What is CBD?
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is an active ingredient extracted from the cannabis Sativa plant.
Now, you may be thinking… cannabis?! Isn’t that illegal??
The answer is no.
Yes, CBD comes from the same plant as ‘cannabis’ but it is not the same as the better-known compound, THC, that gets you ‘high’.
CBD is just one of the hundreds of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant (also known as the hemp plant).
THC is another cannabinoid found in industrial hemp. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the substance more commonly known as marijuana. It's the THC which has psychoactive properties and gets you ‘high’.
There are some CBD products which do contain THC, known as ‘full spectrum CBD’. This is because research tells us there are benefits of using more than one cannabinoid in a product. The amounts are so low, however, that you will not feel the effects of the THC. There is research to suggest that the effects of CBD are particularly enhanced when mixed with THC.
In contrast to THC:
- CBD is legal,
- CBD does not have any psychoactive effects
- CBD is not addictive.
- CBD has been classified as a safe substance by the World Health Organisation.
When the cannabinoids (as well as flavonoids and terpenes - also found in the cannabis plant) are mixed, it creates the ‘entourage effect’. Research shows that the benefits are enhanced when they are mixed together.
However, if it is important for you to have zero THC, broad-spectrum products are available. Broad-spectrum CBD offers a mix of cannabinoids, just without THC.
Alternatively, if you are only interested in pure CBD, CBD isolate would be the option for you.
Why would I use CBD over well-known and researched conventional medications?
We are not suggesting you do, and we would always recommend consulting your doctor before making any drastic changes.
However, what we do know is:
- CBD is a natural substance that has been deemed as ‘safe’ by the WHO
- CBD has few side effects, if any, especially in comparison to some strong prescription medications
- CBD is not addictive, like some prescription medications
- Users report that CBD has helped where some conventional medications have failed
- You can take CBD alongside other treatments (but not all!)
How does CBD work in the body?
We won't go into too much detail here, we have a page dedicated to it if you would like to delve a little deeper. But we'll go over the basics...
CBD interacts with the human body's endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short. We all have an ECS which is active even if you don't use cannabis. There is still much scientists don't know about the ECS, but we do know that it is linked to a number of processes in the body, including motor skills, sleep, appetite, memory, and mood (to name but a few).
The ECS influences the nervous system by regulating these various processes in the body.
This communication works via neurotransmitters (i.e. messenger substances), where information is exchanged between nerve receptors. Think of these receptors as docking stations, on which CBD is able to dock.
If the body gets out of balance, messenger substances are released. Here CBD can regulate the exchange of information.
For example, pain can be alleviated by blocking the receptor. So even if pain is transmitted via a messenger substance, the receptor cannot receive this message.
How can I take CBD?
CBD is available in a number of forms. The most common form is CBD oil. CBD oil generally comes in tincture form and is available in various strengths and sizes.
Naturally, as CBD has become more popular, the ways in which you can take it has also increased. Each product has its own benefits, and sometimes disadvantages. For example, whilst CBD edibles.
You can vape, eat, drink and bathe in CBD. There are e-liquids available for vaping (never vape CBD oil!), there are CBD gummies, CBD chocolate, CBD tea, and hot chocolate, CBD bath bombs and salts, and CBD topical creams and cosmetics. The list is practically endless. Some attention needs to be paid to finding out which are the genuine products. Some products - despite convincing packaging - actually contain no CBD at all!
CBD can be used for general wellness, much like vitamins and food supplements. But the benefits of CBD also extend to a number of serious ailments:
10 ways CBD could help you!
1. Chronic pain
3. Acne and other skin disorders
7. Cancer symptoms
8. ADHD and autism
10. Mental Health
...but can it work for fibromyalgia?
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that affects 3-10% of adults. It is characterised by widespread pain, and a number of other physical issues, such as:
- Disturbed sleep
- Tender point pain
- Irritable bowel syndrom
- Fibro-fog: cognitive issues with remembering, learning new things and concentration
The psychological effects of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia - sometimes known as fibro - is a complex condition which is also commonly linked with psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.
