CBD Benefits: Arthritis & Joint Pain

Written By: Edward Dougherty

One of the most effective ways to treat joint and arthritis pain quickly, over the counter, are pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory products that can be applied to the skin. CBD Oil has shown promise on both of those fronts. However, CBD does not mix well with water and has poor oral bioavailability, meaning a low percentage of it reaches your system when administered orally. Applying CBD to the skin provides the most consistent plasma levels.

Almost 22% of the American adult population was diagnosed with arthritis in 2009. By 2030 the number of people affected is expected to increase by millions. The typical treatment for arthritis is injectable fusion-proteins to halt the progression of the disease. However, these injections cause immune suppression and increase the severity of arthritis inflammation, potentially contributing to arthritis and the recurrence of inflammation. The use of transdermal CBD reduced inflammation and pain in a rat monoarthritis model as a result of both the inflammatory and neurogenic properties.


Using the guidelines for the ethical treatment of experimental animals, the University of Kentucky used 54 rats for this experiment. 21 were controls and 23 were subjected to induced arthritis. The study tracked their original behavior to compare to the arthritis induced behavior and the CBD behavior.

The gel used was CBD solution that was used the entire week long trial. Joint inflammation levels were taken in the beginning, middle, and end of the week to track progress. The pain rating was measured by the rats’ posture and where they held their weight. The rats were also measured for heat sensitivity and their exploratory activity.


This study examined topical CBD effect in reducing inflammation and pain in rats with arthritis. The rats were administered CBD gels for 4 consecutive days. In the experiment they studied inflammation, by measuring joint circumference, cell invasion, and activity level.

On the third day of the study, they applied the different levels of topical CBD to the rats backs and began assessing the rats after four hours of application. They then studied the effects on both the third and seventh day of the study by monitoring the joint inflammation, plasma, behavior, and immunohistochemistry.


The lower doses were found to be the most effective in the CBD plasma concentration findings. The joint inflammation findings showed that the CBD treated animals found that the higher doses were most effective in reducing inflammation, however, the lower doses also proved effective in reducing swelling. The higher dose reduced the synovial membrane thickness as well, where the two lower doses did not. The highest dose of CBD also improved animal behavior most, whereas there was little difference in the lower doses and the control. The animals also showed the maximum decrease in heat sensitivity when using the highest dose. CBD also did not lower the amount of animal exploratory activity, they maintained the same level.

The measurements of plasma showed that the absorption level of CBD was directly correlated with the dose amount. The CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, posture and spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration, and even thickened the membrane in the irritated joints.

The overall result of this study is that the topical application of CBD is effective in the treatment of inflammation and hypersensitivity in rats, the main symptoms of arthritis. Transdermal CBD absorbs well into the skin which increased effectiveness, the effect can be further increased by rubbing the topical CBD on a larger area. The experiment suggests that CBD may be a good alternative to help humans who suffer from arthritis. Time and continued research will tell. 


Hammell, D C, et al. “Transdermal Cannabidiol Reduces Inflammation and Pain-Related Behaviours in a Rat Model of Arthritis.” European Journal of Pain (London, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2016,