Advertisements pushing milk as the answer to strong bones are almost inescapable. But does “got milk?” really translate into “got strong bones?” The pro-milk faction believes that increased calcium intake—particularly in the form of the currently recommended three glasses of milk per day—will help prevent osteoporosis, the weakening of bones. Each year, osteoporosis leads to more than 2 million fractures, including more than 250,000 broken hips. On the other side are those who believe that consuming a lot of milk and other dairy products will have little effect on the rate of fractures but may contribute to problems such as heart disease or prostate cancer. But could there be a new contender for strong bones hidden inside cannabis?
You may not have thought of this, but the connection between cannabis and bone health isn’t an obvious one. It’s not a connection that immediately makes sense to most. How can a puff from a joint improve density, or heal fractures? Due to several laws being passed to make the study of this plant possible, cannabis research is well underway, exploring how cannabinoids may increase the density of aging bones, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and now, even healing bones with fractures.
We already know that the endocannabinoid system controls bone health to some degree. Both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, scattered throughout your system, regulate various aspects of bone formation and reabsorption. There is already a basis for the use of cannabis for bone loss related to osteoporosis and other bone density conditions. Now, new research is suggesting how some cannabinoids may help heal fractured bones in animal models.
A 2017 study out of Jerusalem was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. It covered the impacts of THC and CBD on healing bones. This was a joint project by Dr. Yankel Gabet of the Bone Research Laboratory at the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Itai Bab of Hebrew University’s Bone Laboratory. Together, they explored how each compound works in synergy to heal mid-femur fractures in lab rats. The study was eight weeks long, and the Israeli team dosed the rats with a mixture of THC and CBD. They analyzed what is called the “work to failure” rate, which just means the amount that the rats could use their injured limb before collapse. They also measured the maximum load on the injured leg. Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non psychoactive component of cannabis improved maximum weight as well as the work to failure rate for the duration of the trial. This just means that with CBD introduced to the rat’s system, the amount that the rat’s could endure while injured improved as opposed to without the CBD. On the flip side, THC had little to no impact over either measure.This is also an important finding as it supports the idea that CBD is essential for physical health while THC can have other applications. By far one of the biggest findings is that researchers also uncovered biological and measurable evidence that cannabis healed fractures when compared to a control group. In this study at least, CBD was effective for healing bones over the short term.
As per Dr. Gabet, “We found that CBD alone makes bones stronger during healing, enhancing the maturation of the collagenous matrix, which provides the basis for new mineralization of bone tissue. After being treated with CBD, the healed bone will be harder to break in the future.”
Gabet went on to say that their findings warrant further study. Cannabis, and especially CBD, has a low risk of adverse reaction and cannabis more generally is well received by patients. Bone fractures often require opioid prescriptions, and a less addictive alternative that doesn’t contribute to heart disease or cancer is desperately needed. CBD could very well be a much needed answer to many, many unknowns within western medicine.