Can CBD help with anemia, and if so, how?

Anemia occurs when the body lacks enough hemoglobin on red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the tissues. Having anemia can make one feel weak and tired.

There are many forms of anemia, and each has a different cause. The condition can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.

Anemia can also manifest as a warning sign of a severe illness. When left untreated, anemia can cause severe fatigue, pregnancy complications, heart problems, or death.

Treatments for anemia can range from taking supplements, such as iron, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C, to undergoing medical procedures. 

Individuals may be able to prevent some types of anemia by eating a healthy diet consistently high in iron, vitamin B-12, and folate(1). 

CBD for Anemia: What The Research Says 

CBD has been shown to possess therapeutic benefits that might help with symptoms or conditions linked to some types of anemia.

Although further longitudinal research is needed to validate the results of those studies, the potential benefits of CBD as an alternative for managing symptoms cannot be overlooked.

CBD Oil and Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a disorder that affects hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body(2). 

People with this disorder have atypical hemoglobin molecules called hemoglobin S, which can distort red blood cells into a sickle, or crescent, shape.

Sickle cell anemia can cause the pain linked to an accumulation of misshapen red blood cells in the microscopic capillaries. Also, pain can occur from poor oxygenation of the tissues.

In some cases, individuals with sickle cell anemia are prompted to take potent opioid painkillers to manage the pain.

Unfortunately, opioid therapy, often used for this condition, can lead to dependence or addiction, as indicated in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine(3). 

A questionnaire study published in the British Journal of Haematology examined cannabis use in sickle cell disease(4).

52% of those who used marijuana to treat symptoms of the disorder used it to reduce the pain associated with the condition. Meanwhile, 77% said they used it for relaxation or sedation purposes.

A study used an animal model to look at how cannabinoids can be effective at treating the pain from sickle cell anemia(5). 

In this study, cannabinoids were shown to reduce neuropathic or nerve-related inflammation involved with sickle cell disease in mice.

Although the studies did not focus on CBD use, the results can be used to develop oral cannabinoids in treating acute sickle cell pain. 

CBD Oil and Iron Deficiency Anemia

CBD itself has little effect on iron deficiency anemia. However, hemp seed oil that is often used as a carrier oil in these products is a natural source of vitamin E and minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc(6).

Typically, the doses of hemp seed oil used for CBD oil are only a few milliliters per day. For instance, in 100 mL of hemp seed oil, there may be about 8 mg of iron.

The National Institute Of Health says the daily requirements for iron in adults between 19 and 50 years old is 8 mg/day for men, and 18 mg/day in women(7).

The American Society of Hematology recommends taking 150-200 mg of iron each day, or 2 to 5 mg of iron for every kilogram of body weight per day(8).

That much iron is the equivalent of about 1.9 L of hemp seed oil per day, which is an outrageous and unreasonable amount for an individual to take in a day.

Thus, given the modest amounts of iron that can be obtained from hemp seed oil, it is best to stick to iron supplements and other highly-concentrated sources of iron, such as dark leafy vegetables, tofu, and red meat.

CBD for Anemia Symptoms

Iron deficiency anemia can be very mild that, oftentimes, it goes unnoticed. However, as the body becomes deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify.

Iron deficiency anemia symptoms include:(9)

  • Fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances
  • Poor appetite

Meanwhile, studies have shown that CBD can help with these symptoms.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, drastic cannabidiol or CBD administration suppressed irregular heartbeat caused by ischemia-induced heart arrhythmias (inadequate blood supply in the heart)(10). Thus, CBD provides the heart with protection.

A 2014 review from the European Journal of Pharmacology established the potential of cannabis to limit or prevent nausea and vomiting from a wide range of causes(11).

CBD’s potent anti-inflammatory properties were also demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics(12). 

In the said study, CBD has been shown to work directly with the cannabinoid receptors of the body to help suppress inflammation.

In an animal study published in the PLOS One Journal, it was shown that CBD inhibits a receptor in the brain so that ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, is unable to act(13).

Meanwhile, a study on the relationship between cannabinoids and food intake suggested that endocannabinoids could impact energy balance and food intake within the brain(14).

Conclusion

To date, there has been no study that says CBD can directly help improve anemic conditions. 

Most of CBD’s benefits for anemia is only for the alleviation of the symptoms linked to anemia, rather than the condition itself. 

CBD is non-addictive, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in a 2015 article(15). This characteristic makes CBD safe for daily intakes, like a supplement.

Still, before using CBD as a source of iron, or as an adjunct therapy, consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2019, Aug 16). Anemia. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360.
  2. NIH. (2020, March 31). Sickle cell disease. Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/sickle-cell-disease.
  3. Okpala I, Tawil A. Management of pain in sickle-cell disease. J R Soc Med. 2002;95(9):456–458. DOI:10.1258/jrsm.95.9.456.
  4. Howard J, Anie KA, Holdcroft A, Korn S, Davies SC. Cannabis use in sickle cell disease: a questionnaire study. Br J Haematol. 2005;131(1):123–128. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2005.05723.x.
  5. Vincent L, Vang D, Nguyen J, Benson B, Lei J, Gupta K. Cannabinoid receptor-specific mechanisms to alleviate pain in sickle cell anemia via inhibition of mast cell activation and neurogenic inflammation. Haematologica. 2016;101(5):566–577. DOI:10.3324/haematol.2015.136523.
  6. Mihoc M, Pop G, Alexa E, Radulov I. Nutritive quality of romanian hemp varieties (Cannabis sativa L.) with special focus on oil and metal contents of seeds. Chem Cent J. 2012;6(1):122. Published 2012 Oct 23. DOI:10.1186/1752-153X-6-122.
  7. NIH. (2020, Feb 28). Iron. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/.
  8. American Society of Hematology. Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Retrieved from https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/anemia/iron-deficiency.
  9. Mayo Clinic. (2019, Oct 18). Iron deficiency anemia. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034.
  10. Walsh SK, Hepburn CY, Kane KA, Wainwright CL. Acute administration of cannabidiol in vivo suppresses ischaemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias and reduces infarct size when given at reperfusion. Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(5):1234–1242. DOI:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00755.x.
  11. Sharkey KA, Darmani NA, Parker LA. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. Eur J Pharmacol. 2014;722:134–146. DOI:10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.09.068.
  12. Petrosino S et al. Anti-inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychotropic Cannabinoid, in Experimental Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics June 2018, 365 (3) 652-663; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.117.244368.
  13. Kola B, Farkas I, Christ-Crain M, Wittmann G, Lolli F, Amin F, et al. (2008) The Orexigenic Effect of Ghrelin Is Mediated through Central Activation of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1797. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0001797.
  14. Fride E, Bregman T, Kirkham TC. Endocannabinoids and food intake: newborn suckling and appetite regulation in adulthood. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2005;230(4):225–234. DOI:10.1177/153537020523000401.
  15. Nora Volkow. NIDA. Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD). National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2015/07/researching-marijuana-therapeutic-purposes-potential-promise-cannabidiol-cbd. July 20, 2015. Accessed January 31, 2020. 
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