Can the symptoms of Crohn’s disease be improved by cannabis oil?

Can the symptoms of Chron's disease be improved by cannabis oil?
© iStock/OlegMalyshev

Studies show that cannabis oil can significantly improve symptoms of Crohn’s disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation.

Being the first of its kind, this study has discovered that cannabis oil has shown to considerably improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and the quality of life of sufferers. However, this is contrary to previous medical thinking, whereby there is no effect on gut inflammation.

The use of cannabis oil for Crohn’s disease

Speaking at UEG week 2018 in Vienna, Italy, Dr Timna Naftali, MD Specialist in Gastroenterology at Meir Hospital and Kupat Holim Clinic, Tel Aviv University, Israel, explained: “Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical conditions, and studies have shown that many people with Crohn’s disease use cannabis regularly to relieve their symptoms.”

“It has always been thought that this improvement was related to a reduction in inflammation in the gut and the aim of this study was to investigate this.”

Researchers have shown, in a randomised study, that cannabis can produce clinical reduction in up to 65% of individuals after 8 weeks of treatment, but this improvement does not seem to result from a dampening down of the underlying inflammatory process.

Are there measurable improvements?

“We have previously demonstrated that cannabis can produce measurable improvements in Crohn’s disease symptoms but, to our surprise, we saw no statistically significant improvements in endoscopic scores or in the inflammatory markers we measured in the cannabis oil group compared with the placebo group.” said Naftali.

“We know that cannabinoids can have profound anti-inflammatory effects, but this study indicates that the improvement in symptoms may not be related to these anti-inflammatory properties.”

Can the symptoms of Crohn’s disease be improved?

Going forward, the research group plans to further explore the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis oil and medical cannabis as a whole, in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

“There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal diseases.” Concludes Dr Naftali.

“For now, however, we can only consider medicinal cannabis as an alternative or additional intervention that provides temporary symptom relief for some people with Crohn’s disease.”

More about UEG

UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation uniting all the leading European medical specialist and national societies focusing on digestive health.

UEG Week is the largest and most prestigious gastroenterology meeting in Europe and has developed into a global congress. It attracts over 14,000 participants each year, including scientists from across the globe, and the numbers are steadily rising. The event hosts a forum for basic and clinical scientists from across the globe to present their latest research in digestive and liver diseases.

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