Marijuana and Bone Health: Can cannabis help with Osteoporosis?

The link between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and bone density regulation is had been well established by several clinical studies, but more research is still need to clearly define efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone density, and the disease causes approximately 2 million bone fractures each year, thus showing the need for an efficient and urgent cure.

What is osteoporosis all about?

Osteoporosis is a condition of weak or brittle bones which often occurs with age. It literally refers to porous bone, which results from reduction in the density and quality of the bone rendering the bones more porous and fragile; the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively with often little or no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.

How does the Endocannabinoid Regulate Bone Density

Before marijuana was specifically suggested as a potential cause of osteoporosis, researchers discovered that the ECS played a role in at the beginning  of the disease.

A 2005 Natural Medicine research suggested that the activation of CB1 receptors played a role in increasing bone mass and ovariectomy induced bone growth in miceThis link pushed the investigators to suggest in the research that “recreational or therapeutic use of marijuana derivative might enhance bone growth and reduce osteoporosis.”  According Research carried out by Dr. Tiab and other researches, the best ways to prevent osteoporosis are: A diet plentiful in calcium vitamin weight-bearing exercise and Cigarette avoidance

However in a 2017 review, clinical studies targeted specific cannabinoid receptors (CB2) and showed that they had the ability of slowing osteoporosis and equally reducing bone pain.  Another 2017 European Journal of Pharmacology research analyzed the effect of CBD on the loss of BMD in rats. This was done by were surgically impairing the rats’ spines and then treating with CBD for the following 14 days.  The results were promising as they revealed that CBD stimulated the production of bone forming agents and enhanced the quantity and quality of bone tissue in the spine. The investigators also discovered that CBD had successfully treated spinal cord injury induced by bone loss in the animals that were examined.

A research carried out by Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine also suggest that  that the  marijuana compound cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), which is a nonhallucinogenic chemical in cannabis  plants, helps heal bone fractures. This compound in cannabis produces its effects by stimulating the receptors that respond to compounds called endocannabinoids, which consist of cannabis like molecules that are usually synthesized by the body  naturally. In the brain, marijuana acts on these receptors to trigger mind-altering effects. Since cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, some researchers think that marijuana compounds might possess medical applications beyond the treatment of cancer patients and helping them to regain their appetites or get relief from pain

According to Dr. Deborah Kado, a bone health specialist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and also a member the scientific board of Kalytera Therapeutics, a company investigating the medical use, cannabinoids the CBD compound extracted from the marijuana plant has potential for treating osteoporosis.The researchers also discovered that cannabinoid receptors can stimulate bone formation. This study was conducted by injecting rats that had broken thighbones with either CBD alone, or a combination of CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the hallucinogenic ingredient in marijuana which produces the euphoria or what is commonly known as the ‘high’.  The investigators discovered that CBD enhanced bone healing by strengthening the cartilage “bridge” which is formed when a bone is on the mend. The cartilage bridge is also called the fracture callus;  is  composed  of collagen, which then gradually mineralizes and hardens into new bone.

Should marijuana be it be Smoked or Ingested

Some marijuana companies have built cannabinoid infused analogues that may be taken in pill form. But the most popular method of ingesting marijuana is by smoking it as close to 97% marijuana users have reported that that is how they have used it and are still using it. However, note should be taken that like cigarette smoke, the smoke from marijuana has chemical compounds that might irritate the bladder.  However Medical researchers in Europe and America have been able to develop more promising ways to ingest marijuana through an inhaled vapor, wax, harsh, oils etc.

The Take home message

Medical Marijuana may be beneficial for patients suffering with osteoporosis. Scientific evidence gathered from several clinical studies suggest that it can enhance the development of bones and heal bone fractures. However more research is still needed to confirm these findings. People should thus consult their doctors before deciding to use marijuana for osteoporosis. The doctor can help them weigh up the pros and cons of the treatment and determine whether or not it is safe and suitable for them and the doses of marijuana to take.

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