Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition causing inflammation and small sores (i.e., ulcers) in the large intestine or colon. Recent studies have found that some of the compounds in certain strains of the cannabis plant can help manage symptoms of ulcerative colitis due to their anti-inflammatory effects. Examples of strains you might try to treat the symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
There is no definitive scientific evidence that these specific cannabis varieties are effective for ulcerative colitis. However, their compounds, anecdotal reports, and positive results from observational and prospective studies suggest they may be helpful.
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How Cannabis Affects Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is part of a family of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease. The two conditions are autoimmune disorders that cause inflammation and dysregulation in gut function.
While Crohn’s disease relates to inflammation throughout the digestive tract, UC explicitly affects the colon’s innermost lining. Chronic inflammation is at the root of UC’s painful symptoms, so medical cannabis’s anti-inflammatory abilities may help with symptom management.
What the Research Shows
Medical marijuana works to ease the discomfort of UC by operating on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for regulating many key bodily functions such as memory, pain perception, and digestion, among others.
Cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, interact with the high concentration of ECS receptors in the gut and help decrease inflammation in the intestines. Other minor cannabinoids and terpenes have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory abilities and may relieve the abdominal pain and other symptoms that people with IBD experience.
Research suggests that autoimmune diseases such as UC may be related to an endocannabinoid deficiency, meaning that replenishing cannabinoids with medical marijuana may restore ECS balance and soothe IBD inflammation.
Another study showed that one of the body’s naturally-occurring cannabinoids (i.e., endocannabinoids), anandamide, was elevated in people with UC, indicating a linked relationship between the disease and the endocannabinoid system. While more research covers Crohn’s disease than ulcerative colitis, a promising study found that using medical cannabis resulted in a 60% reduction in unpleasant symptoms.
Many elements of cannabis appear to help treat UC. Both THC and CBD, among cannabis’s most prominent components, produce effects that alleviate some of the condition’s most painful symptoms. For example, thanks to its analgesic (i.e., pain relieving) properties, THC can help reduce pain perception, stimulate appetite, and soothe nausea associated with UC.
CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties that indirectly interact with the gut’s ECS receptors to relieve intestinal inflammation. Additionally, medical marijuana can improve mood and heighten overall outlook.
Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Ulcerative Colitis
Those seeking to use cannabis to manage their ulcerative colitis must consider their unique medical needs, lifestyle, and physiology when choosing the best strain and consumption method.
Smoking weed is a popular and fast-acting method, quickly delivering cannabinoids throughout the body and offering more immediate relief. However, smoking can potentially cause longer-term harm associated with inhaling carcinogens.
Vaping is another fast-acting option that reduces the temperature at which cannabis flower reacts to heat, vaporizing the cannabinoids and delivering them via the lungs to the body. Smoking and vaping show effects within 15-30 minutes, usually lasting two to three hours.
Edibles may be preferable for those seeking longer-lasting pain relief. Compared to inhalation, it takes much longer for edibles to kick in.
Once the liver digests edible cannabis products, their effects last several more hours, producing more potent results with less product. Edibles are also easier to dose more precisely, especially when products are purchased from a dispensary.
Tinctures and Topicals
Tinctures offer a middle ground between smoking and edibles: a dropper full of cannabis-infused liquid first delivers cannabinoids via salivary glands and is then processed by the digestive system. Topicals can also assist with localized pain associated with UC but may be less effective than other consumption choices for other symptoms.
Best Strains for Ulcerative Colitis
High-CBD strains or products may go a long way toward effective UC relief. As a potent anti-inflammatory, CBD can soothe intestinal inflammation while mitigating the more psychoactive effects of THC. The terpene beta-caryophyllene also offers anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects that could significantly help patients with an IBD like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
Granddaddy Purple is a well-loved indica cultivar known for providing full-body pain relief and mental relaxation. People consume this strain to soothe UC symptoms such as cramping and nausea. The strain’s high THC and myrcene content makes it more euphoric than other selections in this list.
Cannatonic is a high-CBD strain perfect for UC patients struggling with inflammation. Those with UC also sometimes experience anxiety.
This strain’s high levels of CBD without THC’s potentially anxiety-inducing psychoactivity can be a helpful remedy. Myrcene, pinene, and limonene are some of the most prominent terpenes found in Cannatonic.
ACDC is genetically related to Cannatonic and has one of the highest CBD percentages on the cannabis market. This strain’s therapeutic benefits help alleviate UC’s painful inflammation and ulcers and reduces the autoimmune response associated with the condition.
For people with UC or Crohn’s disease that need a heavy, sedative dose, Chemo is a powerfully relaxing cultivar best suited for evening use. Its pain-relieving properties result in a heavy physical sensation that relaxes users before lulling them into a restful sleep. Chemo also reportedly stimulates the appetite, making it a valuable strain for keeping food down and alleviating stomach cramps.
Some people with UC experience chronic fatigue as a symptom of their condition, making it challenging to move through the day without exhaustion. Thanks to its higher limonene and beta-caryophyllene concentrations, Green Crack is a strain that produces energizing effects, invigorating and lifting low moods.
Those with chronic UC may experience significant weight loss during flare-ups due to the painful relationship with eating that may trigger symptoms. Blue Cheese is a powerful appetite stimulant, able to help those with a lack of appetite or difficulty suppressing nausea to keep food down. It’s also a relaxing strain that can help individuals soothe chronic pain before bed.
Lemon Jack is a strain that can easily replace a morning cup of coffee. This energizing cultivar can be helpful for people seeking to improve the anxiety and fatigue associated with living with IBD symptoms and ill-timed inflammation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can CBD cure ulcerative colitis?
There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, but there is some research investigating the efficacy of cannabis as a treatment for IBD. One study found that short-term treatment with THC-rich cannabis induced clinical remission and improved quality of life in people with UC. More research is needed to replicate these findings.