How Does Cannabis Help With Crohn’s Disease and Colitis?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for two major conditions known as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation in all or parts of the digestive tract. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, an estimated 1.3% of US adults (3 million) reported being diagnosed with IBD (either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis).

The symptoms associated with these gastrointestinal diseases can be extremely uncomfortable and at times, debilitating. These diseases cannot be cured; however, their symptoms are typically managed with immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory drugs. The downside is that these drugs don’t always work and many carry long lists of side-effects—but there is hope! Preliminary research suggests CBD could soon emerge as a treatment for gastrointestinal upset and related disorders.

In order to gauge the medical efficacy of treating IBD with CBD, we turn to a series of medical studies conducted over the past ten years. The results are addressed below:

What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Crohn’s Disease and Colitis?

CBD was actually discovered before THC, but most research was focused on the psychoactive cannabinoid until the last decade. Now, research regarding CBD’s medicinal value is on the rise, and researchers are particularly interested in the use of CBD for digestive issues and related conditions. Evidence regarding the way that CBD interacts through the body, via the endocannabinoid system, and the way it regulates crucial processes led researchers to believe that CBD could be useful for the management of Crohn’s disease and colitis. 


In fact, research exists that suggests cannabidiol could even be a suitable option for managing digestive issues that are otherwise resistant to treatment. Evidence even suggests that conditions like this, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and related conditions,  may be linked to an endocannabinoid deficiency. That means CBD may help balance the endocannabinoid system to bring relief and help the digestive tract function as it should.


While the link between digestive issues and cannabis is one area of cannabinoid research that has a substantial amount of evidence, there’s still more to know. Research efforts regarding CBD and its effects on digestion, as well as inflammation and pain caused by Crohn’s disease and related issues will continue to grow in the coming years in hopes of officially establishing CBD as a treatment method for the condition. For now, though, the following studies provide a solid link between CBD and Crohn’s disease and colitis:

1. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?

A 2008 study suggested that diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are actually caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency in the body. “Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines.”

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2. Cannabidiol, a safe and non-psychotropic ingredient of the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa, is protective in a murine model of colitis.

A 2009 study found investigated the effect of CBD in a murine model of colitis. The study results indicate, “In DNBS-induced colitis, cannabidiol reduced colon injury, decreased expression of inflammatory markers and inducible nitric oxide synthase, and decreased reactive oxygen species production…In conclusion, cannabidiol, a likely safe compound, prevents experimental colitis in mice.”

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3. The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol alone and in combination on damage, inflammation and in vitro motility disturbances in rat colitis

A 2010 study evaluated the effects of CBD and THC (alone and combined) in animal models of colitis. “In conclusion, treatment with THC, CBD and sulphasalazine reduced signs of damage, inflammation and functional disturbances in a rat model of Crohn’s disease…CBD on its own also displayed beneficial actions, such as improved spontaneous activity and contractility to carbachol, which extends previous findings (Malfait et al., 2000; Borrelli et al., 2009) and further suggests that this phytocannabinoid, which is devoid of psychoactive properties, could help alleviate symptoms in human IBD. Combined treatment with CBD and THC proved beneficial in TNBS-induced colitis in the rat, as it resulted in additive effects on some functional parameters and as CBD caused an ineffective dose of THC (5 mg·kg−1) to produce beneficial effects of the same magnitude as those produced by a higher dose of THC (10 mg·kg−1) in the absence of CBD. It is possible therefore that the benefit-to-risk ratio may well be greater when CBD and THC are co-administered to ameliorate colitis than when THC is administered alone.”

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4. Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis.

A 2011 study proved that CBD reduces intentinal inflammation in both humans and mice through control of the neuroimmune axis. The study states, “CBD targets enteric reactive gliosis, counteracts the inflammatory environment induced by LPS in mice and in human colonic cultures derived from UC patients. These actions lead to a reduction of intestinal damage mediated by PPARgamma receptor pathway. Our results therefore indicate that CBD indeed unravels a new therapeutic strategy to treat inflammatory bowel diseases.”

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5. An Orally Active Cannabis Extract with High Content in Cannabidiol attenuates Chemically-induced Intestinal Inflammation and Hypermotility in the Mouse.

A 2016 study found that high CBD extracts reduce chemically induced intestinal inflammation and hypermotility in mice. “In conclusion, CBD Botanical Drug Substance (BDS), given after the inflammatory insult, attenuates injury and motility in intestinal models of inflammation. These findings sustain the rationale of combining CBD with other minor Cannabis constituents and support the clinical development of CBD BDS for IBD treatment.”

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6. Cannabidiol in inflammatory bowel diseases: a brief overview.

