What Are the Benefits of CBD for Multiple Sclerosis?
Research on CBD for MS is limited, but shows it might reduce pain and spasticity
Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist who has covered health topics for more than 10 years. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Emily Dashiell, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has worked in group and private practice settings over the last 15 years. She is in private practice in Santa Monica, California.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that causes a range of symptoms, including fatigue, cognitive impairment, and muscle weakness. MS can manifest in many ways, but patients have one thing in common: the symptoms of MS have a big impact on their quality of life.
To manage symptoms, some MS patients turn to cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. Scientists are still researching the benefits of CBD for people with MS, but early indications show that CBD might help control some MS symptoms, such as pain and muscle stiffness.
This article will review what you should know about CBD and multiple sclerosis, including the potential benefits, safety concerns, and optimal dosage.
Verywell / Michela Buttignol
Immune System and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. That means that the symptoms of the disease occur because the immune system is attacking healthy cells in the way that it’s supposed to attack viruses and other pathogens.
In MS, the immune system targets the myelin sheath, a protective coating that wraps around nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. When the immune system attacks this barrier, it causes inflammation and damage, which can impair the nerve signaling that facilitates movement, breathing, thinking, and more.
The severity of MS symptoms varies, depending on the location of the attack and the extent of the damage to the myelin sheath, but they most often include fatigue, muscle weakness or stiffness, and cognitive dysfunction.
Cannabinoids and the Immune System
Cannabinoids are a group of compounds found in the cannabis plant. The two main cannabinoids are THC (the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana) and CBD (which does not have a psychoactive component).
The body processes cannabinoids via cannabinoid receptors, which are found in the brain and in immune cells. This is all part of the endocannabinoid system, which regulates inflammation, immune function, motor control, pain, and other bodily functions commonly affected by MS.
This connection helps explain why CBD can be beneficial for MS. Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce inflammation and regulate immune response. CBD does this without mind-altering properties, making it appealing to people looking for relief from MS symptoms without the “high” of marijuana.
Benefits of CBD for MS
In a recent meta-analysis, researchers concluded that cannabinoids, including CBD, are “probably effective” at alleviating certain symptoms of MS, including pain and abnormal muscle tightness (spasticity), but “probably not effective” for treating muscle tremors or incontinence.
Additional research supported using CBD for MS. Here are some key findings:
- A 2018 scientific review found that CBD supplementation reduced pain, fatigue, inflammation, depression, and spasticity in people with MS, while improving mobility. The authors concluded that recommending CBD supplementation for people with MS would be advisable.
- A 2014 scientific review found that Sativex (nabiximols), a CBD nasal spray, can help reduce pain, spasticity, and frequent urination in patients with MS.
- Two different 2021 medical reviews found that in animal models, CBD helps regulate the immune system, reducing the autoimmune response that causes MS symptoms. More research is needed, but in the future this may mean that cannabis-derived medications and CBD could be used to treat the progression of MS, not just the symptoms.
Are There Any Side Effects?
CBD is generally considered safe, and it does not have mind-altering properties. A dose of up to 300 mg daily of CBD is safe for up to six months. Higher doses are safe for a shorter amount of time.
However, like any other supplements or medication, CBD may have side effects in some individuals. These may include:
- Low blood pressure
- Damage to the liver
In addition, CBD may interact with many other prescription drugs. It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing with CBD, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Most doctors who treat MS are familiar with CBD, since at least 20% of MS patients are currently using CBD.
CBD is legal for consumption in the United States, but cannabis products that contain THC are illegal at the federal level. Be sure to understand the legal and professional implications of using CBD, especially if you are regularly screened for drug use.
Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration does not oversee or regulate any CBD supplements, so it’s important to purchase CBD products from a reputable source.
How to Use CBD for MS
CBD is available in many different forms, including topicals, tinctures, edibles, and nasal sprays.
You’ll also have to decide whether you want to take a full or broad-spectrum CBD, which contains other cannabinoids, or a CBD isolate, which contains just cannabidiol. Limited research suggests there may be a benefit to the “entourage effect”: It’s believed that having other cannabinoids present may make CBD more effective.
Consulting your healthcare provider can help you decide where to start with CBD supplementation. They can offer insight as to what has worked for other patients and guide you toward an appropriate dose of CBD.
How to Buy CBD for MS
It’s important to deal with reputable dispensaries when purchasing CBD for MS. Here’s what you should consider when buying CBD to treat MS:
- The legal status of CBD in your state, including whether you need a medical cannabis card
- The possible impact of taking CBD on your professional licenses or other areas in your life
- Your goals in taking CBD, and the symptoms you would most like to address
- Whether you would like a CBD isolate or a full-spectrum product that contains other cannabinoids
- Whether the retailer is licensed in your state
- Where the product was sourced (grown)
- Whether the product has a COA, or certificate of analysis, which shows the chemical composition of a substance
A Word from Verywell
MS can have a huge impact on your quality of life, which is why so many people look for relief from MS symptoms. The research around CBD and MS is very promising: It shows that some people experience reduced pain and spasticity when they use CBD supplements.
