Evidence based

CBD and Rheumatism: Current Research & Understanding

Rheumatism is a term referring to joint pain. CBD may be beneficial to a number of rheumatic conditions through its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 10 months ago

The word rheumatism is no longer used by medical professionals. However, it’s still used by many to describe symptoms of joint pain and inflammation.

Rheumatism was, at one time, synonymous with arthritis — a painful inflammatory disorder of the joint tissues throughout the body. The definition also included other disorders of the connective tissue, including fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and gout.

CBD is an effective treatment option for people with various forms of rheumatism and joint damage.

In this article, we’ll focus on the traditional definition of rheumatism and discuss how CBD is used to alleviate symptoms and slow progression-related diseases.


    Abraham Benavides, M.D., Medical Doctor

    Updated on August 22, 2020

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Rheumatism

All forms of rheumatism involve pain and inflammation in the joints and connective tissues. The causes of pain and inflammation can vary.

What makes CBD so effective for rheumatic conditions is that it offers a broad spectrum of anti-inflammatory actions — rather than targeting one specific pathway.

This is helpful because it means we don’t need to know exactly which inflammatory markers are causing the most trouble. All we need to do is ensure we’re taking enough CBD and monitor symptoms closely for any changes — both good and bad.

CBD is useful for these conditions because it offers what we call an immunomodulating effect. Instead of forcing the immune system into overdrive (like immunostimulants) or suppressing it (like immunosuppressants), CBD exerts a modulating effect. It turns the immune system up when it’s working too slowly and down when it’s working too much.

Rheumatism usually involves the immune system going into overdrive, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the joints.

The last benefit of CBD that we’ll be discussing is its effect on pain management. CBD is well-known for its pain-killing benefits, which is exactly what people suffering from rheumatism are looking for. The condition can be extremely painful — prompting those affected to seek powerful pain medications, such as opiates and acetaminophen, for relief from symptoms.

The problem with these medications is that they’re addictive and come with a long list of negative side-effects, such as liver and kidney damage, sedation, and addiction.

Highlighting the Benefits of CBD for Rheumatism

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory properties slow the progression of the disease
  • Exerts a modulating effect on the immune system to keep disease progression in check
  • Potent painkiller provides relief from pain and discomfort
  • Provides relief from some of the other side-effects of the condition‚ including insomnia, depression, and anxiety

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your CBD Supplementation

  1. Always consult your doctor before using CBD alongside other medications
  2. Avoid poor-quality CBD products to eliminate the chances of consuming contaminants, such as heavy metals or pesticides, that can further aggravate the condition
  3. Start with a very small dose of CBD and build up day by day to find your optimum dosage
  4. Choose a full-spectrum extract over an isolate to leverage the additional benefits of the other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant

What Is Rheumatism?

Rheumatism is a traditional medical word for joint pain. It’s since been replaced by more specific terms depending on the cause of the joint pain.

Rheumatic conditions include:

  1. Rheumatoid arthritis — autoimmune causes
  2. Osteoarthritis — traumatic injury and inflammatory causes
  3. Gout — uric acid buildup causing joint inflammation and damage
  4. Fibromyalgia — unknown cause
  5. Lyme disease — a blood-borne parasitic infection affecting the joints

Symptoms of Rheumatism

  • Depression
  • Enlarged joints
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness around the joints
  • Weight loss/gain

Rheumatism vs. Arthritis: What’s The Difference?

Technically speaking, rheumatism refers to all joint pain — however, the term has evolved over the years.

Most people who use the word rheumatism these days are referring to a specific type of arthritis known as rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is an autoimmune disorder involving pain and inflammation of the joint tissues around the body.

There are other forms of arthritis and joint pain as well — such as osteoarthritis and gout.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis

Although the symptoms of arthritis are all very similar, there are some fundamental differences between the them

The main difference is the cause — rheumatoid arthritis is caused by autoimmunity, while osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical damage and breakdown of the cartilage tissue.

