Does CBD Actually Relieve Pain?

Researchers investigated whether CBD's ability to relieve pain is driven by the ingredient itself, or by the expectation that it will reduce pain.

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In a recent Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology study, researchers found that CBD's ability to provide pain relief is driven by both pharmacological action and psychological placebo. In the study, CBD and expectancies for receiving CBD didn't appear to reduce pain intensity, but did make that pain feel less unpleasant. 

The researchers used equipment to safely induce experimental heat pain, allowing them to measure how the recipient's nervous system reacts and responds to it. They did this with 15 healthy adults, then provided either pure CBD or a placebo and reassessed the pain responses. Some subjects were told that they received CBD when they actually received a placebo, or were told they would be getting a placebo when they actually got CBD, which helped the researchers figure out whether the pain relief was caused by the CBD or the expectation of CBD (i.e., placebo). 

Although it's an extremely small pool of participants, the results are nevertheless interesting. "What we found though after measuring several different pain outcomes is that it's actually a little bit of both. That is, we found improvements in pain measures caused by the pharmacological effects of CBD and the psychological effects of just expecting that they had gotten CBD. It was pretty remarkable and surprising," the researchers write.

Pure CBD isolate oil was used for this study, and the authors note that because different commercially available CBD products differ in terms of purity and concentration, these results may not apply to every product out there. 

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