In the future, CBD-derived medication may even be used to control the progression of the disease by reducing inflammation.
Unfortunately, use of CBD for MS is still in its infancy, and there’s a clear need for more research. For now, it’s best to talk with your doctor and trusted peers when deciding whether CBD is right for you. Don’t be shy about speaking up: Research has shown that up to 60% of MS patients are currently using cannabis and 90% would consider it.
You shouldn’t feel any shame or hesitation about investigating this treatment option. However, it’s important to understand any legal and professional implications for where you live, especially if you use a product containing THC.
Although there is a lot of promise for CBD to treat MS, there is no FDA-approved treatment. Using it in combination with more traditional medically sanctioned treatment is likely a good course of action.
Frequently Asked Questions
Research indicates that CBD likely helps with muscle spasticity in people with MS. A UK-based study found that physicians did not measure a large improvement in spasticity in people taking CBD versus a supplement. However, the people taking CBD reported a reduction in spasticity compared with those taking a placebo. Because of that, the Multiple Sclerosis Society says that CBD is likely effective for spasticity.
CBD is generally considered safe, and some research shows that it likely helps treat pain and spasticity caused by MS. However, CBD is not FDA approved for treating MS or its symptoms. You should speak with your healthcare provider about using CBD to treat MS.
Much of the research on using CBD for MS pain has been done using oral supplements and nasal sprays. Some people also report benefits from smoking CBD flowers or cannabis. It’s best to speak with your healthcare provider and consider the legal standing of CBD and cannabis in your state as you decide how best to use CBD to treat MS pain.
CBD Oil for Muscle Spasms: Is Cannabidiol an Effective Treatment?
CBD is a great way to relieve the symptoms of muscle spasms.
In this article, we will be looking at the best CBD for muscle spasms.
We’ll cover how it works, what dose to use, what forms work best, and what side-effects to watch out for.
What Are Muscle Spasms?
Muscle spasms, also known as muscle cramps, are the result of involuntary contractions. Muscle spasms can become an issue if they cannot be relaxed naturally.
Anyone can suffer from muscle spasms with the most common muscle groups being the thighs, claws, arms, hands, and feet.
Pain levels range from mild annoyance to severe pain.
When you suffer from muscle spasms, the affected muscle may feel harder and look distorted. This is due to the involuntary contractions. These spasms can last a few seconds to 10 minutes or more.
Muscle spasms can happen at any time to people of all ages. When you’re exercising, sitting still, sleeping, or even walking to the shop you can experience these cramps.
Some people suffer more than others. People with diabetes, anemia, MS, spinal injuries, or kidney disease can suffer more from this issue than people in good health.
What Causes Muscle Spasms?
Whether you suffer from the above ailments or not, there are a few common issues that can cause muscle spasms. See the list below.
- Insufficient stretching before physical activity
- Muscle fatigue
- Physical activity in hot climates
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Too much caffeine
- Exhaustion and lack of sleep
- Certain prescription medications
Methods to Reduce or Prevent Muscle Spasms
As well as using CBD for muscle spasms there are some ways you can reduce or prevent the spasms entirely. Of course, if you suffer from a disease, illness, or take medication that causes muscle spasms, these pointers may not help.
If you regularly suffer from muscle spasms, then implementing a few of the points below may help you:
- Stay hydrated
- Make sure to stretch before strenuous activity
- Try and lower your stress levels (CBD is great for this)
- Get a full 8 hours rest at night
- Take mineral supplements that include magnesium, potassium, and sodium
- If prescription meds are causing issues, speak with your doctor about alternatives
- Cut down on the caffeine
- Avoid over-exercising
Muscle Spasms & the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. It’s a complex cell-signaling system that was first identified in the 1990s.
Regardless of whether you use CBD or other cannabis products, this system is part of everyone’s biology.
Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids made inside the body. They help regulate a range of functions and processes. See the list below for a few of these.
- Mood and emotion
- Immune response
In the same way that endocannabinoids interact with the body, cannabinoids from the hemp plant do as well — including CBD. They do this by interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors have been identified predominantly in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). They’ve also been found in connective tissues, the intestines, gonads, and other peripheral organs.
CB2 receptors have been identified in white blood cells, the spleen, tonsils, thymus, and lymphatic system.
CBD and other cannabinoids interact with these receptors. Studies have shown that CBD impacts receptor activity. They can interact with neurotransmitters, reduce inflammation, and aid in pain relief.
