There is emerging research to suggest that patients may use medical marijuana for stomach pain.
Preliminary studies have found promising results for the cannabinoids cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating different aspects of gastrointestinal issues, including stomach pain.
This article will cover the most up-to-date research on this therapeutic application of medicinal cannabis.
Marijuana for Stomach Pain
Patients who suffer from stomach pain have reported turning to marijuana for relief.
Stomach pain may be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or another condition. Cannabis and its derivatives have been used traditionally for centuries for the beneficial effects on disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
IBS is a non-inflammatory condition that affects up to fifteen percent of the world population. It is classified as a functional disorder, since the symptoms do not have an identifiable cause.
Patients with IBS may feel physical symptoms, but they often have normal test results and show no clinical signs of disease.
IBS often includes a combination of symptoms, including abdominal pain, cramps, constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms are almost always worsened by stress.
IBD is an incurable disease that effects millions of people. Patients with IBD have chronic swelling, or inflammation, of the intestines. Types of IBD include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and indeterminate colitis.
IBD can have the same symptoms as IBS, as well as extreme fatigue, intestinal scarring, join pain, malnutrition, weight loss and more.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a dominant cannabinoid in medical weed, interacts with the human body through two types of cannabinoid (CB) receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
CB1 and CB2 receptors are prevalent in the immune, nervous and hematopoietic systems.
CB2 receptors are present in the GI tract and help regulate abnormal motility, modulate intestinal inflammation and limit visceral sensitivity and pain. The role of CB2 receptors in the stomach, gut and the rest of the GI tract shows how cannabis has a beneficial effect on the body.
Cannabinoids like CBD do not interact with CB1 or CB2, but they do broadly interface with other signaling networks in the body as it acts to promote balance in these systems.
If you are wondering whether to use Indica or Sativa for IBS or another gastrointestinal disorder, you are not the first. But this is actually the wrong way to frame your search.
Instead, focus on the types and amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes in the strains you explore. A licensed health care practitioner can help you select the right strain of cannabis that contains adequate amounts of cannabinoids like Cannabigerol.
Cannabis contains more than 66 cannabinoids, including THC, CBD and the lesser known CBG (cannabigerol).
Like CBD, CBG is non-psychotropic, so it doesn’t change your mental state or give you a euphoric high.
A preliminary animal study has suggested that CBG may have a positive effect on patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Borrelli et. al 2013).
For patients with IBD, nitric oxide plays a role in initiating and maintaining inflammation, but CBG has been shown to reduce nitric oxide production and improve colitis. The researchers involved in the study suggested that CBG could be considered for clinical studies on IBD patients.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is another lesser known, non-psychotropic cannabinoid with medicinal benefits.
CBC activates the transient receptor potential ankyrin‐type1 (TRPA1). While it does not appear to interact with the cannabinoid receptors, it has been observed to help prevent the endocannabinoid system from being inactive.
Both TRPA1 and the endocannabinoid system are involved in the inflammatory process and in the perception of pain.
A 2013 non-human study found that CBC acts as an anti-inflammatory in activated macrophages, and it ameliorates experimental colitis in mice. Colitis refers to a form of inflammation in the colon which can lead to stomach pain and other symptoms.
Researchers found two significant implications from the study.
First, CBC could limit tissue destruction caused by nitric oxide in autoimmune diseases.
Second, CBC had such therapeutic effects in the study on mice that CBC should be considered a promising candidate for clinical studies on IBD patients (Romano et. al 2013).
Cannabis contains a wide range of terpenes as well as cannabinoids.
Terpenes are the plant’s aromatic compounds. This means that smells associated with distinct strains of cannabis come from that plant’s unique terpenes.
Terpenes are more than just an aroma though. They also play a part in treating medical conditions.
Another non-human research study in 2004 found potential value for the terpene cineole (also called eucalyptol) as an anti-inflammatory in rats with colitis, a condition that can generate severe abdominal pain.
The researchers suggested that using cineole as a dietary flavoring agent may help prevent gastrointestinal inflammation and ulceration (Santos et. al 2004).
THC for Stomach Issues
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is arguably the most famous cannabinoid found in cannabis.
