The latest ailment to be added to marijuana's long list of medical applications is broken bones. But don't reach that plaster-encased arm out for the bong just yet.
Marijuana's most beloved chemical, called tetrahydrocannabinol or simply THC, was not the subject of a new study showing cannabis could be an effective treatment for fractures. Instead, it was a non-psychoactive component of cannabis called cannabidiol, or CBD, which accounted for the accelerated healing of bones, researchers report in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
"We found CBD alone to be sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing," said study co-leader Dr. Yankel Gabet of Tel Aviv University in a statement. "After being treated with CBD, the healed bone will be harder to break in the future."
When the researchers injected CBD into rats with fractured leg bones, they found that their bones healed better and faster than rats that didn't receive treatment. They also tried out a cocktail of CBD and THC – the chemical in cannabis that gets users high – but found that THC provided no significant benefits.
CBD works by enhancing the growth in the scaffolding of bones, made primarily of collagen — a type of protein you may recognize from skin care products. By enhancing bone foundation, CBD allows bones to heal faster and ultimately become stronger.
Studies so far have shown that CBD appears to be safe for use in humans, but further tests are needed to fully understand how the chemical affects the body. The researchers plan to continue exploring medical uses for cannabis-derived compounds including CBD, and have already found in earlier research that some such compounds could help combat other bone-related diseases like osteoporosis.
"The clinical potential of cannabinoid-related compounds is simply undeniable at this point," Dr. Gabet said in a statement. "While there is still a lot of work to be done to develop appropriate therapies, it is clear that it is possible to detach a clinical therapy objective from the psychoactivity of cannabis."