When a muscle contracts, causing cramps and spasms, it’s because of a chemical message from the central nervous system. The body’s endocannabinoid system can take care of this and reduce contractions and pain.
If the body struggles to produce enough endocannabinoids to stop these chemical signals, then muscle spasms will continue to cause discomfort.
This is where CBD comes in.
CBD interacts with the CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and effectively slows the chemical signals that are causing the spasms .
This results in muscle relaxation and fewer muscle contractions. Pain relief coincides with these effects.
Can CBD Relieve Muscle Spasms?
As mentioned in the last section, CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to relieve muscle spasms and the pain associated with it.
CBD Relaxes the Muscles
CBD is a great muscle relaxant. Unlike painkillers, muscle relaxants work to solve the issue of muscle cramps rather than just numbing the pain that results from it.
The beauty of CBD is that it gets to the root of the problem and influences the chemical signals that cause muscle spasms (as mentioned in the last section).
Unlike spasmolytic and neuromuscular blockers, CBD has few negative side effects and works with your body’s natural functions rather than against them.
Spasmolytic muscle relaxants are particularly dangerous, especially for older people. They can increase heart rate, and blood pressure, and can be incredibly addictive as this type of medication is part of the opioid group.
CBD certainly isn’t dangerous, doesn’t increase the heart rate, and there are no documented cases of addiction to the cannabinoid.
CBD Reduces Stress
CBD helps reduce stress which can be a trigger for muscle spasms.
There is a lot to say about CBD reducing stress and anxiety . The cannabinoid is commonly used to help these problems by people all over the world.
Although stress is not directly related to muscle spasms, it can be one of the reasons you’re experiencing these issues.
It’s important to address the cause of an issue. If stress is giving you muscle spasms, you should work toward reducing or eliminating it completely. Lowering stress levels using CBD could be a great long-term treatment if stress is the cause.
CBD Can Aid Sleep
Lack of sleep and exhaustion can cause muscles to spasm. CBD can help you get to sleep faster and achieve a full nights’ rest.
If you struggle with sleep, high-doses of CBD before bedtime can help you doze off into a deep sleep. Stress is often the cause of lack of sleep, so both factors go hand in hand.
Some research shows that CBD can have an effect on cortisol levels .
Cortisol regulates your sleep cycle. Some people (particularly insomnia sufferers) have high levels of cortisol at night which keeps them awake.
Taking high doses of CBD at night can decrease cortisol levels, getting you to sleep easier and faster.
CBD Aids Muscle Recovery
CBD is believed to aid in muscle recovery . Many athletes and fitness fanatics use CBD as it can speed up the muscle recovery process.
If you’re experiencing muscle spasms after exercise or excessive physical activity, this benefit will help you get instant and long-term relief.
During strenuous exercise, the muscles tear and rebuild during the recovery period. During this period some people experience cramping and spasms. If you can recover more efficiently you will experience less discomfort.
How Much CBD to Take for Muscle Spasms?
High-potency CBD oil is the best treatment for muscle spasms.
How much you take will depend on you and how your body reacts to the CBD. If you’ve never used CBD before it’s best to start small and work your way up.
The dosage needed to stop muscle spasms will vary from person to person, so a bit of self-experimentation is needed to find your balance. Steadily increase your dosages until you get the effect you’re looking for.
Oils are the easiest way to find out how many milligrams of CBD you need to control muscle spasms. You can adjust the dosage by increasing or decreasing the drops of oil taken.
Final Thoughts: Does CBD Work for Muscle Spasms?
CBD is a great way to reduce muscle spasms and pain you may have as a result of them. Unlike other muscle relaxants and painkillers, CBD has few negative effects on your body and is a natural product.
As well as solving the problem directly, CBD has a number of benefits that work together to reduce muscle spasms for the long-term.
If you got to the end of this read, you’ll know exactly how CBD can help muscle spasms and what to look for when it comes time to purchase a treatment.
If you have any questions about CBD and muscle spasms, please comment down below.
Thanks for reading.
References Used in This Article
- Shenglong Zou and Ujendra Kumar. (2018). Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. International journal of molecular science,19(3): 833.
- Esther M. Blessing, Maria M. Steenkamp, Jorge Manzanares, and Charles R. Marmar. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Springer Neurotherapeutics, 12(4): 825–836.
- Scott Shannon, Nicole Lewis, Heather Lee, and Shannon Hughes. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal, 23: 18-041.
- Danielle McCartney, Melissa J. Benson, Ben Desbrow, Christopher Irwin, Anastasia Suraev, and Iain S. McGregor. (2020). Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: a Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research. Springer Sports Medicine-Open, 6: 27.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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