Fibro can be an exhausting condition to manage, both physically and psychologically. In addition to this, fibro is linked with low levels of certain hormones which can increase the likelihood of developing depression.
Fibromyalgia is not quantifiable. That is, there are no tests that will definitively identify that someone has the condition. This has led some - even health care professionals - to suggest that fibromyalgia is psychosomatic.
This notion is unhelpful to the sufferer. Moreover, it can take a long time to receive a diagnosis, given that there is no testing available. Fibro is often diagnosed once all other options have been ruled out.
Fibromyalgia is often thought of as a new condition, but actually, it's been around for centuries. It would most likely have been diagnosed as rheumatism originally. The term "fibrositis" was mentioned for the first time during a lecture in 1904.
What treatments are there for fibromyalgia?
There are no specific treatments offered that will cure fibromyalgia. Only treatments to alleviate the symptoms. People's experiences of fibro do vary, and some are able to manage their pain with over the counter painkillers. In addition to this, some people manage fibro with massage, acupuncture and low impact exercise.
For those that require further intervention, there are three main FDA approved prescription medications offered:
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Milnacipran (Savella)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)
Whilst these medications are said to be effective, they do come with some side effects. and it can be common for people to abuse such strong medication (like opioids) which can lead to addiction.
In constrast, CBD does not lead to addiction as it does not create the same feelings of euphoria
How can CBD help fibromyalgia?
Research and experience tells us that medical cannabis and CBD have already been seen to have a positive effect on many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
There is promising evidence of the effectiveness of CBD in neuropathic and inflammatory pain. Given CBD has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. In 2008, scientific studies from the past 20 years were evaluated to see if CBD could relieve chronic pain. The scientists came to the conclusion that CBD could be effective in pain relief without adverse side effects. Incidentally, this study also concludes that CBD may help with chronic pain related sleep disorders.
More and more studies indicate that cannabidiol can affect our sleep in a positive way, due to its interaction with the body's endocannabinoid system. One study looked at tbe effect of CBD on anxiety and insomnia. We know that anxiety can be one of the main causes of sleep issues. This study consisted of 72 adults, 47 with anxiety and 25 with poor sleep. The results from the study showed that there was a 79% reduction in anxiety within the first month of taking CBD. With a 67% increase in sleep scores.
In a 2016 study by the University of Colorado, 121 migraine patients were given medical marijuana daily. It was investigated whether migraine attacks can be prevented in this way. The results were outstanding: around 40% of the test subjects stated that the number of migraine headaches had halved.
Irritable bowel syndrome
There is promising research available to demonstrate the effectiveness of CBD on IBS symptoms. But little scientific evidence for CBD specifically in the treatment of IBS. A noteworthy portion of IBS patients use cannabis to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, appetite and to improve their mood in general.
Can I get CBD for fibromyalgia on the NHS?
In short, no. It is the stance of the NHS that there is not enough research on CBD to enable them to endorse it.
However, medical cannabis can be accessed. with some difficulty.
Medicinal cannabis is available on the NHS for severe forms of epilepsy, symptoms of chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis (MS), but even this is generally used as a last resort.
In 2018, a UK fibromyalgia sufferer became the first to receive a prescription for medical cannabis.
Although Carly Burton, who suffers with the chronic condition following a stroke in early adulthood, is not receiving this through the NHS.
Carly is paying up to £2,500 for three months’ worth of treatment, which she shared 'is going to cost me everything I have'.
Carly received her medication via a UK based specialist cannabis clinic. According to one such clinic, Cannabis Access Clinics UK, the treatment is now becoming more affordable, with patients who attend the clinic being able to access prescription cannabis for between £5-10 per day.
Interestingly, Cannabis Access Clinics UK are now involved in CACOS UK study, which is concerned with the effect of medical cannabis on chronic pain. This has a focus on whether CBD could potentially be used as an alternative treatment to strong prescription painkillers, which could save the NHS over £100M per year.
Is medical cannabis different to CBD?
Yes. There's a lot of confusion over the differences between medical marijuana, medical cannabis and CBD.
