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Can Cannabis Relieve Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?


Alongside the rise in legality and acceptance of cannabis flower and CBD oil, more and more information is being learned about its potential medicinal use in treating diseases and their symptoms.

Currently, new research is being done in the investigation of its use in treating the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, which has been identified as another potential benefit of the plant.

While the mechanisms that drive the palliative properties of cannabis are difficult to pin down, the evidence supporting its medicinal value continues to grow as more and more states have legalized.

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Cannabis Use as a Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a severe form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can attack any part of the tissue throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract—form top to bottom—thereby causing serious inflammation. As a result of this severe inflammation, people with the disease experience symptoms such as diarrhea, pain, cramping, constipation and bleeding.

Moreover, as a result of the inflammation and its impact on the body, people also suffer from fatigue, fever and weight and appetite loss, among other issues.

Although cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, limited scientific research has been performed on the drug due to its controversial societal standing. It is understood that compounds—known as cannabinoids—in the plant bind to specific inhibitory receptors to produce physiological effects that can alleviate a variety of symptoms.

Cannabis has been known to be effective in treating Crohn’s Disease for some time now, but without the ability to do more extensive research, scientists were under the assumption that it did so by reducing the inflammation that Crohn’s Disease causes.

However, according to new research conducted at Tel Aviv University in Israel, which set out to test this widely-accepted belief, it turns out that it is not actually the case.

What did the New Research Find?

In order to understand the benefits of cannabis in treating Crohn’s Disease, the researchers devised a study in which 46 people with a moderately severe case of the condition were randomly assigned to two groups for an eight-week treatment regimen. One group received a placebo, while the other was given cannabis oil for treatment. Validated assessment tools were then used to quantify each patient’s quality of life and severity of symptoms, while gastrointestinal inflammation was assessed via endoscopic exams and markers in stool and blood samples.

As the researchers expected, the group which received the cannabis oil experienced significantly better outcomes.

Specifically, 65 percent of this group experienced a clinical remission of Crohn’s Disease when compared to just 35 percent of the people who were given the placebo. Furthermore, the cannabis oil group exhibited meaningful improvements in their assessed measures of life quality compared to the placebo group. However, the study revealed an unexpected surprise too, as the researchers found “no statistically significant improvements in endoscopy scores or in the inflammatory markers” among the group that received the cannabis oil.

In other words, while the use of cannabis markedly improved the symptomology of Crohn’s Disease, it did not do so by reducing inflammation—the primary signature of the disease. This result had not been anticipated by the researchers, who are already planning to investigate this phenomenon further.

The Potential of Medicinal Cannabis

Including only a small number of patients and testing only one type of cannabis oil, this study leaves many unanswered questions that will need to be investigated through further research. While the study results were both interesting and encouraging, it is arguable that the most important takeaway from this research is that our understanding of medicinal cannabis use remains largely undeveloped.

However, should the cultural acceptance of cannabis continue to expand, scientists will have more opportunities to test this drug and its therapeutic potential.

We certainly do not understand many of the pathways through which cannabis treats the symptoms of a disease, but its medicinal use continues to show promise.

Derek Noland, MPH – Contributing Writer
Derek is a researcher, trainer, and community liaison at the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program at the University of Colorado, specializing in promoting health systems change and combating health disparities. Including his background as a technical writer and editor, he has over 15 years of experience working in the health care field. His past experience includes serving as a contributing author on several textbooks in the medical field, running a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and writing a variety of didactic pieces ranging from online training courses to medical software manuals. Personally, Derek pursues his passion for health and wellness by playing multiple sports, hiking, and running marathons, and through extensive travel, having visited or lived in over 60 countries.

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