5 Best CBD Oils for Pain
Many people may find pain relief with CBD oil. Here are the best CBD oil products for pain that meet our experts' criteria for quality and safety.
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CBD oil for pain
Most people who use cannabidiol, or CBD, take CBD oil for chronic pain or joint pain. That’s according to a 2018 study of more than 2,400 people published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research that found CBD is used as a therapy for a wide range of conditions, from anxiety to sleep disorders.
Some people believe that CBD acts as a better therapeutic alternative for pain that hasn’t responded well to traditional therapies. (Here’s what you need to know about CBD for dental pain and anxiety.)
While the evidence that CBD is an effective pain reliever in humans is still accumulating, lab and animal studies show that it has anti-inflammatory effects. It also acts on serotonin receptors, opioid receptors, and other receptors involved in our pain response. (Learn more about CBD and inflammation.)
What to consider before using CBD oil
If you’re considering CBD oil for pain, there are a few things you need to take into account, including legality and verifying that the product contains what the label says it does. The latter is especially important if you live in a state where laws don’t allow licensed marijuana dispensaries.
Currently, legal medical marijuana programs are available in many states and some of these states permit the medical use of products that are high in CBD, but low in delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance that makes people high. (Learn more about CBD vs. THC.)
However, the marijuana plant and its other components are still labeled as a Schedule 1 by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning they have no medical use. Farmers can grow hemp—a cannabis plant that tends to contain higher levels of CBD and low levels of THC—thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018. THC levels should be 0.3 percent or less for farmers to be permitted to grow it. (Here’s the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil.)
The new law does not legalize CBD. This means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to decide how to regulate CBD products. Currently, the lack of regulation translates to buyer beware. (More on this later.)
Here’s what you need to know about how to choose the best CBD oil for pain.
How do you use CBD oil?
Taking CBD oil sublingually—holding it under your tongue, ideally for two minutes—is more efficient and works more consistently than swallowing it, notes Bonni Goldstein, MD, medical director and owner of Cannacenters and author of Cannabis is Medicine: How Medical Cannabis and CBD are Healing Everything from Anxiety to Chronic Pain.
When you swallow CBD, “you can absorb 4 percent with one dose and the next dose later in the same day you might absorb 15 percent,” Dr. Goldstein explains.
However, there are others who find relief by applying CBD oil directly to the painful area in the form of a CBD cream.
To figure out if CBD oil works to treat your pain, experts advise “starting low and going slow.” There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to determining the CBD dose that’s most effective for you.
Also, keep in mind how you react to CBD products as you try them. Side effects of CBD in therapeutic doses may include weight loss, diarrhea, and fatigue, among others. On its own, CBD tends to be generally safe. (Learn more about CBD oil.)
What to look for in CBD oil
Right now, it’s up to consumers to make sure they’re buying a CBD product that’s safe, free from contamination, and actually contains what the label says. Goldstein warns this is because the market is essentially unregulated.
“Buyer beware—the FDA is cracking down on these companies for making medical claims, but they do not have the wherewithal to evaluate every product,” says Adam Friedman, MD, professor and interim chair of dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, buying CBD products from a licensed dispensary is your best option, Dr. Friedman says. “That’s why I like sending folks to dispensaries, because at least [there’s] some quality assurance,” he adds.
Here are the criteria we used to select the best CBD oils for pain:
- Extracted using supercritical carbon dioxide, a high-tech method that doesn’t leave toxic solvents behind, or with food-grade ethanol
- Free from pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and other contaminants
- Made from U.S.-grown hemp
- Certified organic
- Produced in compliance with FDA Good Manufacturing Practices
- Tested by a third-party laboratory, with authentic, batch-specific Certificates of Analysis (COAs) readily available to prove it.
You should also decide which type of CBD product you want:
- Full-spectrum: It contains all of the other components of the hemp plant, including small amounts of THC and plant compounds known as terpenes.
- Broad-spectrum: It contains all of other components of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa), plus CBD but no THC.
- CBD isolate: It only has CBD. If you’re worried about flunking a drug test for marijuana, which actually tests for THC, this is your best option.
Best CBD oils for pain
CBDistillery Relief + Relax Broad Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture
CBDistillery offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all its products. This tincture contains 500 mg CBD, or 17 mg in a 1 milliliter serving, making it a good choice if you’re trying CBD for the first time. (Feeling anxious? These are the best CBD oils for anxiety and stress.)
Royal CBD Full Spectrum CBD Oil 250 mg
Royal CBD offers its Full Spectrum CBD Oil in berry, mint, natural, and vanilla flavors, at potencies ranging from 250 mg to 2,500 mg. With 8.33 mg per serving, the 250 mg product is another smart pick for CBD novices.
CBDFx CBD + CBG Oil Wellness Tincture
This tincture comes in potencies ranging from 500 to 4,000 mg, and has multiple five-star reviews from customers who say it has helped them with pain. CBG, or cannabigerol, has shown promise in fighting inflammation in early studies.
Medterra CBD Oil
This CBD isolate is Medterra’s most popular product, and is available in 500 mg, 1,000 mg, and 3,000 mg strengths. It’s also certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, an industry group that promotes best practices standards.
CBD American Shaman Terpene-Rich Hemp Oil Tincture
Cannabis sativa and many other plants produce terpenes to fend off pests and attract pollinators, and these pungent compounds can offer an array of health benefits. This terpene-enriched tincture from U.S. Hemp Authority-certified CBD American Shaman is available in blueberry moon, grape, and other flavors in 150 mg, 300 mg, 450 mg, and 750 mg strengths.
Next, here’s how one woman used CBD oil to sleep better.
- Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: "A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users
- JAMA: "Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online"
- Bonni Goldstein, MD, medical director and owner of Cannacenters and author of Cannabis is Medicine: How Medical Cannabis and CBD are Healing Everything from Anxiety to Chronic Pain
- Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD, professor and interim chair of dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.