. It has both lower risk of causing side effects, plus lower side effect severity when side effects are encountered. Many conventional anti-inflammatories like NSAIDs or DMARDs carry the risk of very harmful adverse effects if used for prolonged periods. For example, they can cause cardiovascular or liver damage, stomach ulcers, weakened bones or immune issues. CBD’s side effects are much milder – they can include issues like drowsiness or dry mouth. Unlike pharmaceuticals, CBD can also be used in high dosages for long periods without the risk of liver or kidney toxicity. 

No Dependence Risk: some pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories can be addictive such as DMARDs or corticosteroids. Painkillers such as opioids which are often used alongside anti-inflammation compounds to help lower pain symptoms also carry a high addiction risk. Addiction to DMARDs can exacerbate its side effects like liver and kidney toxicity. Over time it will also lead to dependence and withdrawals if usage of the drug is ceased. CBD on the other hand is non-addictive. It’s been cleared of having dependence-forming characteristics through multiple clinical studies. The WHO’s comprehensive review of its safety found that it was non-addictive, well tolerated and had low side effect risk. CBD can lower the risk of addiction.

Multiple Ingestion Methods: there is a huge range of different options when it comes to methods of taking CBD. This is a small but important advantage it has over most pharmaceuticals which usually must be either injected or taken in pill forms. Doctors will usually prescribe compounds like NSAIDs as pills which must be taken as prescribed. There is little choice in selecting a preferred ingestion method. With CBD you can administer the compound as an oil, tincture, spray, as CBD gummies, edibles, lozenges, topically as CBD cream or balm, plus even sublingual strips. Unlike pharmaceuticals, you’ll be able to match a product with your needs, preferences and tastes.

Synergies with Terpenes and Cannabinoids: CBD is synergistic with both terpenes and many other cannabinoids. When consumed in combination, these natural compounds from cannabis improve the combined health effects of CBD oil. Terpenes from hemp contribute to the ‘entourage effect’ which improves cannabinoid uptake in the body’s cannabinoid receptors by modulating cell permeability. In doing so they enable the endocannabinoid system to be activated more effectively and release endocannabinoids. These are endogenous anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and immune-promoting agents that support lowered inflammation. Similarly, CBD taken with other cannabinoids like CBG or CBN improves the combined anti-inflammatory effects of these compounds. Different cannabinoids have differing pathways of action and benefits, making them more potent when used together.


Cannabinoids like CBD offer a range of benefits in lowering inflammation in the body and brain. They help to mitigate and reverse inflammation through multiple metabolic pathways. This includes suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory agents, lowering adenosine reuptake and decreasing cytokine activity. CBD may be a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals like NSAIDs or corticosteroids in the right contexts. Anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals are particularly side effect prone, can’t be used for long periods and become toxic or addictive if misused. CBD has some key benefits over pharmaceutical chemicals like having many ingestion methods, being natural and plant-based, having fewer side effects, plus being non-addictive.