A 2013 medical review further substantiated CBD’s potential as an anti-inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) drug. “CBD is a very promising compound since it shares the typical cannabinoid beneficial effects on gut lacking any psychotropic effects. For years, its activity has been enigmatic for gastroenterologists and pharmacologists, but now it is evident that this compound may interact at extra-cannabinoid system receptor sites, such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma. This strategic interaction makes CBD as a potential candidate for the development of a new class of anti-IBD drugs.”

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7. Topical and Systemic Cannabidiol Improves Trinitrobenzene Sulfonic Acid Colitis in Mice

A 2012 study concluded that topical and systemic (but not oral) CBD improves colitis in mice. “To summarize, CBD was given via 3 different routes of delivery to mice and its effect on the severity of TNBS colitis was compared. We confirm that CBD given intraperitoneally is protective, and we add that CBD given per rectum also offers protective effects, suggesting that rectal application of cannabinoids for the therapy of intestinal inflammation may be a feasible option.”

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As indicated by the studies above, CBD has proven to be very effective in treating various types of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Which CBD products help with Crohn’s disease and colitis?

As you decide how to incorporate CBD into your wellness routine, keep in mind that CBD has not yet been proven effective for treating Crohn’s disease or colitis. Still, many people with these conditions have reported positive effects when using CBD regularly. That means CBD may be most useful when taken regularly as a preventative measure. You can also use CBD to manage sudden flare-ups, but establishing a regular concentration in your body is necessary to reap the protective benefits of the cannabinoid.

There’s an ocean of CBD products on the market, but for managing digestive issues, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules

These products are virtually the same. They simply offer two different styles of dosing, and choosing the best one for you is based on preference. Just ensure that any CBD product you choose combines cannabidiol with a high-quality MCT oil—an ingredient your body needs to effectively process CBD.

After implementing a regular dosing routine, many people still find that they need to manage occasional flares. Depending on your preference, there are multiple ways that you can use CBD to provide relief from these acute symptoms. 

No matter the cause – we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute anxiety flare-ups. CBD isolate is a version of cannabidiol that is 99% pure, and vaping provides near immediate results, delivering relief to the entire body.

If you prefer, you can increase your dose of CBD tincture or gel caps to combat these flares, but you should note that they have a significantly longer onset of up to 90 minutes. 

Often, the best way to manage moderate to severe symptoms related to colitis or Crohn’s disease is to combine multiple CBD products. The right combination of products can help provide preventative coverage and powerful relief from sudden symptoms. 

What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat Crohn’s disease and colitis?

Choosing the correct dosage for you requires careful consideration of some unique biological factors, like your weight and tolerance to cannabinoid-based medicines. Additionally, the type and severity of your condition will affect the amount of CBD needed to find relief. 

We suggest those suffering from Crohn’s disease or related conditions start with 15mg per day of CBD. If relief is not felt at this dosage, we suggest increasing by 5-10mg until the desired effects are achieved. A tincture makes it easy to increase or decrease your dose by tiny amounts, so it’s a perfect option for those experimenting with different dosages. 

CBD capsules are convenient in that they provide a pre-measured dose, so many people opt for them instead. There’s no harm in starting at whatever dose the capsules you choose offers because you cannot overdose on CBD and side effects are reportedly rare and mild. 

After you’ve established a routine, you can increase the dose as needed to fully manage symptoms. Don’t forget that ingestible products take up to 90 minutes to fully set in. Be sure to allow plenty of time after each dose to monitor the effects before making adjustments to your dose.  

CBD vaporizers call for a different dosing method because it’s difficult to monitor the exact amount of CBD in each puff. Because it takes only 10 minutes to feel the effects of vaporized CBD, you can easily decide if more CBD is needed soon after each dose. Stack doses as needed until you experience complete relief from symptoms. 

A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions

CBD boasts a pretty solid safety profile that’s even supported by the World Health Organization, but perhaps the most notable risk is its potential to interact with certain medications. Like many medications, CBD is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme group. As it is processed by the body, it may reduce the number of enzymes available to metabolize other substances. This can potentially impact other medications by reducing their efficacy. 

This interaction could prove true for some of the medications taken for Crohn’s disease, colitis, and other digestive issues, which utilize cytochrome P450 pathways for absorption. These drug interactions are not toxic, and could only be considered dangerous if it inhibits a life-saving medication’s efficacy. 

CBD only affects these liver enzymes briefly, and many people are able to avoid the interactions by simply spacing out their CBD dose and other medications. Many people are able to use CBD with their regular medications with no report of significant interactions. It’s always best to speak with your doctor about CBD before you combine it with your regular medications, just to fully understand the benefits and risks.