Study Summary: Cannabis for Crohn's

Updated: Jul 10

Many peer-reviewed research studies published in reputable journals have revealed the sometimes markedly pronounced medicinal efficacy of the various cannabinoids and terpenes produced by the cannabis plant (also called marijuana, hemp, and pot).

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What is Crohn's Disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Crohn's disease "is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)" that results in sometimes severe inflammation within the digestive tract. This inflammation can produce symptoms that include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and even malnutrition.


Crohn's gained its name from Dr. Burrill Crohn, an American gastroenterologist who, along with two colleagues, formally discovered the disease in 1932.


"Crohn's can be both painful and debilitating and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications...."

"Inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people. This inflammation often spreads into the deeper layers of the bowel," explained the Mayo Clinic.


"Crohn's can be both painful and debilitating and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications," explained the organization, while adding that there is no known cause and no cure for this common and life-altering disease. In extreme cases, fever and anemia may result and patients may be prescribed chemotherapy, steroids, or surgery to remove extremely inflamed portions of the intestine.

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Onset of this painful disease most commonly occurs when sufferers are between 20 and 30 years of age. However, according to Johns Hopkins University, one-sixth of patients experience Crohn's symptoms before the age of 15.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, "In 2015, an estimated 1.3 percent of U.Ss adults (3 million people) were diagnosed with IBD (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis). It may affect as many as 800,000 Americans.


The Research Study

A 2013 human trial research study conducted in Israel investigated the efficacy of smoked loose-leaf cannabis for patients with Crohn's disease.


The study cited was called "Cannabis Induces a Clinical Response in Patients with Crohn's Disease: A Prospective Placebo-controlled Study" and published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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It noted that "the marijuana plant Cannabis Sativa has been reported to produce beneficial effects for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, but this has not been investigated in controlled trials. We performed a prospective trial to determine whether cannabis can induce remission in patients with Crohn's disease."


The researchers studies 21 patients who featured a mean age of 40, with 13 being male and eight female. All study participants had Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) scores greater than 200 and "did not respond to therapy with steroids, immunomodulators, or anti-tumor necrosis factor-α agents."


Study participants "were assigned randomly to groups given cannabis twice daily in the form of cigarettes containing 115 mg of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a placebo containing cannabis flowers from which the THC had been extracted."

Study participants "were assigned randomly to groups given cannabis twice daily in the form of cigarettes containing 115 mg of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a placebo containing cannabis flowers from which the THC had been extracted," noted the study.


This twice daily routine of smoking THC-rich joints lasted for eight weeks. Participants were tested for "disease activity" during this period and for an additional two weeks following cessation of treatment.


The Results

Given the relatively short period of time during which patients consumed the cannabis joints (only eight weeks), the results were considered quite stunning and positive. The study noted that "complete remission" was achieved by five of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (45%) and 1 of 10 in the placebo group.

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"A clinical response was observed in 10 of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (90 percent) and four of 10 in the placebo group (40 percent). Three patients in the cannabis group were weaned from steroid dependency. Side effects reported by participants included improved appetite and better sleep quality, "with no significant [negative] side effects."


The study noted that "complete remission" was achieved by five of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (45%) and 1 of 10 in the placebo group.

The researchers concluded "Although the primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved [by the majority of participants]," the eight weeks of THC-rich cannabis produced "significant clinical, steroid-free benefits for 10 of 11 patients with active Crohn's disease, compared with placebo." The study's authors noted that this was achieved without negative side effects.


The study reported that similar human trials involving larger groups of Crohn's patients and involving nonsmoked cannabis medicine (such as edibles or sublingual tinctures) are needed to further understand the underlying mechanisms leading to improvements and potential remission.


Visit the original study.




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