A study has found that an ingredient in marijuana helps mend broken bones in rats

Next time you break a bone, consider this doctor’s orders.
Next time you break a bone, consider this doctor’s orders.
Image: AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka
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Marijuana has increasingly been used for its medicinal properties, but until now, the drug has mostly been associated with alleviating symptoms—such as nausea and decreased appetite. A recent study shows that there may be a use that actually enhances healing—of broken bones.

The study, published in May in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research (paywall), found that cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive components of marijuana—sped up the healing of bone fractures in rats.

The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from Israel, Switzerland, and Sweden, was testing for the effects of both CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychotrophic effects—on the healing process in rats. The team ultimately found that only CBD had the effect of both speeding up the healing process and enhancing bone growth, making them stronger and less likely to break in the future.

To test which component of marijuana affected the process of fracture healing, the team individually tested the effects of THC and CBD. The researchers performed standardized fractures on a population of male Sprague-Dawley rats’ femurs, then injected the ingredients into the abdomens of the rats.

These findings may also be used for treatment of skeletal diseases in humans, like osteoporosis, but that doesn’t mean those with broken or deteriorating bones will have to get high. There is no need for the psychoactive component of marijuana to get the benefit of its bone-healing effects, according to the researchers.

“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,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Yankel Gabet, in an interview with the Times of Israel.

Other ingredients in marijuana have been found to treat medical conditions, including epilepsy.