The patterns of pain and disease progression are also different — rheumatoid arthritis affects the body equally on both sides and tends to affect the smaller joints, such as fingers and toes, first.

 Rheumatoid ArthritisOsteoarthritis
Cause/Driving FactorsAutoimmunityWear and tear of the joints or traumatic injuries
Joints affectedAny, but tends to affect the small joints firstAny, but tends to affect the larger joints first
PatternsAffects the same joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical)Random joints affected; may or may not affect symmetrical joints
Additional SymptomsFever, fatigue, weight loss or gain, and depressionNone

According to the Arthritis Foundation, roughly 54 million American adults and 300,000 children are living with arthritis. The problem isn’t localized to the United States — it’s considered one of the 10 most common disabilities in the world.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis tends to be more severe. Globally, rheumatoid arthritis affects around 1% of the entire population — that’s 1 in every 100 people.

Unfortunately, there remains no cure for rheumatoid arthritis — which is common for autoimmune disorders. The nature of autoimmunity is incredibly complex, involving multiple organ system dysfunctions taking place simultaneously. This makes it a challenge to identify an exact cause — and even harder to treat.

With that said, there are some common treatment options available for rheumatoid arthritis, including, of course, CBD and many of the other phytocannabinoids.

Seropositive vs. Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by an inflammatory reaction occurring throughout the body. For this reason, it’s fairly easy to test for the disorder by looking for known inflammatory markers in the bloodstream.

When these inflammatory markers are found, the person is said to be seropositive (the blood serum is positive for these markers).

Conversely, when these markers aren’t found but the patient is still experiencing clear symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, they’re said to be seronegative.

Although being seropositive or seronegative doesn’t change the treatment much, it can make matters complicated. If the inflammatory markers associated with rheumatoid arthritis aren’t found in the bloodstream, it may mean that other inflammatory reactions are activated, which may demand different forms of treatment.

It’s also possible that those who are seronegative are simply in a state of remission — where the disease is temporarily suppressed.

Causes of Rheumatism

The exact cause of rheumatism depends on the type of joint pain.

  • Atopic constitution
  • Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection
  • Exposure to heavy metals or other environmental toxins
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Heart disease
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Kidney disease
  • Lack of exercise
  • Liver disease
  • Smoking
  • Tick-borne infection
  • Traumatic injuries

Guide to Using CBD for Rheumatism

One of the most common applications of CBD is regarding the treatment of joint pain. CBD is both anti-inflammatory and analgesic — both of which are directly beneficial to joint pain of various kinds.

You can use CBD products both topically and internally for treating joint pain. For minor joint pain, such as minor athletic injuries, low-grade osteoarthritis, or early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, topical CBD products are likely to provide enough relief.

More serious joint inflammation, on the other hand, often requires a combination of a topical CBD product with internal CBD such as oils, tinctures, capsules, or vape oils.

For best results, combine CBD with other treatment methods.

  1. Dietary changes — remove inflammatory foods from the diet
  2. Glucosamine supplementation — for joint repair
  3. Omega 3 supplementation — for inflammation
  4. Herbal supplements — such as turmeric or frankincense
  5. Vitamin C — for antioxidant support
  6. Vitamin D — to support joint recovery
  7. Physiotherapy — to restore joint function
  8. Yoga — to speed healing and restore joint function

What the Research Says

Animal studies have found that transdermal (topical) CBD at a dose of 6.2 mg/day offered a significant reduction in joint pain symptoms [1]. Studies involving oral CBD showed similar benefits [2].

One study found that long-term treatment with CBD and THC for rheumatoid arthritis didn’t result in the formation of tolerance [3] — meaning that the effective dose of CBD and THC didn’t increase over time. This is an important finding because when people use conventional treatments for the condition, many eventually develop tolerance, dependence, and addiction (mainly pain medications).

How Much CBD Should I Take?

There are two types of CBD that support joint pain and inflammation involved with rheumatism — internal CBD (such as oils, tinctures, capsules, or vape oils) and topical CBD (such as creams, salves, and ointments).

For minor symptoms, either type is likely to provide enough support. For more serious symptoms, however, it’s best to use a combination of both.

1. Internal CBD Dose

The dose of CBD can vary a lot from one person to the next — it’s important to do some trial and error when first starting with the supplement to find the right dose for you. Start with a low dose and build up gradually over the course of a few days. Try starting with the lowest dose outlined in the chart below according to your weight and add 2 mg to 5 mg per day until you find relief from your symptoms.

For minor joint pain, the low-strength dose is usually sufficient.

For more serious joint pain or joint pain that hasn’t improved with over-the-counter painkillers, you’ll likely need a much higher dose to find the same level of relief.

Here are some general guidelines for what strength you’re likely to need depending on the severity of your condition.

General Dosage Guidelines for Rheumatic Conditions

Low-Strength CBDMedium-Strength CBDHigh-Strength CBD
• Early stages of arthritis• Acute arthritis flare-ups  
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Osteoarthritis
• Acute arthritis flare-ups  
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Osteoarthritis Gout

Use our chart below to determine the general range for low- to high-strength doses of CBD according to your weight.

Remember that these are general guidelines, and your individual dose is likely to vary a lot. Take some time testing out different doses until you find what works for you. Some people experience minor side-effects such as fatigue or appetite suppression at high doses — if this happens to you, simply reduce the dose.

Daily Doses of CBD by Weight and Strength (in mg)

Weight (lbs) Low Strength Medium Strength High Strength

100 lbs

10 mg

30 mg

60 mg

125 lbs

13 mg

38 mg

75 mg

150 lbs

15 mg

45 mg

90 mg

175 lbs

17 mg

52 mg

105 mg

200 lbs

20 mg

60 mg

120 mg

225 lbs

22 mg

67 mg

135 mg

250 lbs

25 mg

75 mg

150 mg

2. Topical CBD Dose

Topical CBD use is much simpler than internal CBD when it comes to dosing.

As long as you’re using a product with a high concentration of cannabinoids, you’re going to get the right dose when you apply it to the skin.

These products vary a lot from one manufacturer to the next, so it’s recommended that you follow the instructions on the packaging.

In general, when it comes to treating rheumatism with CBD, we recommend finding a product with at least 100 mg per ounce of cream, salve, or ointment.

Anything lower than this won’t be strong enough to provide the level of relief highlighted in the scientific literature.

If trying a new topical CBD product for the first time, we recommend putting a small amount of the product somewhere else on the body first to make sure there are no allergies that can make joint inflammation worse. If you don’t experience any irritation after about two hours, you’re safe to put it on the joint directly.

This good practice for any new topical product, including pharmaceutical or over-the-counter products.

Potential Side-Effects of CBD

Although CBD has been proven to be highly safe many times over, it’s important to know about the potential side-effects it may produce. Everybody is different, and what works for one person doesn’t always work the same way for another.

Some of the most common side-effects of CBD:

  • Appetite suppression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lower heart rate
  • Sedation
  • Allergic dermatitis

Final Verdict: Using CBD for Rheumatism

Rheumatism is an old term used to describe joint pain. We no longer use it in a professional medical setting — however, many people still use it to refer to their joint issues.

CBD is an excellent tool that can be used to reduce symptoms such as pain and inflammation, and may even offer corrective support for the underlying cause of the condition.

There are two main forms of CBD that can alleviate joint pain — internal and topical. Both forms offer similar levels of benefit and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

In general, either one can offer enough support for minor joint pain, while a combination of the two is best for more serious or long-term rheumatism.


  1. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain‐related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 20(6), 936-948.
  2. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain‐related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 20(6), 936-948.
  3. Malfait, A. M., Gallily, R., Sumariwalla, P. F., Malik, A. S., Andreakos, E., Mechoulam, R., & Feldmann, M. (2000). The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97(17), 9561-9566.
  4. Philpott, H. T., O’brien, M., & McDougall, J. J. (2017). Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis. Pain, 158(12), 2442.
  5. Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(7), 1377-1385.

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