Bones and Joints: The Effects of Cannabinoids on the Skeleton

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Oct 1;104(10):4683-4694. doi: 10.1210/jc.2019-00665.


Context: The endocannabinoid system uses tissue-specific lipid ligands and G protein‒coupled transmembrane receptors to regulate neurologic, metabolic, and immune responses. Recent studies demonstrate that the endocannabinoid system influences bone metabolism. With the increasing use of endocannabinoid mimetics (e.g., tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol), the involvement of endocannabinoids in bone growth and remodeling has become clinically relevant.

Evidence acquisition: This literature review is based on a search of PubMed and Google Scholar databases as of June 2019 for all English-language publications relating to cannabinoids and bone. We evaluated retrieved articles for relevance, experimental design, data acquisition, statistical analysis, and conclusions.

Evidence synthesis: Preclinical studies establish a role for endocannabinoids in bone metabolism. These studies yield complex and often contradictory results attributed to differences in the specific experimental model examined. Studies using human cells or subjects are limited.

Conclusions: In vitro and animal models document that endocannabinoids are involved in bone biology. The relevance of these observations to humans is not clear. The increasing long-term use of medical and recreational cannabis underscores the need to better understand the role of endocannabinoids in human bone metabolism. Moreover, it is important to evaluate the role of endocannabinoids as a therapeutic target to prevent and treat disorders associated with bone loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Development / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Joints / drug effects*
  • Joints / physiology
  • Spine / drug effects
  • Spine / physiology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids