By Angela Johns PhD
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a medical term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Types of IBD include ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Both of these disorders usually involve severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss.
There is currently no cure for IBD. Instead, treatment is concerned with treating and managing symptoms.
The marijuana plant Cannabis sativa and its active ingredients, cannabinoids, have grown increasingly popular as a potential therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Research into marijuana and inflammatory bowel disease is limited but has shown some promising results. Most of the research is done on animals or human tissue taken from biopsies, and is mainly concerned with the anti-inflammatory properties of some cannabinoids.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2010 found that using a combination of two well known cannabinoids, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC ) and cannabidiol (CBD) together, reduced inflammation in a rat model of colitis(1). Another study published in 2011 (2), showed that CBD worked to effectively reduce inflammation on biopsy tissue taken from patients with ulcerative colitis. CBD was effective both on tissue taken from patients during remission and during the active phases of the disease.
In addition, an observational study conducted by researchers from the Meir Medical Center in Israel found that the use of medicinal cannabis helped patients with Crohn’s disease manage their symptoms (3). This research group are currently conducting randomised controlled trials in order to gain reliable information about safety, dosage and effects of medical cannabis for the treatment of IBD (4).
This research certainly looks promising and as medicinal cannabis laws change around the world, it will become easier for scientists to investigate cannabis further and come to solid conclusions about its role as a treatment for IBD.
- Jamontt JM, Molleman A, Pertwee RG, Parsons ME. The effects of Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol alone and in combination on damage, inflammation and in vitro motility disturbances in rat colitis. Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(3):712-23.
- De Filippis D, Esposito G, Cirillo C, Cipriano M, De Winter BY, Scuderi C, et al. Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28159.
- Naftali T, Mechulam R, Lev LB, Konikoff FM. Cannabis for inflammatory bowel disease. Dig Dis. 2014;32(4):468-74.
4. Naftali T, Konikoff FM. Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: from Anecdotal Use to Medicalization? Isr Med Assoc J. 2017;19(2):95-7.