CBD is not a cure for kidney disease; most forms of kidney disease have no cure. Treatment, especially for chronic kidney disease, focuses on managing symptoms. The beneficial effects of CBD and kidney disease symptoms overlap in several ways. To understand the potential utility of CBD with kidney disease, it helps to understand how CBD interacts with the body. CBD is one of many cannabinoids, or compounds abundant in cannabis plants.
Psychoactive THC is another cannabinoid, abundant in marijuana but not in hemp. Many people (especially those who associate cannabinoids with illegal drugs) don’t realize that the human body produces cannabinoids as well, similar or even identical to those produced by cannabis plants. The body even has a system of cell receptors called the endocannabinoid system , and they reside on cell membranes. Cannabinoids can attach to those receptors on the cell membranes and have a profound impact on the function of the cells. The endocannabinoid system is not well understood, but it seems to play a role in body homeostasis, which refers to the body’s internal balance. THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana plants, can actually bind itself to the endocannabinoid receptors when people smoke or ingest marijuana or THC extract. CBD actually does not bind to human endocannabinoid receptors.
However, the presence of CBD in the system seems to stimulate production of natural endocannabinoids, which do bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors and aid in body homeostasis. Here are some ways in which CBD might help alleviate the symptoms of kidney disease. Many studies of both humans and animals have demonstrated the ability of CBD to reduce inflammation. These studies include treatment of human multiple sclerosis patients, humans with joint inflammation due to arthritis, rats with surgical incision pain, and rats with sciatic nerve inflammation. Though the mechanism behind these anti-inflammatory properties is not completely clear, it is expected to be stimulation of the endocannabinoid system. Several forms of kidney disease are inflammatory in nature. These include glomerulonephritis, interstitial nephritis, and pyelonephritis. Future CBD studies may reveal that these anti-inflammatory properties translate to reduction of kidney inflammation. The same mechanism that reduces inflammation has boosted the profile of CBD as an analgesic. CBD has shown promise in its ability to alleviate inflammatory pain from causes like arthritis, sciatic nerve inflammation, and surgical incisions. Other studies of cannabinoids have shown a widespread propensity of these compounds to relieve pain. A study of patients taking a synthetic cannabinoid designed to mimic THC showed patients to be between 43% and 300% more likely to report a 30% or better reduction of chronic neuropathic pain. The source of this pain could include kidney inflammation, kidney stones, kidney or urinary tract infection, and incisional pain from kidney surgery, intravenous needle insertion, or dialysis port installation. CBD has been shown in studies to interact with serotonin receptors, stimulating hormones that alleviate nausea. Kidney disease patients prone to vomiting may benefit from CBD as an anti-nausea agent. Symptoms of kidney disease, including pain, urinary incontinence, nausea, anxiety, side effects of medications, or the mechanics of home dialysis can result in an inability to sleep. Insomnia is a common secondary effect of kidney disease. In a 2019 test of 72 subjects, 66.7% who received CBD reported improved sleep cycles. The properties of CBD that treat these conditions could help improve the sleep cycle of CBD patients. The endocannabinoid system may also help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm , the cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness. While it isn’t a treatment for kidney disease per se, getting a better night’s sleep may help improve the quality of life of kidney disease patients, who sorely need it. Fluctuations in appetite are another common symptom of kidney failure. This can lead either to unhealthy weight gain or dangerous weight loss.
CBD has shown the ability in animal tests to help regulate appetite, leading to loss of excess body weight in rats. These animal tests do not necessarily translate to human results, but some patients try CBD as a treatment for anorexia nervosa. Kidney disease patients suffering from loss of appetite might benefit from CBD as a stimulant for the appetite. Other effects CBD may have on appetite and weight management include the replacement of white fat cells with brown fat cells, a property demonstrated in test tube studies. White fat is more associated with diseases related to excess body weight. Kidney disease correlates strongly with heart failure and cardiovascular conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Most of the fatalities from chronic kidney disease are actually due to heart failure.
Kidney impairment can result in fluid buildup around the heart or other cardiovascular complications. Additionally, the leading cause of chronic kidney disease is high blood pressure.