CBD Oil: A Safe, Effective Alternative to Ibuprofen?

NSAIDs vs CBD Rich Cannabis Representation

Every person experiences pain and inflammation from time to time. Be it due to an injury, disease or exposure to harmful chemicals, these natural defense and healing mechanisms of the body are an essential human function.

Widely available over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are among the most common painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs available. This class of nonsteroidal drug is used to reduce pain, decrease fever, prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation. They are used in varying strengths to address issues like headaches, migraines, fever, postoperative pain, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) and prescription NSAIDs like Celecoxib (Celebrex) and diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are used daily by over 17 million Americans. The 30 million dollar over the counter market is backed by nearly 70 million annual prescriptions in the United States alone. Use is so widespread and common that some even refer to the drug as 'Vitamin I'.

Though often taken without forethought, these drugs are not without serious potential side effects. Ongoing research and warnings from the FDA conflict with the general public perception. In this article, we explore the basic function of NSAIDs, their dangers, appropriate use, and answer the question: "Are CBD-rich cannabis extracts a safe, effective alternative?"

How do NSAIDs Work?

When the body suffers an injury or trauma, compounds called prostanoids are produced. These include prostaglandins which are involved in inflammation and thromboxane which is involved in blood clotting. These compounds are produced by cyclooxygenase enzymes called COX-1 and COX 2.

NSAIDs work to inhibit the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. The result is a medicine which reduces inflammation and pain. Today there are two main types of NSAIDs available: non-selective which block both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes and COX-2 selective which blocks the single enzyme.

The Potential Dangers of NSAID Use

NSAID function carries some serious potential side effects. Non-selective inhibitors thin the blood while reducing inflammation. This increases the risk of gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding. Though much less commonly used, COX-2 specific inhibitors substantially increase the risk of vascular disease. General use of any NSAID can increase the risk of kidney disease and heart attack.

In 2005 the FDA warned that taking these drugs increased the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In 2015 they updated their original bulletin, further strengthening the warnings. They called for an update to drug labels and more attention to be brought to symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath and weakness in one part or side of the body.

Warnings included in the update:

  • There is an overall increased risk of heart failure with NSAID use.
  • The risk of heart attack or stroke increases even with short-term use, even as short as the first few weeks of use.
  • Longer term use and higher doses may increase these risks.
  • Patients with existing heart disease are at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke following NSAID use than those without.

Reduce the Risk of NSAID Use

Ibuprofen BottlesLike the use of any drug, it would be unfair to paint a completely negative picture, ignoring the potential benefits and possibility of safe use. NSAIDs have grown in popularity thanks to their effectiveness, and it is possible to manage the risks and side effects.

The following guidelines can be applied to NSAID use to reduce the associated risks:

  • Take the lowest effective dose, for the shortest length of time possible.
  • Those with existing heart conditions should avoid NSAID use if at all possible.
  • If you must take NSAIDs, try to break up the use cycle to prevent long-term, consistent use.
  • Seek alternative medicines when possible.

CBD-Rich Cannabis: An Effective Alternative?

The patterns of NSAID use by the general population can be alarming. Despite the FDA's warnings, there are certainly a huge number of cases of overuse of this class of drug, unawareness of risks, and cases where an alternative medicine would be appropriate.

CBD TinctureCBD-rich cannabis extracts are a fantastic alternative option that provides an effective relief of similar symptoms without the associated risks of NSAIDs and without the psychoactive effects of a high-THC cannabis extract.

A growing number of studies point to the anti-inflammatory and pain-fighting benefits of phytocannabinoids and terpenoids, the compounds found in cannabis. Supportive research and progress in hemp-related grow laws has resulted in the wide availability of low-THC, high-CBD products. The use of these compounds has gained wide public acceptance for their wide range of benefits with minimal side effects.

One star in the NSAID-cannabis comparison is the raw cannabinoid precursor to CBD: cannabidiolic acid or CBDA. This molecule displayed COX-2 down-regulation and enzyme inhibition in multiple studies, the same target as NSAIDs.

These same studies cite the compound as also potentially suppressing genes that are positively involved in cancer cell metastasis. So by replacing NSAIDs with cannabis, you may mitigate unnecessary risks, experience comparable relief, and enjoy additional positive health benefits.

Recommended CBD-Rich Products to Replace NSAIDS

Those looking for an alternative painkiller/anti-inflammatory will be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of non-psychoactive CBD-rich products on the market. From capsules to tinctures to edibles to vape pens, there is a product type that will fit most any preference.

Our recommendation is to seek out a whole-plant cannabis extract that will enlist the research-backed 'entourage effect'. Taking a full-spectrum of cannabis compounds vs an isolated form of CBD or any other cannabinoid alone increases the overall effectiveness.

Specific to inflammation and pain, a product containing raw cannabinoids may be more effective. The issue is that today many CBD products on the market do not contain CBDA.

For a CBDA-rich product, we recommend Endoca. They provide high-quality raw + activated extract blends that are rich in both CBD and CBDA. Plus they also provide lab reports for all their products to verify potency and contents.

Originally Published: August 30, 2018 | Last Updated: October 23, 2018

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