Marijuana Helps Broken Bones Heal, Says Israeli Scientific Team

Studies on rats with fractured legs showed that CBD, with or without the psychoactive substance in weed, promotes faster, stronger bone healing.

Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
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A toke a day won't keep the orthopedist away, but a compound in cannabis has been shown to help broken legs in rats heal better and faster.
A toke a day won't keep the orthopedist away, but a compound in cannabis has been shown to help broken legs in rats heal better and faster.Credit: Dreamstime, elaboration by Haaretz
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

The properties of marijuana are legend and legion. Now scientists in Israel have added an unexpected feature to the list: a compound in weed can help heal broken bones. In rats at least. Whether it would work for the kids remains to be seen.

The compound – which does nothing to the mind – is cannabinoid cannabidiol, or CBD, say the researchers, who hail from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Isolated from the other components of cannabis that do monkey with the mind, CBD still markedly enhanced the healing process of broken rattus femurs after just eight weeks, the scientists say in their paper in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Not only did broken bones heal better – in rats, we must stress again: they healed faster because the compound helps bone mineralize. CBD could therefore also help prevent osteoporosis in the elderly, paving the way to new medications.

"We found that CBD alone makes bones stronger during healing, enhancing the maturation of the collagenous matrix, which provides the basis for new mineralization of bone tissue," stated Dr. Yankel Gabet. "After being treated with CBD, the healed bone will be harder to break in the future."

To be clear, smoking a joint won't help you get over breaking your bones, though it might help you, briefly, not care.

As for the rats with the broken legs, the doctors injected one group with CBD and one group with CBD mixed with tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance. They found that whatever other effects THC has, healing bones isn't one of them.

The study was led by Gabet, of the Bone Research Laboratory at Tel Aviv University, and the late professor Itai Bab of the Bone Laboratory at Hebrew University.

In earlier studies the same team found that the cannabinoid receptors within the human body, which recognize the cannabinoid molecules and cause our bodies to respond to them, stimulated bone formation, and inhibited bone loss.

Gabet also points out that according to studies, using CBD is safe. It also bears mention that the body mechanism dealing with our use of cannabinoid drugs is something called the endocannabinoid system – really – which aside from being involved in that inebriated feeling when one tokes, is also involved in a vast number of fundamental physiological processes, yes, including appetite - and mood, memory and pain sensation.

As for medical marijuana, that's another topic entirely. In theory marijuana therapy involves use of the whole plant with its more entertaining molecules. New claims are constantly being claimed for the plant's wonders, one being that marijuana has been shown to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. Sorry, that study was also on rats.

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