Benefits of Cannabis for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that covers two other medical conditions: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, as many as 1.6 million Americans are affected by IBD, and many are diagnosed before age thirty. The most common forms of IBD affect the body's small intestine and colon. Most IBD patients are prescribed pharmaceutical medications for their symptoms, and some even resort to surgery. However, in the last decade, additional benefits of cannabis have surfaced, and it has been found that cannabis can provide relief to those with IBD. Read on to find out more about the benefits of cannabis and how this plant and its compounds could act as a natural IBD treatment method.

About Inflammatory Bowel Disease & Its Symptoms

IBD is used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the body's digestive tract, according to the Mayo Clinic. IBD can be debilitating, and it can lead to life-threatening complications. Although the causes of IBD are currently unknown, there are certain suspected risk factors, which include diet and stress. However, another possible cause of IBD is an immune system malfunction.

Heredity plays a role as well, especially because IBD is more common amongst people who have family members with the disease, even though most people with IBD don't have a family history of it, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition, IBD often results in making constant trips to the bathroom while also experiencing difficulty digesting and thoroughly enjoying food. A handful of major symptoms that occur from IBD includes diarrhea, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain and cramping, reduced appetite, unintended weight loss, and blood in stool. In general, individuals with IBD often experience lots of inflammation and abdominal pain. Fortunately, though, recently, cannabis has shown to contain therapeutic benefits for IBD.

Benefits of Cannabis for Treating IBD & Its Symptoms

Thus far, we’ve become increasingly aware of the medicinal properties and benefits of cannabis over time. Different studies have been released which demonstrate cannabis and other cannabinoids' ability to deliver relief to individuals struggling with different medical conditions like IBD. Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the whole body, but most of them are found within the central nervous system. However, many are found on the gastrointestinal tract and within the immune system.

Furthermore, it has been found that cannabis contains immunomodulatory properties, and the plant's cannabinoids can impact messages sent between the body's gut and brain. This is useful because the gut is directly connected to the brain via the vagal nerve, according to The vagal nerve is an information highway that informs individuals when they're hungry or ill, and it also triggers the body's fight-or-flight response.

Certain studies, including one published by the National Institute of Health, discuss the fact that THC binds to the body's CB1 receptor on the vagal nerve, which alters the gut-to-brain communication. When this occurs, changes in perception can take place, in addition to a reduction in nausea and vomiting—two major IBD symptoms.

Additional Medicinal Properties & Benefits of Cannabis

The cannabinoids within cannabis directly engage with regional immune cells and the vagal nerve. Both CBD and THC can engage immune cells, and after consuming cannabis, messages can get sent from the body's gut to the brain. In other words, if you're feeling sick or nauseous, consuming cannabis will result in sent messages telling you to go vomit or make a bathroom trip.

Additionally, different cannabinoids can cause biochemical changes within the gut, which can be very helpful for IBD patients. Also, cannabis contains anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties. Both CBD and THC can stop pro-inflammatory proteins and encourage anti-inflammatory proteins instead, according to Fortunately, cannabis's anti-inflammatory compounds can effectively reduce symptoms caused by an excessive amount of intestinal inflammation.

In general, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in managing pain, and it also plays a crucial role in pain sensation within the gut. Although extreme pain is common amongst IBD patients, cannabis compounds can activate cannabinoid receptors, which disrupt pain signaling as a result.

After cannabis consumption, many IBD patients experience less pain, improved bowel functioning, and much less inflammation. Due to the benefits of cannabis, IBD patients can experience less chronic pain and nausea while also experiencing an increase in appetite, which can lead to necessary weight gain.

Cannabis and IBD Studies/Conducted Research Findings

Moreover, according to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, clinical trials found that CBD was an effective anti-inflammatory medicine for those with ulcerative colitis in particular. Similarly, a study was conducted in 2012, which focused on thirteen IBD patients who regularly consumed medical cannabis. After frequent cannabis consumption, they experienced weight gain, an improved quality of life, fewer IBD flare-ups, less depression, less pain, improved social functioning, and improved ability to work, according to the National Institute of Health.

Additionally, a 2011 questionnaire was conducted in which 100 ulcerative colitis patients and 191 Crohn's disease patients were questioned about medical cannabis. Out of this number, 51 percent reported lifetime cannabis use, and of that amount, 33 percent reported that they use cannabis to reduce their disease-related symptoms.

U.S. States That Allow IBD Patients to Apply for a Medical Cannabis Card

The U.S. states that have approved medical cannabis to treat IBD include Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. However, other states have approved medical cannabis to treat certain types of IBD like Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis, which are listed below:

Crohn's disease:

Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, and West Virginia.

Ulcerative colitis:

Arkansas, Connecticut, and Ohio.

In addition, the following states would consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of IBD with a physician's recommendation: California, Nevada, Washington, D.C., and Oregon.


Overall, the benefits of cannabis can be life-changing, especially amongst individuals who experience chronic pain like IBD patients. Although cannabis doesn't cure IBD, it can significantly reduce the symptoms associated with the disease, and it can even lead to remission in certain cases.


Interested in consuming CBD, but unsure of which strains to consume? Check out the informative article here to get some high-CBD strain ideas.

Learn about THC and its medicinal benefits by reading the interesting article here.

Article by: Nicole Skrobin