The effect of cannabis on the digestive system is well-known. Anyone who has ever taken a toke is familiar with the “munchies,” and cannabis long has been recommended to help seriously ill patients regain their appetite and deal with nausea.
Medical Marijuana For Crohn’s Disease
New research reveals that compounds found in the cannabis plant may have promising therapeutic effects for people suffering from a wide array of gastrointestinal diseases. Researchers are focusing especially on serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, especially Crohn’s disease, with anecdotal evidence and scientific research showing that cannabis medical marijuana can ease cramping and help with diarrhea, constipation and acid reflux.
“The promise of emerging drugs that are more selective and peripherally acting suggest that, in the near future, cannabinoids will play a major role in managing an array of GI diseases,” concluded a recent study in the medical journal Current Gastroenterology Reports.
Cannabis has long been used to help with intestinal distress in both Eastern and Western medical traditions, and its effectiveness in suppressing nausea and stimulating appetite among AIDS and cancer patients was highlighted early in the movement to legalize marijuana for medical use. Patients typically smoke cannabis or consume it orally in edibles or other forms.
A 1999 book by the National Academy of Sciences, summarizing available research, concluded that for patients suffering simultaneously from severe pain, nausea and appetite loss, “cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication.”
Since then, researchers have learned much more about why cannabis seems to have so much therapeutic promise for issues related to the gut. The answer has to do with the endocannabinoid system discovered in humans and other mammals, which helps regulate a wide variety of physiological and cognitive processes affecting appetite, mood, pain sensation and memory.
The system includes two key receptors that respond to the two principal active compounds, or cannabinoids, within the cannabis plant, known as THC and CBD.
More Medical Studies Of Cannabis
“Cannabinoids alter how the gut feels, affect the signals the brain sends back and forth to the gut, and modulate the actions of the GI tract itself,” according to a summary of research published by Americans for Safe Access, a pro-marijuana advocacy group. More and more studies are revealing the efficacy of Cannabis for various medical conditions.
Cannabis — with and without the ‘high’
THC is the main psychoactive compound within cannabis that causes users to feel euphoric — a side effect that has limited the ability or desire of some patients to use marijuana therapeutically. For other patients, of course, the feeling of being elevated is a pleasant, mildly enjoyable sensation that helps them cope with pain and discomfort. And the side effects of cannabis generally are far less serious than those associated with other medications commonly prescribed for serious gastrointestinal diseases, such as steroids.
Now many researchers are focusing on the potential of CBD, which has no psychotropic effect. Growers and producers have developed a burgeoning market of cannabis products with a wide array of profiles, including products with relatively low amounts of THC, or none at all. With cannabis now legal for medical or recreational use in 29 states and the District of Columbia, many physicians will be open to discussing therapeutic use of cannabis with their patients, despite a federal ban.