In recent years, the lion’s share of attention to (and funding for) medical marijuana research has gone to test the herb’s potential to relieve tremors, inflammation, and pain. But for about 20 years, Israel has been the center of a small body of research in a very different direction: the effect of cannabinoids on bone health. A study from the summer of 2015 has provided some of the clearest evidence so far that the cannabinoid CBD “significantly” helps heal bone fractures.
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A research team, led by Yankel Gabet of Tel Aviv University, treated broken limbs in lab rats (OK, let’s just try not to think about that part…) with either THC or CBD, the two primary active compounds in cannabis. Dr. Gabet summarizes his team’s observations: “We found that CBD alone makes bones stronger during healing [and] provides the basis for new mineralization of bone tissue.” In other words, CBD—but not THC—not only heals bone, but makes it “harder to break in the future.”
The takeaway, according to Dr. Gabet: “Other studies have also shown CBD to be a safe agent, which leads us to believe we should continue this line of study in clinical trials to assess its usefulness in improving human fracture healing.”
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Dr. Gabet’s paper is part of a small but growing body of literature suggests that our endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a role in the maintenance of bone health and the delay of osteoporosis. But where the ECS giveth, it also taketh away: Cannabinoids might make us shorter.
Another study from 2015 finds that lab mice deficient in CB1 and CB2 receptors (and therefore unable to respond to cannabinoids) grew longer femurs than did their brethren in the wild. According to the report: “These results demonstrate a local growth-restraining EC system.” But it also acknowledges that the relevance of this to humans “remains to be studied.”