Even more confusingly, the terms are often used interchangeably and differently by different organisations.
So let's clear this up now.
Medicinal cannabis or marijuana generally refers to the cannabinoid THC. This is the same as recreational marijuana/cannabis, only all of a sudden, it's not illegal when it's prescribed by a doctor.
CBD refers to cannabidiol, another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. CBD is legal. However, it is also not regulated, this means that it does not have to legally meet the same standards as medical grade products. This leaves a lot of room for CBD sellers to produce low quality products and to make promises with no scientific evidence to back them up.
This is why it is important to buy from reputable sellers who openly offer their third party lab tests.
What studies are there on CBD and fibromyalgia?
Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia - 2019
A 6 month study took place in Isreal which consisted of 367 participants who had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
82% of this group were women. This is quite representative of the general population. Although fibromyalgia affects both men and women, roughly 90% of sufferers are women.
The researchers identified that the current treatment for fibromyalgia included opioids, which can cause unpleasant side effects.
This study investigates whether medical cannabis could be used as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia, given that its side effects are minor and uncommon.
This was an observational study which included a six month follow-up assessment. The study required patients to answer questionnaires in a specialised medical cannabis clinic.
The participants were given a low dosage of medical cannabis initially, which was gradually increased. By the end of the study:
- The average dosage of cannabis was 1000 mg per day (the average dosage at the start of the study was 670mg per day)
- The average dosage of THC was 140mg per day
- The average dosage of CBD was 39mg per day.
The study has limitations, the researchers themselves admit this. These included:
- Roughly 30% of the study group could not be included in the follow up assessment, for various reasons.
- 14 different strains were used in the study. Some were higher in CBD, some were higher in THC. This made it difficult to compare the effects.
It is important to note that medical cannabis can differ to CBD in that it can contain THC. Possibly higher levels of THC that we would find in a full-spectrum product. The study remains very relevant, and is another step towards medical cannabis becoming an accepted treatment, but this is worth bearing this in mind.
So... what were the results?
The researchers concluded that cannabis was a safe and effective treatment for fibromyalgia. This included positive results in terms of offering relief to patients, as well as causing few side effects.
However, some relatively minor side effects did occur for a small number of patients. Some of the patients did discontinue the study as a result of this.
The most common adverse effects were:
Mild and included dizziness (7.9%)
Dry mouth (6.7%)
Gastrointestinal symptoms (5.4%)
The researchers relayed that success was achieved in 81% of the patients.
A significant improvement was found in pain intensity and there were significant improvement in fibro symptoms, as well as overall quality of life.
At the start of the study, 52% of patients described their pain level as high. By the end of the study only 8% reported their pain levels as high!
At the start of the study, 93% of patients reported sleep issues. By the end of the study, 73% of patients reported an improvement in sleep. And 13% of patients reporting their sleep issues had disappeared altogether!
In addition to this, nearly 60% of patients reported having depression-related symptoms at the start of the study. 80% of patients reported an improvement by the end of the 6 months.
The researchers concluded:
- Medical cannabis could be an effective and safe treatment to fibromyalgia.
- The results imply that medical cannabis could be a promising therapeutic option for the treatment of fibromyalgia, especially for those who do not response to existing therapies.
- Medical cannabis is effective and safe when titrated slowly and gradually.
- Cannabis therapy should be considered to treat fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care. This is especially significant given medical cannabis' low rates of addiction and lack of side effects - especially when compared to opioids.
- This study focused on pain, sleep and depression. Further research is needed to explore the effects of medical cannabis on other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. For example, cognitive impairment and fatigue.
A study on the analgesic effects of medical cannabis in chronic pain patients with fibromyalgia - 2019
This study involved 25 women with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, 5 of these pulled out of the study after the first visit for variety of reasons. 2 of which were adverse side effects - dizziness and nausea.
Overall, the researchers relayed that no serious adverse events occurred.
Each participant was given four types of medical cannabis, which they inhaled:
- 200mg of medicinal cannabis that was high in both CBD and THC (Bediol)
- 200mg of medicinal cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC (Bedrolite)
- 100mg of medicinal cannabis that was low in CBD and high in THC (Bedrocan)
- A placebo. That is, contained no CBD or THC.
