Cannabis and osteoporosis: Can it help?

According to Osteoporosis Canada, “osteoporosis is a disease that slowly, quietly weakens bones.” 

Often undiagnosed, osteoporosis is caused by low bone mass and can lead to increased risk of fractures [*]. Most often affecting those aged over 50 years old, two million Canadians have the disease [*]. What’s even more shocking is that the fractures caused by the weakening of bones are more common than breast cancer, strokes, and heart attacks -- combined [*].

Research suggests that “bone structure undergoes substantial temporal changes throughout life,”  involving the first phase in which bone mass grows, the second phase in which bone mass remains constant, and the third phase: age-related bone loss [*].

While there are a few well-studied drug treatment options for slowing bone loss and reducing the risk of fractures, there are also a few natural options to help potentially improve bone health, such as eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D [*] as well as consuming medical cannabis once obtaining a Medical Document in three simple steps.

How can cannabis potentially help bone health?

Despite the use of medicinal cannabis going back 4,700 years, it’s only more recently that research has determined why it may have positive impacts on certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis [*]. 

Cannabis affects a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system, called the ECS for short. The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors, such as CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found in the central and peripheral nervous system, endocannabinoids, and enzymes [*]. This system helps to control vital functions in the body, such as digestion, metabolism, reproduction, immunity, memory, and even mood [*]. Plus, research shows that this system may even help to stimulate bone formation and inhibit bone resorption since endocannabinoid receptors are also found in the skeleton [*].

According to a study on cannabinoids and the skeleton, researchers determined that the ECS’s “CB1 receptor is present mainly in skeletal sympathetic nerve terminals,” which helps to regulate bone formation [*]. Further, CB2 receptors are expressed in osteoblasts (the bone forming cells) and osteoclasts (the bone resorbing cells), which helps to stimulate bone formation and prohibit bone resorption [*].

Osteoblasts and osteoclasts produce the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Both of these endocannabinoids promote homeostasis in the body, helping each physiological function to run more smoothly [*].

When you consume cannabis, cannabinoids such as non-intoxicating CBD and intoxicating THC bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors [*]. While there is little research on the direct impact of cannabis for osteoporosis, what we do know is that cannabis can help to promote balance in the body by potentially mitigating the symptoms of homeostatic dysregulation, such as pain, inflammation, and stress [*]. Plus, since we know that CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the skeleton, there is potential that cannabis may be able to help to regulate the functioning of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the cells that are directly involved in osteoporosis [*].

It’s a great idea to start low and go slow when consuming cannabis, educate yourself on the potential health benefits and risks [*], and consult with your healthcare provider if you feel any adverse effects.

How to get a Medical Document

It’s now easier than ever to get approved for medical cannabis -- all from the comfort of your own home. If approved, you can begin purchasing cannabis from Licensed Producers such as CannMart, an online store with the widest selection of medical cannabis in Canada. To get started, create an account and schedule your online consultation with a NamasteMD nurse practitioner.