February 5, 2023

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CBD for Senior Arthritis: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects

5 min read

Though cannabidiol (CBD) may help manage arthritis-related joint pain, more research is needed to confirm this. Made from the cannabis plant, CBD has proved to have some anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies, which is why some people may find it helpful for inflammatory arthritis pain.

If you are taking CBD for arthritis, you can take it orally, in capsule form, add it to food in liquid forms such as in sprays or tinctures, or apply it topically to the skin in oils, creams, or lotions.

This article discusses the potential benefits of CBD for arthritis, how to use it, and possible side effects.

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CBD Is Not Psychoactive

Although CBD is an active ingredient in marijuana, it does not cause a person to get “high.” The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to CBD and THC, more than 100 other identified cannabinoids (or substances) are in the cannabis plant.

The Potential Benefits of CBD for Arthritis

Research on animals suggests that CBD can help decrease inflammation and joint pain caused by arthritis. However, more studies are needed to confirm the reported benefits of CBD for humans. When you take CBD for arthritis, you can apply it to the skin with a CBD-infused oil, cream, or lotion. However, you can also take it orally.

CBD and the FDA

CBD is minimally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has approved the use of only one CBD product—a prescription medication called Epidiolex, which treats rare seizure disorders.

How to Use CBD


Before using CBD for arthritis, talk to your healthcare provider. CBD should not serve as a replacement for medications or supplements your healthcare provider has prescribed to help treat your arthritis. CBD products can also interact with certain drugs, leading to unwanted side effects.

There are no specific guidelines for using CBD, and “official” dosing instructions do not exist. CBD is available in various forms, and how it is absorbed into your bloodstream can vary.

Orally (by Mouth)

CBD can be taken orally, through capsules, food, or liquid. When swallowed, CBD takes one to two hours to be absorbed, which delays its effects. It can also be difficult to determine the actual dosage of CBD when taking it as an edible.

Liquid Spray or Tincture

Liquid CBD can be sprayed or taken as a tincture (liquid dropper). These forms of CBD can be absorbed much more quickly by holding the liquid under your tongue for one to two minutes before swallowing. Effects are usually felt within 15–45 minutes with this method, which absorbs it directly into the bloodstream.

When taking CBD in liquid form, take note of the dosage—the amount of liquid in one serving—and the amount of CBD in each dose.

Topically (on the Skin)

CBD can also be applied topically to the skin over the joints affected by arthritis through CBD-infused products such as oils, lotions, or balms.

CBD Extract

CBD extract mixes with a “carrier oil,” such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), hemp seed oil, or olive oil. This helps your body absorb CBD more efficiently. However, carrier oils can potentially have adverse side effects, too. Ensure you consider this when choosing a carrier oil for your CBD.

Potential Side Effects

Several potential side effects of using CBD can include:

  • Liver injury
  • Fertility issues in males
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Agitation

Risks and Interactions

CBD products can negatively interact with various medications, many of which can also treat arthritis symptoms.

Examples include:

  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Celebrex (celecoxib)
  • Prednisone (corticosteroids)
  • Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Neurontin (gabapentin)
  • Lyrica (pregabalin)
  • Xeljanz (tofacitinib)
  • Ultram (tramadol)

In addition to potential drug interactions, there are other risks associated with using CBD products—such as unproven medical claims, potentially unsafe levels of contaminants, and chemical content that differs from what the product advertises. One 2017 study found that 26% of 84 online CBD products tested contained less CBD than labeled.

Summary

CBD is a component of the cannabis plant that has proved to have anti-inflammatory effects. In animal studies, CBD products reduced the inflammation and joint pain that results from arthritis. However, there is currently no research to back up these claims for human use, including for seniors with arthritis.

CBD is typically taken orally or applied to the skin over areas affected by arthritis. The FDA does not regulate CBD products, and there are no official dosing instructions. CBD can also cause unwanted side effects and interact with certain medications.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering CBD for your arthritis symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider first to be sure it’s safe for you. Discuss your current medications, as well as which type of product and dose of CBD is most appropriate for your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much CBD should a senior take?

    CBD products are minimally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there are no official recommendations for CBD dosages. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if CBD is appropriate for you.

  • What medications cannot be taken with CBD oil?

    Various medications can potentially interact with CBD products, such as certain anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and painkillers. Discuss your current medications with your healthcare provider before using CBD products.

  • Is CBD oil good for inflammatory arthiritis?

    In animal research studies, CBD has proved to reduce inflammation and pain from arthritis. There is currently no research to support these claims for human use.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT

Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living. 

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