The participants recieved pain tests before cannabis inhalation and then at 1, 2, and 3 hours after taking the medication.
Two types of pain tests were used, a spontaneous electrical pain response test and an evoked pressure pain response test.
The pain scores were similiar with both the placebo and non-placebo medical cannabis for the electrical pain respose test.
However, the results were more far more interesting for the pressure pain test.
Both the Bedrocan and Bediol caused a significant increase in tolerance to the pressure applied to the skin throughout the study. The Bediol had significantly greater effects than Bedrolite.
Bediol - the one that's high in CBD and THC - was more effective than the placebo. Which resulted in a 30% reduction of spontaneous pain in 18 of the 20 women.
Both the high THC varieties significantly improved pressure pain thresholds in comparison to the placebo.
Bedrolite -the one that was high in CBD and low in THC - didn’t show any evidence of being able to relieve spontaneous or evoked pain.
Cannabis use in patients with fibromyalgia: effect on symptoms relief and health-related quality of life - 2011
This study involved 56 fibromyalgia sufferers. And once again, the majority were women.
This was a slightly different experiment to the above studies. The participants were not given medicinal cannabis during the study, but were asked to describe their cannabis use patterns and what benefits they experienced.
The researchers then assessed the quality of life of fibromyalgia sufferers who used cannabis and compared this with non-cannabis using fibromyalgia sufferers.
Therefore, the study involved just 2 groups.
- 28 participants who did not use cannabis.
- 28 participants who were cannabis users. Their usage varied.
The researchers found that positive results were reported just two hours following cannabis use. With participants reporting a reduction in pain and stiffness, with an increase in drowsiness.
The researchers also found that the cannabis users also had slightly higher mental health scores than the non-users.
There are clear limitations in this study, and we cannot be sure to what extent it can be compared to CBD use.
Regardless, there is still value to be found in the results. And again, this is another positive study which will hopefully help in the fight to cannabis becoming an accepted method of relief.
Let's get back to our original question... can CBD help fibromyalgia?
As we know, the CBD research available to us is very limited - especially with fibromyalgia specifically, it would appear.
What we do have available to us, is some promising evidence to show CBD can help with some of fibro's most common symptoms.
CBD has been known to help pain, anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, headaches and even IBS.
Although the most common form of CBD is CBD oil, there are number of other products which may add further benefits. For example, CBD topical creams can be applied directly to a painful area. CBD teas and hot chocolates can help in the evening with sleep. And CBD bath bombs can be a welcome addition to an already helpful hot bath.
We know that CBD is considered safe by the World Health Organisation. That it is not psychoactive and does not lead to addiction.
CBD can often be taken alongside other medication too (not all though - double check this with your doctor).
What we also have are some great success stories!
Fiona Henry was an active, busy and fit person. In a job she loved, with a group of friends she loved to go dancing with at the weekend.
Once the symptoms of fibromyalgia set it, Fiona couldn’t even walk more than 100 yards, let alone run the half marathons or walk her beloved dogs, that she’d been able to do.
Fiona went from the person who managed the household - cooking, cleaning, shopping - to someone who had to solely rely on her husband. Fiona was not only crippled with pain, but filled with guilt.
Fiona describes her worst days as terrifying and isolating, she was ‘trapped in her own body’. Fiona was temporarily paralized and completely bed bound at times and unable to tolerate noise or light.
‘I felt as though I was trapped in my own body. It was terrifying and incredibly isolating.’
Everything Fiona had known and had looked forward to was taken from her. The impact on her life was immense and devastating.
Fiona found some relief in being diagnosed and this gave her the opportunity to try and manage what was happening to her. Despite this, Fiona had to become accustomed to living with being constantly tired and constantly in pain.
Willing to try anything to endure her life of pain and fatigue, Fiona starting to consider taking CBD. In a fortunate turn of events, Fiona had a chance conversation with a visiting family member who knew someone to owned ‘Hapi Hemp’, a website she’d been looking at just that week.
