A study suggests that marijuana might actually be good for the bones. Research finds, the compound cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana plants, helps heal bone fractures. The study was done on rats, said Yankel Gabet, a bone researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. “All the current clinical treatments for osteoporosis have been successfully tested in rodents prior to clinical settings,” Gabet wrote in an email to Livescience. “While there is no certainty, these findings hold promise for the potential clinical applicability of using CBD for fracture healing in humans.”

Cannabis produces its effects by triggering the receptors that respond to compounds called endocannabinoids, cannabis like molecules that the body synthesizes naturally. In the brain, pot acts on these receptors to cause mind-altering effects. However, cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, leading some scientists to believe that marijuana compounds might have medical applications beyond helping cancer patients regain their appetites or get relief from pain. Gabet said he and his team were particularly interested in looking at the effects of cannabis on bone healing, because pot use and broken bones are both fairly common. He stated, “It is likely that many patients suffering from bone fractures consume cannabis that may have beneficial or adverse effects on the healing process.” The scientists had previously found that cannabinoid receptors can stimulate bone formation. In this study, the team injected rats that had broken thighbones with either CBD alone, or a combination of CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the hallucinogenic ingredient in cannabis).

The researchers discovered that CBD enhanced bone healing by strengthening the cartilage “bridge” that forms when a bone is healing. This bridge is called the fracture callus. It is made of collagen, which then gradually mineralizes and hardens into new bone. In rats treated with CBD, this collagen tissue was stronger, and the collagen molecules more tightly cross-linked with one another, compared to rats not treated with the cannabis compound. What this means is that the healed bone in CBD-treated rats is less likely to break in the future compared to the healed bone in untreated rats. In fact, the treated bone is between 35% and 50% stronger. “There is no need to be exposed to the euphoric effects of cannabis/THC to get the beneficial functions of CBD on bone,” Gabet said.

The CBD compound has potential for treating osteoporosis, said Dr. Deborah Kado, a bone health specialist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, who is also on the scientific board of Kalytera Therapeutics, a company investigating the medical use of cannabinoids. Kado was not involved in the current research. Osteoporosis, a condition of weak or brittle bones, often occurs with age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone density, and the disease causes approximately 2 million bone fractures each year. “As we currently have no FDA-approved medications on the market to help with fracture healing, this study concept is exciting,” Kado told Livescience.

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