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Study: Cannabis for Crohn's Disease

Updated: May 28, 2023

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Cannabis for Crohn's Disease Study

A 2020 study entitled "An Overview of Cannabis-based Treatment in Crohn's Disease" that was published in the journal Expert Review of Gastrolenterology and Hepatology explored the ability of cannabis to effectively treat conditions of the gastrointestinal tract such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Crohn's disease.

A man clutching his stomach in pain
Does cannabis help Crohn's disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Crohn's disease is a type of IBD that can cause swelling of the tissues in the digestive tract. This, in turn, can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. In severe cases, Crohn's can result in arthritis and ocular deficiencies.


Inflammation caused by Crohn's disease "can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people, most commonly the small intestine," reported the Clinic. "This inflammation often spreads into the deeper layers of the bowel," it added.


Crohn's disease "can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications," noted the Clinic. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it.

Crohn's disease "can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications," noted the Clinic. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn's disease. A number of therapies have displayed the ability to "greatly reduce its signs and symptoms" and sometimes to even "bring about long-term remission and healing of inflammation."

A man uses garden trimmers to prune some cannabis plants in a garden
Cannabis use is common among Crohn's patients

Noted the 2020 study: "Cannabis use among inflammatory bowel disease patients is common" and the primary efficacy demonstrated by "many studies of various laboratory models" of cannabis "are anti-inflammatory," but that our understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in such potentially beneficial outcomes "is still lacking."


"Cannabis use among inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients is common" and that the primary efficacy demonstrated by "many studies of various laboratory models" of marijuana "are anti-inflammatory."

Cannabidiol & Tetrahydrocannabinol

Cannabis for Crohn's Disease Study. The study explained how the cannabis plant species "contains many cannabinoids that activate the endocannabinoid system" (ECS). It defined the "two most abundant phytocannabinoids" as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and "the (mostly) anti-inflammatory cannabidiol (CBD)."


The study reported that approximately "15 percent of IBD patients use cannabis to ameliorate disease symptoms." At the time of this investigation (2020), however, the study's authors lamented the fact that "so far there are only three small placebo controlled study regarding the use of cannabis in active Crohn's disease."


However, the study's authors lamented the fact that "so far there are only three small placebo controlled study regarding the use of cannabis in active Crohn's disease."

The report also noted that, combined, these studies represent only 93 human test subjects. Such a small cumulative cohort (study subject group) may hint at the efficacy of cannabis for inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's. Unfortunately, it does not provide solid insight into the outcomes of using cannabis for IBD and the underlying mechanisms (critical to understand if effective therapies and drugs are the goal of scientific investigation).

A garden of cannabis
Does cannabis help those with intestinal disorders?

Cannabis for Crohn's Disease Study Results

Two of these three studies revealed "significant clinical improvement, but no improvement in markers of inflammation." Reported the study's authors, "Cannabis seems to have a therapeutic potential in IBD" and that this potential "must not be neglected."


Two of these three studies revealed "significant clinical improvement, but no improvement in markers of inflammation."

The study noted that, overall, cannabis research "is still at a very early stage." It attributed the crude state of research about the herb to "the complexity of the plant and the diversity of different cannabis chemovars" and stated that these factors "create an inherent difficulty in cannabis research."


Cannabis for Crohn's Disease Study Conclusions

"We need more studies investigating the effect of the various cannabis compounds," summarized the scientists. They recommended randomized placebo controlled clinical trials involving humans "to fully explore the potential of cannabis treatment in IBD."


View the original study.

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