Over the past few years many studies have suggested that cannabis is an effective treatment for neuropathic pain. Many advocates have also been saying this for years. However, a fairly new study from the University of New Mexico is one of the most conclusive to be done as of yet. It has found that whole-plant “full-spectrum” hemp oil greatly reduced pain in mice.
In this study, the researchers wrote that in a number of cases, “full-spectrum” extracted hemp oil had the effect of “reducing mechanical pain sensitivity over tenfold.” A reduction in pain this large is a significant amount of pain reduction. In a news article released about the study, researchers also noted that hemp oil proved to be so effective that some of the mice experienced pain sensitivity on par with mice who had no pain issues and received no treatment at all. At the University of New Mexico, this study is the first to measure the therapeutic potential of legal hemp oil with low amounts of THC levels. In the news release, co-researcher Dr. Jacob Miguel Vigil, associate professor in the school’s Psychology Department, explained that cannabis plants that have low levels of THC offer “profound and often immediate relief from symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and depression.”
With hemp becoming legal, researchers were enticed to start to study. The researchers focused on hemp oil due to Congress’s act that made hemp sales legal nationwide in 2018 with the Farm Bill. “This decision marked a monumental milestone in the history of cannabis prohibition in the United States,” wrote the researchers from the University of New Mexico. This is because it legalized the production, market trade, and consumption of hemp, and hemp derived products; something not done nationwide since the 1930s when the cannabis prohibition started. Hemp legalization happened due to hemp not containing high amounts of THC, the chemical in cannabis that causes that high euphoric feeling.
Anecdotal evidence of the benefits of hemp oil has been around for many years. However, researchers wanted to investigate its applications to pain because of very little research being done in the United States. That’s due to the federal government limiting testing up to this point. In the studies’ news release, researchers noted that hemp’s legalization gave U.S. citizens access to a “natural, effective and relatively safe alternative option for treating chronic pain” as opposed to opioids, which can cause a slew of additional issues.
Opioids have become one of the leading forms of preventable death in the country. The opioid epidemic has prompted many people to question why opioid painkillers are legal but marijuana isn’t.
Mice give researchers an advantage since humans have pre- existing biases. At the University of New Mexico, researchers used mice in their experiments. They noted that using animals in such an experiment actually has benefits over human clinical trials, because of human bias against marijuana, expectancy effects, and perceptual and cognitive reactions that can occur with people who enroll in a cannabis-themed experiment.
To produce pain in the mice, the researchers used post-operative neuropathic pain equivalent to several years of chronic pain in human clinical patients. For several hours after cannabis consumption, mice experienced a substantial decrease in their pain; in some cases, they experienced almost no pain at all during this period. The researchers found that the “entourage effect” contained in only full-spectrum hemp oil is key to its pain management properties. Every cannabinoid—CBD, CBN, THC—works in harmony. Researcher Jegason P. Diviant said in the news release that “hemp plants contain numerous therapeutic constituents that likely contribute to analgesic responses, including terpenes and flavonoids, which in theory, work together like members of a symphony.”
The researchers explained that more research will need to be done on the long-term impact of using hemp oil for pain, as well as human trials.