So when it comes to using medical marijuana for stomach pain, questions about how THC influences the body’s gastrointestinal systems are bound to come up.
It is the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s euphoric high and is the plant’s main psychoactive compound. THC is also an important cannabinoid for using medical marijuana to treat stomach pain and other symptoms from conditions such as Chron’s Disease.
In a short, eight-week study, researchers performed a double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study on 21 patients with Crohn’s Disease. Their symptoms would not respond to therapy with steroids and immunomodulators.
Researchers treated patients in the experimental group two times a day with cannabis that contained 115 mg of THC.
Forty-five percent of the cannabis group achieved complete remission as compared to ten percent of the placebo group. Ninety percent of the cannabis group had improved symptoms, while forty percent of the placebo group improved (Naftali et. al 2013).
Three members of the cannabis group were weaned entirely from their steroid dependency.
Patients in the cannabis group reported improved appetite and sleep, and they had no significant side effects.
This short study illustrates how THC can benefit patients with active Crohn’s disease, but more studies are needed with larger patient groups.
CBD for Stomach Issues
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the primary non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in marijuana and is highly valued for its medical properties. The only cannabinoid more abundant in medicinal cannabis is THC.
In an animal study on inflammation and pain, researchers administered CBD orally to rats for three days after the onset of acute inflammation.
They found that oral CBD improved symptoms of established inflammation: sensitivity to pain and edema (Costa et. al 2004).
These anti-inflammatory effects are thought to extend to inflammatory diseases related to the bowels and digestive tract.
Does CBD help with nausea?
For centuries, cannabis has been used to suppress nausea and vomiting.
Low doses of CBD are understood to suppress toxin-induced vomiting, but high doses can exacerbate the issue or cause no effect.
In a 2011 animal study, researchers found that CBD helps with nausea as well.
The results from this in vitro study on rats suggest that CBD suppresses nausea and vomiting by activating the 5‐HT1A autoreceptors in the brainstem (Rock et al. 2011).
Marijuana has been used for stomach pain for hundreds of years.
Research evidence is compelling for the anti-inflammatory properties of the following chemicals found naturally in cannabis:
- CBG (cannabigerol),
- CBC (cannabichromene),
- the terpene cineole
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and
- CBD (cannabidiol).
If you are suffering from a gastrointestinal condition that is causing abdominal pain and other issues, speak with a health care practitioner licensed to prescribe cannabis in your province.
They will be able to identify the right strain with the right cannabinoid content to help you use marijuana for stomach pain effectively.
- Borrelli, Francesca, Ines Fasolino, Barbara Romano, Raffaele Capasso, Francesco Maiello, Diana Coppola, Pierangelo Orlando et al. “Beneficial effect of the non-psychotropic plant cannabinoid cannabigerol on experimental inflammatory bowel disease.” Biochemical pharmacology 85, no. 9 (2013): 1306-1316.
- Naftali, Timna, Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, Iris Dotan, Ephraim Philip Lansky, Fabiana Sklerovsky Benjaminov, and Fred Meir Konikoff. “”Cannabis induces a clinical response in patients with Crohn’s disease: a prospective placebo-controlled study.” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 11, no. 10 (2013): 1276-1280.
- Rock, E. M., D. Bolognini, C. L. Limebeer, M. G. Cascio, S. Anavi‐Goffer, P. J. Fletcher, R. Mechoulam, R. G. Pertwee, and L. A. Parker. “Cannabidiol, a non‐psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea‐like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5‐HT1A somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.” British journal of pharmacology 165, no. 8 (2012): 2620-2634.
- Romano, B., F. Borrelli, I. Fasolino, R. Capasso, F. Piscitelli, M. G. Cascio, R. G. Pertwee et al. “The cannabinoid TRPA1 agonist cannabichromene inhibits nitric oxide production in macrophages and ameliorates murine colitis.” British Journal of Pharmacology 169, no. 1 (2013): 213-229.
- Santos, F. A., R. M. Silva, A. R. Campos, R. P. De Araujo, RCP Lima Júnior, and V. S. N. Rao. “1, 8-cineole (eucalyptol), a monoterpene oxide attenuates the colonic damage in rats on acute TNBS-colitis.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 42, no. 4 (2004): 579-584.
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