“CBD changed everything for me” shared Fiona. She doesn’t claim it’s a miracle cure, but describes it as making a huge difference in enabling her to manage the condition. Fiona uses a range of products, including CBD oil, CBD tea, CBD bath salts, CBD roller and massage oil.
“CBD changed everything for me”
Fiona stated that since she’s been taking CBD, she sleeps better and consequently wakes up more refreshed. It offers pain relief, healed her tinnitus, reduced her migraine attacks, keeps her calm and cured her restless leg syndrome
CBD has allowed Fiona a heightened quality of life and, in her own words, just the ability to ‘feel more alive’.
More success stories for fibromyalgia and CBD
Our success stories come from social media, other CBD websites or through people we know personally. Some people are comfortable sharing their names and products, others prefer to remain anonymous. We feel hearing other people's positive experiences are a vital part of learning about how CBD can help, although it is important to remember that not all CBD products work the same for everyone. Don't be disheartened if one product/dosage doesn't work for you... keep trying!
We'd love to hear your success stories! If you would like to share yours, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have fibromyalgia and ME/CFS as well as anxiety and depression. The fibromyalgia and anxiety affects my sleep massively and I rarely get a refreshed feeling when I wake up and often have trouble getting to sleep and sleeping deeply. The CFS then counteracts it and can knock me out, so then I have to reset my sleep pattern again. I always have some degree of muscle pain and although it is managed relatively well after 6 years, it is still restrictive and dictates what and how much I can do with my time. I am on tramadol 3 x daily for pain relief and a whole host of other tablets for other symptoms and comorbidities.
I often use Kalms sleeping tablets and have probably tried most herbal sleeping aids over the years. I have tried meditation, breathing techniques, white noises and other mind clearing exercises with varieties of success. None of these have worked long term. I tried 200mg CBD oil previously for the pain and did not find it had much of an impact. Although I had reservations of spending money again on something that wouldn't work, I bought some Bubblegum sweets by KLM Tech. Max strength 1000mg.
I noticed the difference within a week, and after a little dosage tweaking I felt my muscles relax and and the pain reduce. The biggest effect that I have seen is on my sleep. I eat one about 45 minutes before I go to sleep and I fall straight to sleep when I want to. I am not awake for hours, I don’t constantly toss and turn, I just fall asleep! It is amazing. I sleep through the night and feel much more refreshed in the morning than normal.
Three weeks in and the benefits of actually getting restorative sleep have meant that I rarely eat a gummy during the day now. I have more energy; my pain is less during the day and my brain feels clearer from having good quality restorative sleep.
- Liz Milne
You can read Liz's full story in our dedicated success stories pages!
"I first tried CBD to try and ease some symptoms of fibromyalgia - predominantly pain. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia back in 2015. I also have a pinched nerve in my neck and a herniated disc in my lower back. I struggle to fall asleep as a result of the amount of pain I'm in. It takes me on average about 4 hours to fall asleep, whereas now it’s within half an hour!
After using CBD oil for a few weeks and upping my dosage I’m really starting to feel some good benefits now. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is my pain levels. The whole point I started this journey was to help with chronic nerve pain and it really is starting to help. I’ve recently started using 60mg a day of CBD and it’s making the world of difference. I have hours now where I feel barely any pain, most noticeable in my neck, I feel now that I have a fuller range of motion which is fantastic. I still ache all over from the fibromyalgia but I have to admit it’s not as intense.
I’m still fine tuning my dose at the moment, I find the pain relief lasts between 3-4 hours after having a dose so there’s a couple of hours sometimes where the pain kicks back in, but I see that as good as it’s really highlighted just how much it’s helping.
I think over the next few weeks and months I can probably tweak the dose to improve things further. I don’t take any other medications now, I haven’t done for about 6 months as I got sick and tired of all the side effects that come along with them.
I’ve also noticed it’s helped with my anxiety, although I didn’t realise it at first. I was in a situation where I would normally be feeling very anxious, but instead I remember thinking “I should be feeling anxious....but I’m not!”
Read Greg's full story to find out more about his experience with CBD