Smoking Weed During the Wound-Healing Process

closeup hand covered with bandages

Table of contents

  1. Wound Healing and the Endocannabinoid System
  2. Does Smoking Weed Slow Wound Healing?
  3. Using Other Forms of Cannabis To Promote Healing
  4. Risks and Considerations
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

There is limited research related to the effect of smoking marijuana on wound healing. And of the research we do have, the results are conflicting.

With that said, some preclinical studies show a relationship between wound healing and the endocannabinoid system. This means that there may be potential to use cannabis to assist the wound healing process and that more data is required before reaching a definitive conclusion.

Research also suggests that topical cannabis treatments (mainly CBD) may sometimes speed up wound healing. So, while we don’t have a definitive answer on whether recreational marijuana use may or may not directly affect wound healing, topical CBD may improve the healing process, mainly due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

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Wound Healing and the Endocannabinoid System

Wound healing is a multi-stage process. Different types of wounds, such as burns, don’t bleed like cuts, so the first stages of healing differ slightly. Wounds of a similar type will follow the same healing process, but the length of time it takes to heal completely will vary depending on the severity of the wound.

Wound healing involves stopping the bleeding, clotting (scabbing over), rebuilding the tissue, and strengthening the area.

So, how does your endocannabinoid system (ECS) fit into this process? It regulates biological processes and helps the body maintain balance (homeostasis). It consists of two main receptors, CB1 and CB2, and two naturally produced chemicals (endocannabinoids), anandamide and 2-AG.  Initial research suggests that these receptors and chemicals may play a key role in wound healing.

Cannabinoid Receptors and Wound Healing

CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors can be found throughout the body, mainly in immune cells like white blood cells.

A preclinical mouse study reported the presence of CB1 receptors in cells involved in wound healing and found that cells containing CB1 receptors were predominantly found in mononuclear cells during the first 12 hours of healing and in fibroblastic cells from days one to five. Mononuclear cells (T-cells, B-cells, monocytes, and natural killer cells) are key drivers of the immune response, and fibroblastic cells are related to tissue repair and growth.

While the specific role of CB1 receptors in wound healing is not confirmed, their presence in both mononuclear and fibroblastic cells at different stages of the wound healing process suggests that they may play a role in wound healing.

As for CB2 receptors: they play a crucial role in the immune response and inflammation, which are both important in wound healing. Additionally,  CB2 receptors may be necessary for protecting internal injuries from scarring. Some scarring (such as internal scarring during surgery or lung damage) may cause complications.

While these findings are positive, research on the exact relationship between the CB2 receptors and wound healing is limited, and there is insufficient evidence to prove any causal relationship. Much more research is required to confirm the role of CB2 receptors in wound healing.

Endocannabinoids and Wound Healing

Endocannabinoids are molecules naturally produced by the body that have a similar structure and biological effect to cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. “Endo” stems from the term “endogenous,” meaning internal origin.

One study linked the two main endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG, to wound healing. It reported strong correlations between concentrations of anandamide and 2-AG in the blood over time in surgical patients. Correlations have also been found between anandamide concentration and the degree and duration of inflammation. Although studies are in their early stages, endocannabinoids likely play a key role in wound healing.

Does Smoking Weed Slow Wound Healing?

No studies directly relate smoking and vaping weed to wound healing. However, smoking cigarettes has been shown to slow the healing process. Surgeons and doctors may recommend not smoking cigarettes or marijuana during a perioperative period (before, during, and after surgery).

Using Other Forms of Cannabis To Promote Healing

Smoking or vaping cannabis may slow the wound healing process, as harsh chemicals are inhaled when smoking cannabis. However, the endocannabinoid system may play a role in wound healing.

Other forms of cannabis, such as edibles or creams, may be preferable to promote wound healing. If cannabis does help with wound healing, the ideal form of cannabis would depend on the type of wound that you have.

Dermatological Wounds:  Cuts, Scrapes, and Acne

There is increasing research suggesting that cannabis creams, particularly those containing CBD, may be effective at treating skin wounds.

Cannabis creams are not recommended for severe wounds, as these should only be treated with medicines recommended by a doctor. However, minor cuts, scrapes, and even skin conditions like acne and rosacea may benefit from a topical CBD cream. CBD creams may be effective at treating minor wounds, such as:

  • Minor cuts and scrapes (to reduce scarring)
  • Acne and other dermatological conditions
  • Scarring from moderate wounds, once the wound has healed, and new skin starts forming over the wound

The skin contains many CB1 and CB2 receptors; during wound healing, new cells can be produced with elevated levels of these receptors. One study found that topical CBD can promote faster wound healing and reduce pain in patients with blisters.

Some companies are also investigating the effect of topical CBD on common skin conditions like acne and rosacea, with promising clinical results. In most cases, applying CBD cream to the affected area resulted in visual improvement of symptoms with no severe adverse events.

Participants with moderate to severe acne had fewer pimples after the treatment, and pimples that remained were less noticeable and lighter in color than at the beginning of the study.

Can Cannabis Help With Post-Surgery Recovery?

There is not enough data to suggest that cannabis can help with post-surgery recovery. Surgeons and doctors often request that patients abstain from consuming cannabis during the perioperative process, and smoking cannabis is not recommended while recovering from surgery. This is because cannabis can interact with the drugs used during surgery and surgical recovery.

However, those suffering from post-surgery pain may find medical cannabis preferable to the long-term use of prescription opioids. Ultimately, while preparing for or recovering from surgery, patients should always act under the advice of their medical providers and avoid consuming cannabis without approval from their doctor or surgeon.

Can Cannabis Help Heal Internal Injuries?

A review article found that cannabinoids may affect bone recovery. Evidence suggests that CBD assists with bone healing, promoting faster bone recovery and potentially stronger bones post-recovery. The opposite was found for THC, which may inhibit bone metabolism and repair.

All reports indicate that more research is required to confirm these findings. However, you should refrain from consuming THC and avoid smoking when recovering from bone injuries. Smoking may induce coughing, which may be painful and aggravate the injury.

Risks and Considerations

The risks and considerations of using cannabis to treat wounds depend on the type and severity of the wound. There is likely little risk associated with minor injuries, which are unlikely to be affected by cannabis use.

For more severe injuries that require medical assistance, seek medical advice before consuming cannabis. The primary risks and considerations when using cannabis to treat wounds include:

  • The severity of the wound.
  • If the treatment is topical and may cause infection.
  • Smoking cannabis may slow the healing process, as harmful compounds like carbon monoxide will be inhaled.
  • For injuries requiring surgery, cannabis use should be avoided until approved by the doctor/surgeon.
  • Cannabis may interact with other medications; if you’re on prescription medication for wounds, seek advice from your doctor before consuming cannabis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can weed speed up injury recovery?

Smoking weed is unlikely to improve injury recovery, as the smoke contains harsh chemicals that slow the recovery process. CBD topicals and creams may cause scars to disappear faster; however, evidence is limited and largely anecdotal.

Does weed help with body soreness?

Cannabis can be effective at relieving pain and may help with body soreness. Weed that contains both THC and CBD has shown greater pain relief than strains that contain only THC.

Does weed help with pain?

Many people find that marijuana can help with pain management. Placebo-controlled clinical research suggests that weed containing both THC and CBD is the most effective at relieving pain.

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