A legal cannabis oil, rubbed onto the skin at the point of pain, may relieve a nerve condition that affects one in 10 people aged over 55 in the UK, according to scientists. A breakthrough trial found cannabidiol (CBD) – which is sold in high street health food shops and online as a lifestyle supplement – reduced not only pain caused by peripheral neuropathy but also other symptoms.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves), often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet, said the Mayo Clinic.
It continued: "Your peripheral nervous system sends information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body.
"The peripheral nerves also send sensory information to the central nervous system.
"Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes and exposure to toxins and one of the most common causes is type 2 diabetes."
Researchers claim the oil may be a better alternative than NHS-prescribed treatments commonly given to sufferers of the condition.
Peripheral Neuropathy affects mainly the feet, arms and hands and is caused when nerves become damaged. There is not always an effective treatment for this condition.
Sufferers may also endure burning, stabbing or shooting pain and muscle weakness, sometimes for prolonged periods.
The trial, led by researchers at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, also found no negative side effects from the application of CBD.
The results have been welcomed by Layton Brooks, co-founder of CBD Shopy, a leading online marketplace for high quality CBD products from topical creams to chewable gummies.DON'T MISSDementia warning: Does this describe your sleeping pattern? You may be at a higher risk [INSIGHT]High cholesterol warning: Do your eyes look like this? Subtle sign of heart attack risk [SYMPTOMS]
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He hopes the study – published in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, a journal for academic, clinical, government and pharmaceutical scientists – will encourage people to try a more holistic approach.
"We often hear first-hand of people who use CBD products in different forms to ease various ailments," he said.
"This trial could offer hope to sufferers of Peripheral Neuropathy who may be searching for an alternative natural remedy."
The US research team recruited 29 people with Peripheral Neuropathy, 15 of whom were treated with a product containing 250mg CBD in 3fl oz, and 14 trialists were given a placebo.
Sixty-two percent of the group were men, and the mean age of all participants was 68.
To test an improvement in symptoms, a pain test was administered every two weeks to assess the mean change from baseline to the end of the treatment.
Lead researcher Dixon Hu said: "Peripheral Neuropathy can significantly impact the quality of life for those who are affected, as therapies from the current treatment algorithm often fail to deliver adequate symptom relief.
"There has, however, been an increasing body of evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic, noncancer pain.
"There was a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations in the CBD group when compared to the placebo group. No adverse events were reported in this study.
"Our findings demonstrate that the transdermal application of CBD oil can achieve significant improvement in pain and other disturbing sensations in patients with peripheral neuropathy.
"The treatment product was well tolerated and may provide a more effective alternative compared to other current therapies in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy."
In the UK, CBD oil is legal if it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain which contains no more than 0.2 percent THC.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant but, unlike CBD, can have psychoactive tendencies
The peripheral nervous system is the network that lies outside the central nervous system.
It includes sensory nerves which transmit sensations such as pain and touch, and motor nerves which control muscles.
The system also has autonomic nerves which regulate functions such as blood pressure and bladder function.
According to the NHS, diabetes can cause Peripheral Neuropathy due to high blood sugar levels damaging nerves.
But it can also be caused by a viral infection, such as shingles, physical injury to the nerves – and even as a side effect of some medicines or from too much alcohol.