At the end of a long workday, when our bodies hurt, we often turn to popular prescription medications.
Medications such as Flexeril or Valium offer a quick fix to muscle spasm, pain, soreness, and tension.
Unfortunately, these medications come with a laundry list of troubling side effects and can be highly habit-forming, leading to problems more severe than muscle pain down the road.
Cannabidiol—CBD, a substance derived from the industrial hemp plant—is showing massive promise as an alternative to prescriptions as a safe, effective muscle relaxant.
Understanding how CBD may work as a muscle relaxant first requires some knowledge of the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The human endocannabinoid system
The importance of the body’s endocannabinoid system is increasingly being recognized in the scientific and medical communities; the endocannabinoid system affects virtually every other physiological system in the body, a fact which may explain the far-reaching medicinal benefits associated with CBD and other cannabinoids.
Chemical messengers moderate all sorts of functions in our brains and bodies. For example, neurotransmitters such as serotonin release from a presynaptic cell, travel across the synapse (the space between neurons) and attach to a postsynaptic cell.
Endocannabinoids—cannabinoids made inside our bodies, such as anandamide and 2-AG—work oppositely. They release from the post-synaptic cell, flow across the synapse, and land on the presynaptic cell. This process allows the postsynaptic cell a flow-control mechanism, telling the presynaptic cell when it’s had enough or needs more of a particular chemical messenger.
For more details about these processes, check out “The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain” (Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 2013).
CBD as a muscle relaxant
When a muscle contracts, it is due to these chemical messengers originating from the central nervous system, going to a muscle, and forcing it to contract. Without a proper supply of endocannabinoids, there is nothing to slow down these excessive chemicals, causing muscles to contract continuously. An insufficient supply of endocannabinoids is a medical condition called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, or CECD.
CBD directly aids in slowing down this flow of chemical messengers, and it also boosts the body’s supply of endocannabinoids, resulting in a two-fold effect: assisting with muscle relaxation and reducing spasticity.
CBD and chronic stress
Additionally, muscle rigidity, tension, and spasticity can be the result of chronic stress or overwork. CBD shows great promise in helping reduce high anxiety levels, which in and of itself creates a huge health bonus to the body and quality of life in general.
A 2015 study in Neurotherapeutics notes: “Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”
If you feel less anxious and stressed after taking CBD, you may be more inclined to hit the gym or a yoga class after work, instead of vegging out in front of the TV or computer.
CBD or THC: Which is better for muscle relaxation?
While CBD alone works well for aiding muscle relaxation, studies in mice, including 2010 research published in Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, have demonstrated that an equal combination of THC and CBD is even more effective. (We aren’t recommending you run out and smoke marijuana, but merely stating what the research shows.) For muscle relaxation, CBD creams and topicals are the most recommended form of consumption.
As with any natural product, always consult your health care provider before embarking on any natural products regimen.