Though CBD only binds slightly to these receptors, and THC is the predominant compound that has been shown to decrease inflammation (since it binds to the CB2 receptor), CBD has been found to exert its own powerful anti-inflammatory action and act as an analgesic (pain reliever), through other metabolic modalities. For instance, it appears that CBD can increase adenosine signaling, a molecule that reduces inflammation.

The reason both CBD and THC help treat pain, however, isn’t only due to their positive effect on inflammation. Both compounds influence the brain and nerve pathways, meaning they affect how we experience and perceive pain. You see, the experience of pain has many components, and it’s a complex phenomenon. Pain that results in the same injury in two individuals, for instance, can be experienced entirely differently by each person. This has to do with the sensory system of the body when the tissues incur damage but also the amount of inflammation the ensues, the person’s mental attitude toward pain and injury, the influence of the culture they come from with regard to injury and pain, their perceptions around their ability to function, what damage means with regard to being a whole and complete person, whether or not he or she will heal, and so on and so forth. And of course, when or if the pain becomes chronic, even more variables are involved, whether the pain is due to an ongoing disease or pathological issues with the nervous system (neuropathic).

For example, if you cut your hand, the sensory and pain nerve fibers that are affected will relay a message to the brain that there is an injury. You will also visually witness it. You most likely will be affected emotionally and physically by the injury. The more upset you are, the higher likelihood that you will incur more pain. Even more so, if the pain persists, chances are that your level of discontent and distress will worsen.

Pain—especially chronic pain—is a very real issue. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine has concluded that the U.S. economy loses close to a trillion U.S. dollars every year, when pain-related medical services and loss of productivity costs associated with patients in long-term care and within the military are included. Considering the current state of the opioid epidemic, finding better ways to address the complex problem that is chronic pain is of utmost importance. Knowing that the body has an innate system to manage pain, much of which is regulated through the endocannabinoid system, using safe, nonpsychoactive formats of CBD from hemp oil and marijuana is really exciting news.