A new study has found that cannabis oil is effective in treating Crohn’s disease.
Researchers demonstrated that cannabis significantly improves the symptoms of this inflammatory bowel disease. They also found that cannabis improves the patient’s way of life.
Lead researcher Timna Naftali of Tel Aviv University said that cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical conditions. Dr. Naftali also noted that many Crohn’s patients have been regularly using marijuana to relieve their symptoms.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong IBD or inflammatory bowel disease that can cause inflammation of the digestive tract. This, in turn, can lead to severe abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea.
The inflammation associated with Crohn’s can involve different parts of the digestive tract in different people.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can affect people of all ages. These symptoms usually start manifesting in childhood or in early adulthood.
Symptoms of the disease include:
- stomach cramps
- stomach pain
- blood in the stool
- weight loss
These symptoms may come and go every few weeks or months or may be constant.
Traditional treatment for Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease currently has no known cure. However, there are treatment plans designed to help reduce or control the symptoms.
Conventional treatments include medications to reduce inflammation, like steroid tablets, and surgical procedure to remove a part of the digestive system.
The randomized study
The study is a randomized and placebo-controlled study.
The researchers found that cannabis can lead to clinical remission in up to 65% of patients. Clinical remission, which means the absence of symptoms, became apparent after eight weeks of treatment.
However, this improvement is not a result of decreased gut inflammation. This means that, contrary to previous medical thinking, digestive tract inflammation was not affected by cannabis oil.
How the study was conducted
The Israeli researchers recruited 46 people suffering from moderately severe Crohn’s disease. The participants were randomly grouped into two:
- Cannabis group, which received eight weeks of treatment using cannabis oil with 15% cannabidiol (CBD) and 4% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and
- Placebo group, which received eight weeks of treatment using placebo.
Using validated research instruments, the research team measured the severity of the patients’ symptoms. They also measured the patients’ quality of life before, during, and after treatment.
Researchers also did an endoscopic assessment of gut inflammation. They measured inflammatory markers in the patients’ stool and blood samples.
After eight weeks of treatment, the patients receiving the cannabis oil showed a significant improvement in their symptoms compared with the placebo patients.
The group that received cannabis oil, which made up 65% of the patients, met the strict criteria for clinical remission. The remaining 35%, which made up the placebo recipients, did not.
The cannabis group also demonstrated significant improvements in terms of quality of life compared with the placebo group.
Implications of the study
According to Dr. Naftali, they have demonstrated that cannabis can improve Crohn’s symptoms. However, they saw no statistically significant improvements in the patients’ inflammatory markers or endoscopic scores. Dr. Naftali said they found this surprising.
Dr. Naftali explained that while cannabinoids can have anti-inflammatory properties, the new study suggests that the improvement in symptoms may be unrelated to these properties.
Looking ahead, the researchers plan to further explore marijuana’s potential anti-inflammatory properties in IBD treatment.
According to Dr. Naftali, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in gastrointestinal diseases, including Crohn’s disease.
Naftali said that medical cannabis, for now, can only be considered as an alternative or additional intervention for temporary relief of Crohn’s symptoms.