Bone Health – Medical Marijuana Research Overview
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Overview of Bone Health
Bones are continuously changing as the body breaks down old bone and makes new bone. While in young years, the body makes bone faster than it breaks it down and thus causes bone mass to increase, after the age of 30, the body breaks down slightly bone at a slightly higher rate than it builds new bone. This remodeling process occurs through bone cells, which are called osteoblasts. Osteoplasts are responsible for the formation of bone and bone mineralization.
While there are many kinds of bone diseases, the most common is osteoporosis, which is when the bones become weaker as a result of breaking down bone faster than it puts new bone in its place. When bones are weaker, they’re more susceptible to breaking. Osteoporosis can make bones so brittle and weak that even mild-intensity activities like coughing and bending over can be stressful enough to cause a fracture.
Besides age, there are other risk factors than affect bone density. According to Mayo Clinic, these other factors include the amount of calcium in the diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, gender, body size, race and family history, hormone levels, the presence of eating disorders and the consumption of certain medications. Because of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, older women are overall more susceptible to having osteoporosis.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Bone Health
Research has shown that cannabis can help boost bone density, thus strengthening bone tissue and lowering the risk of osteoporosis. Within osteoblasts of bones are CB2 receptors, which are responsible for handling the growing of bone tissue—both the stimulation of building new bone and the inhibition of old bone breakdown. The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in marijuana, has been shown to be able to activate the CB2 receptor, in turn stimulating bone formation and inhibiting bone breakdown (Bab, Zimmer & Melamed, 2009). Even low concentrates of cannabinoids have been shown to be effective at activating human osteoclasts, thus boosting bone density and offering therapeutic benefits to bone disease (Whyte, et al., 2012). This suggests that those with higher risk factors of experiencing bone weakness or those already diagnosed with osteoporosis could benefit from regular cannabis treatment.
Researchers have also found that another cannabinoid found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has the capability of significantly improving the healing process of bones. In a 2015 study, the rats with broken leg bones that were treated with CBD for eight weeks were found to have significantly stronger healed legs than the rats that were not treated with CBD (Kogan, et al., 2015). The CBD was able to enhance the maturation of collagen, the protein in the bone’s connective tissue that holds the bone together. While research is currently limited in this area, this recent discovery demonstrates that cannabis could potentially offer additional bone health benefits.
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Bone Health
While Washington DC and 23 states currently have adopted type of medical marijuana legislation, no states have specifically approved medical marijuana for bone health. However, some states do consider other conditions and may approve cannabis for bone health treatments on a case-by-case basis. These states include: California (any debilitating disease where medical marijuana recommended by physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by physician), and Nevada, Oregon and Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval). In addition, Washington DC allows medical marijuana to be used for any debilitating condition as recommended by DC licensed doctor.
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ effect on Bone Health
- Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts.
The cannabidiol CBD, found in cannabis, led to a significant improvement in fracture healing.
- Cannabinoids and the skeleton: from marijuana to reversal of bone loss.
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19634029) Tetrahydrocannabinol in marijuana helps stimulate bone formation and protects against age-related bone loss.
- Bab, I., Zimmer, A. and Melamed, E. (2009). Cannabinoids and the skeleton: from marijuana to reversal of bone loss. Annals of Medicine. 41(8), 560-7.
- Bone Health: Tips to Keep Your Bones Healthy. (February 9, 2013). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/art-20045060.
- Kogan, N. M., Melamed, E., Wasserman, E., Raphael, B., Breuer, A., Stok, K. S., Sondergaard, R., Escudero, A. V., Baraghithy, S., Attar-Namdar, M., Friedlander-Barenboim, S., Mathavan, N., Isaksson, H., Mechoulam, R., Müller, R., Bajayo, A., Gabet, Y. and Bab, I. (2015), Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2513
- Whyte, LS., Ford, L., Ridge, SA., Cameron, GA., Rogers, MJ. and Ross, RA. (2012, April). Cannabinoids and bone: endocannabinoids modulate human osteoclast function in vitro. British Journal of Pharmacology. 165(8), 2584-97.
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