Anemia is a medical condition that involves premature breakdown, loss, or dysfunctional production of the red blood cells. Sickle cell anemia, on the other hand, is where normal red blood cells change shape to crescent or sickle-shaped and rigid cells. As such, they become inefficient in transporting oxygen throughout the body.

There are varying types of anemia, and each one has its symptoms and medication options. However, the past few years have seen people take CBD oil as a treatment option for anemia due to its beneficial therapeutic properties. Here, we examine how CBD can benefit sickle cell anemia, how it helps patients manage the associated pain and its science.

CBD and Sickle Cell Amenia: What is Sickle Cell Anemia?

That is an inherited disorder in which the red blood cells shrink and adopt a sickle or crescent shape. With this abnormal shape, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky as opposed to flexible. This dysfunctional shape means these cells cannot squeeze through tiny blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to body organs. And as they get stuck in their path, the sickle-shaped red blood cells restrict the adequate supply of oxygen throughout the body.

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disorder linked to genetics. The common symptoms associated with this condition may range from yellow skin/eyes, inflamed toes, and fingers to shortness of breath, dizziness, and painful joints. And while research is still limited on the viability of CBD in the management of this condition, preliminary studies have suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) possesses therapeutic properties that can help patients to manage symptoms associated with sickle cell anemia.

Red Blood Cells and the “Sickle Cell” Red Blood Cells

As already mentioned, sickle cell anemia is a combination of inherited blood cell disorders that causes the flexible and normal disc-shaped red blood cells to change into a crescent. Because these cells are responsible for the supply of oxygen to tissues and body cells, the flexible disc shape allows these cells to move seamlessly through the blood vessels.

However, the sickle cell anemic red blood cells assume a crescent shape that is inflexible and can easily get stuck to the walls of the blood vessels. That leads to poor cellular and tissue oxygenation that results in sudden pain crises. There is no known cure for this condition, but medication is administered to reduce pain and cut back on associated complications.

The lack of a cure for sickle cell anemia means that the disease lasts for a lifetime, with the exception of those who can access hematopoietic stem transplants, albeit rare. The symptoms and severity of this disease vary from one person to the other, but the disease eventually affects the spleen, liver, kidney, heart, lungs, penis, bones, skin, and eyes. And for the lack of a cure, treatment options are meant to improve the patients’ quality of life.

Causes and Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder that inhibits the production of healthy red blood cells that can transport oxygen to cells and body tissues. Regarding symptoms, the early signs of sickle cell anemia appear around 5 to 6 months of age. But the signs and symptoms include:

  • Episodes of sudden pain (what is clinically referred to as pain crises)
  • Anemia; this condition eats away one red cell, meaning you are left with too few red blood cells.
  • Chronic pain that results from joint and bone damage.
  • Swollen hands and feet (caused by the blockage of oxygenated blood to these organs).
  • Susceptibility to infections because one’s spleen is affected.
  • Delayed child development or delayed puberty.
  • Vision complications (mostly because one’s eyes become plugged with dysfunctional sickle cells.
  • Yellow skin and eyes.

How Can Sickle Cell Anemia be Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of this condition involves a blood test that checks for a specific form of defective hemoglobin that points to sickle cell anemia. In the United States, newborns must be screened for sickle cell anemia at birth. However, adults can undertake a blood test.

When to See a doctor

As already stated, this condition is a mandatory diagnosis at infancy as provided by the U.S newborn screening regulations. And if through this screening your kid is found to carry sickle cell gene, you will be referred to specialists such as genetic counselors.

How CBD Oil can help with Sickle Cell Anemia

Research has shown that hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD Oil can play a beneficial and therapeutic role in alleviating symptoms associated with anemia – especially the frequent and sudden episodes of pain. CBD, among its others usefulness, has proven to be quite effective in pain management. A 2014 study on mice that had expressed the human sickle hemoglobin showed that administration of CBD oil relieved pain.

Moreover, the most commonly prescribed medication for sickle cell is opioids. Still, CBD is a pure, safer, and natural remedy for pain bouts experienced by people with sickle cell anemia. That is mainly because opioids often come with undesired side effects such as nausea, constipation, vomiting, etc. CBD also possesses the anti-inflammatory property that could reduce incidences of cell blockage through the walls of the blood vessels.

Benefits of using CBD for Sickle Cell Anemia

Whereas CBD cannot cure this lifetime condition, its therapeutic properties are beneficial in alleviating hard-to-manage symptoms. Doing so increases activity in the endocannabinoid system to regulate and modulate body functions – which is a useful property in managing pain, among other conditions. Among other benefits, CBD does the following:

  • CBD inhibits pain associated with sickle cell anemia, which is often sudden and severe.
  • CBD oil enhances energy levels in patients suffering from iron-deficient anemia.
  • CBD Oil inhibits inflammation around the hands and feet in patients with sickle cell anemia.

CBD Dosage for Sickle Cell Anemia

Like many other health conditions, the dosage for CBD varies from person to person and depends on one’s health condition. Currently, there is no standard amount of CBD to be consumed daily. But as a rule of thumb, take lower dosages, monitor the progress, and adjust accordingly.


We would like to thank the below contributors who have helped us to write this article:


Marie Salbuvik

MS, Lund University, Sweden

Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

Latest from Health