Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic condition that affects more than 3 million people in the United States. IBD includes both Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

IBD doesn’t have a cure, and medications aren’t always effective for managing symptoms. In the past several years, scientists have been exploring the effectiveness of cannabis in managing IBD symptoms. The results are still uncertain.

Today, medical uses for cannabis are on the rise for various conditions such as seizures, chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy, and inflammatory conditions. This is helping cannabis gain wider acceptance.

We will take a closer look at the research behind cannabis use for IBD.

Language matters

Cannabis is a species of plant that includes a subgroup known as Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica,and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis plants have many complex compounds and properties called cannabinoids. Two of the most studied cannabis compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Each has different effects.

The dried flowers, stems, leaves, or seeds of these plants are referred to as “Marijuana”.

Cannabis is the preferred name for this group of plants. This is due to the evolving legal status of cannabis in the United States. It is also to avoid the racist connotations associated with the term.

IBD is a chronic (long-term) condition that can seriously impact your quality of life depending on your symptoms. Scientists still don’t know the exact cause of IBD, but they believe genetics, diet, and environmental influences may all be factors.

“If you have severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody stools, and UC, current treatments for IBD aren’t always effective. Scientists are searching for new therapies to improve peoples long-term outlook.”

Studies show that forms of C. sativa (THC and CBD) are commonly used by people with IBD to manage symptoms such as abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about whether cannabinoids may be useful for IBD. This is because there are more than 140 compounds found in cannabis plant varieties with many different effects. There are still a lot of questions about their use for IBD treatment.

Some important questions are included.

  • Which types are beneficial?
  • How do they help with IBD symptoms?
  • Which forms are best?
  • What is known about the risks of long-term use?

For example, a 2020 review of studies of cannabis for IBD found insufficient evidence for the effectiveness and safety of cannabis for managing UC and CD symptoms. More research is needed to understand if cannabis has benefits for UC or CD symptoms and if the long-term complications outweigh the benefits.

Experts believe cannabinoids may work by mimicking the actions of endocannabinoids naturally found in the body. Endocannabinoids attach to two different receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the body and are responsible for many common body functions.

Research shows cannabinoids (THC and CBD) may lead to stimulation of CB1 and CB2 receptors and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. They may have effects similar to endocannabinoids in this way and help to manage certain symptoms of IBD such as:

  • low appetite
  • Difficulty with digestion
  • It is pain or cramping.
  • inflammation
  • low metabolism

However, to date, studies haven’t indicated the effectiveness of different forms of cannabis at consistently reducing IBD symptoms. More human clinical trials are needed to better understand how various forms of cannabis may be beneficial for IBD symptoms.

Ongoing trials for IBD research

If you want to participate in a clinical trial for IBD research, you can ask your doctor about it.

If you qualify for enroll in a clinical study, you should ask your doctor for more information.

Cannabis has many different effects on the body. The effects depend on the type of cannabis (THC or CBD), the amount and strength (level of THC), how it’s consumed (smoked or taken by mouth), other health conditions you may have, other medications you take, and other individual factors.

Short-term effects may include:

Other side effects with the drug include:

Discussing alternative treatments with a doctor

If you want to try cannabis for IBD symptoms, you should talk to a doctor. They can explain.

  • There are pros and cons of cannabis.
  • There is a difference between medical cannabis and other forms.
  • The effects of long-term and short-term use on health.
  • Legal status in your state.

Cannabis can interact with your current drugs. Discuss any over-the-counter products you are interested in trying with a doctor or a pharmacist. This includes all drugs.

Having an open conversation with a doctor about your interest in learning about cannabis can help guide you in the right direction. By law, what you tell them must be kept to a minimum.

Cannabis has many different types with many different properties. The strength and type of cannabis can affect its effects. The science behind the beneficial effects of cannabis is not clear.

“The results of research are not consistent when it comes to cannabis’s effects on IBD symptoms. There is still no known effectiveness of cannabis for IBD. More studies are needed before cannabis can be used to treat IBD symptoms.”

It is not an option where you live if cannabis is not legal in your state. A doctor can tell you about new research. They can discuss other factors such as how it may impact your work, safety, and effects of long-term use. Ask them if cannabis is an option.