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Can Cannabis Help Gout Patients?

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For thousands of years, cannabis has been recommended as a treatment for gout, and gout patients have anecdotally reported that cannabis can help reduce their swelling and pain. But in modern times no research has been done on whether cannabis can actually help with gout, as reported. 

Still, gout is an arthritic condition, and there is a fair bit of evidence suggesting that cannabis can be a helpful treatment for similar arthritic conditions which cause inflammation of the joints. Scientific studies show that joints, bone, and muscle all contain a working endocannabinoid system, and some types of arthritis lead to changes in that system. In addition, stimulating that system has been shown to help reduce inflammation, protect joints from damage, and reduce pain. So, while more research is needed on gout and cannabis specifically, what we do know suggests that cannabis could be helpful for the condition and its symptoms. 

How Cannabis Works on Gout  

While there is no real research looking at whether cannabis may help with gout, there is a fair bit of evidence suggesting that it can help with other forms of arthritis — such as rheumatoid arthritis. While gout may respond differently than these other inflammatory joint conditions, this body of literature can shed some light on how cannabis is likely to work with gout. 

For one thing, joint inflammation could be connected to an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which exists in all vertebrates and helps regulate crucial functions such as sleep, pain, and appetite. The human body produces its own cannabinoids, which modulate and activate its various functions, but as its name suggests, the endocannabinoid system can also be modulated and activated by cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Because the entire system was only discovered in the past 30 years, scientists still have much to learn about the myriad ways cannabis affects the human body.

One study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis actually have a higher level of CB2 receptors in their damaged joints. These receptors are able to activate the endocannabinoid system to produce strong anti-inflammatory effects — without any inebriating or euphoric effects. Thus researchers have suggested further studying whether activating this receptor (potentially with cannabinoids) could relieve the joint inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. 

Another study on both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients, examined the endocannabinoid activity in the fluid in their joints and found increased endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2AG. The authors also found that stimulating the endocannabinoid system resulted in chemical changes that could be beneficial for the treatment of these arthritic conditions. 

In addition, stimulating the endocannabinoid system is well known to produce pain relief, which can be a big help for all kinds of chronic pain conditions, and has the potential to aid with the pain from gout. 

Until we have more research on how the ECS impacts gout (and vice versa) we can’t say for sure how cannabis might work to help — but the research we do have suggests that stimulating the endocannabinoid system receptors can help activate our bodies natural ability for pain and inflammation relief. Since these are the main symptoms of gout, we have good reason to think that these are ways cannabis could be helping.

Research on Gout and Cannabis

There is no peer-reviewed research on using cannabis for gout, which is a bit surprising given that treating gout is one of the oldest known uses for cannabis. It has been recommended as a cure for gout in ancient Chinese medicine as far back as 3750 B.C.A., as well as by sources like Pliny the Elder in 77 AD, and in our more recent past was listed as a cure for gout in the 1868 US dispensatory (a book containing descriptions of drugs and their uses). In addition, some gout patients report cannabis helps with the pain and inflammation. 

Despite this, there have been no modern studies on this use for cannabis. Still, research on other inflammatory joint conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can shed light on how cannabis may be able to help. 

For one thing, cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties are well-established from animal models of rheumatoid arthritis. In experimental models, these effects have been shown to protect the host from the progression of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other autoimmune disorders via multiple different anti-inflammatory pathways. 

In addition, there are many patients already using cannabis for arthritis. One Australian study, for example, found that 35% of cannabis users did so for arthritis symptoms. In another study on cannabis use in the UK, researchers found that 21% of cannabis users did so specifically to relieve arthritis symptoms. Of those who used illicit cannabis 46% did so for rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, 100% of those using illicit cannabis for their rheumatoid arthritis said that it improved their condition, with 72% reporting that it made their condition much better, and 28% saying it made it a little better (28%). 

Given these anecdotal accounts of cannabis helping with arthritis, researchers have done a few studies on humans to confirm whether cannabis is actually helping. For example, one double blind study looked at cannabis for pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The researchers found that Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine, could not only relieve pain for these patients, it could also suppress the activity of the disease

Cannabis may also help by aiding sleep of patients with inflammatory conditions. One study looked at whether Sativex could help with sleep for chronic pain patients with conditions including arthritis. They found that it produced better sleep, and patients continued to see this results in studies up for 4 years after beginning use.  

CBD and Gout 

Like with cannabis in general, we don’t have any studies to draw on that look at CBD, a non-hallucinogenic compound in cannabis, and gout. But we do have research suggesting that CBD could help with other inflammatory conditions that are similar to gout. Animal models of arthritis, for example, show that CBD can actually stop the progression of the disease. CBD can also reduce oxidative stress which can be helpful for arthritis treatment and animal studies show that topical CBD can provide direct reduction in inflammation and pain when applied directly to the swollen area. 

Potential side effects of cannabis use

Given the lack of research on cannabis and gout, we don’t have much insight on whether there are particular negative side effects for this using cannabis with this condition. Still, cannabis’ side effects are generally mild and manageable. They can include symptoms like mild difficulties in concentration and memory, impaired coordination, nausea, light-headedness, increased appetite, racing heart, dry mouth and eyes, and fatigue.

In addition, cannabis may slow the metabolism of certain drugs, thus increasing the amount present in the bloodstream. This can cause a negative interaction with some drugs, leading to an overdose of the other medication, so those taking other medications should consult with a doctor before beginning cannabis use. 

Cannabis side effects: fatigue, memory, appetite, reaction time, mood, paranoia, addiction

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