The Science Behind Marijuana and IBD

Medical Cannabis research

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of IBD can include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, and fatigue. Some patients with IBD also experience joint pain, eye inflammation, and skin rashes.

There is no cure for IBD, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. One such treatment is medical marijuana (MMJ). Marijuana has long been used to treat various conditions, including pain, nausea, and anxiety. In recent years, research has begun to explore the potential benefits of marijuana for treating IBD and the results are very intriguing.

Irritable bowel Syndrome
Ulcerative Colitis

How does marijuana work with IBD

Let’s take a look at the science behind it.

The human body contains a network of receptors called the endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in a variety of processes, including pain, immunity, and inflammation. Endocannabinoids are molecules that bind to these receptors and produce various effects in the body.


Marijuana contains compounds called cannabinoids that are similar to endocannabinoids. When cannabinoids from marijuana bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body, they can produce a variety of effects. These effects include reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and decreasing anxiety. 

Studies have shown that cannabinoids can help to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. In one study, rats with induced colitis were treated with a synthetic cannabinoid called WIN 55212-2. Treatment with WIN 55212-2 decreased inflammation and improved gut function in the study. 

In another study, patients with Crohn’s disease who were not responding well to traditional treatments were given a cannabis extract called Sativex for 8 weeks. During treatment with Sativex, patients experienced reduced inflammation and went into remission more often than those who did not receive Sativex.

Cannabinoids have also been shown to possess analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. In one study, rats with induced colitis were given either a placebo or WIN 55212-2. Those rats who received WIN 55212-2 experienced less abdominal pain than those who received the placebo. 

Marijuana has also been shown to be effective in treating other symptoms of IBD such as nausea and lack of appetite. In one study, patients with Crohn’s disease were given nabilone (a synthetic cannabinoid) for four weeks. Nabilone was found to be effective in treating nausea and lack of appetite while also improving quality of life measures such as sleep quality and ability to perform daily activities  Furthermore, a survey of 245 adults with IBD found that nearly half of those surveyed had used cannabis in an attempt to relieve their symptoms.

Of those who had used cannabis, over 80% reported that it was effective in treating their symptoms. Benefits were reported for a variety of symptoms including pain, fatigue, diarrhea, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and lack of appetite. Another survey found that 38% of Canadians with Crohn’s disease had used cannabis within the past year and seem to be having a positive experience.  Overall, these studies suggest that cannabinoids may be effective in treating some symptoms associated with IBD.

More research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of medical marijuana for treating IBD. However, the available evidence suggests that cannabinoids may help to reduce inflammation and relieve some symptoms associated with IBD such as pain, nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea, anxiety, and lack of appetite. If you are considering using medical marijuana for your IBD symptoms, speak with your doctor to see if it may be right for you.

IBD is an approved medical condition for an Illinois medical card. If you or someone you know is experiencing painful symptoms resulting from IBD, medical marijuana may be a better option than traditional therapy or treatments. Consult a marijuana doctor to learn how cannabis can help you combat IBD symptoms.

Science Behind Marijuana and IBD

Article reviewed by:

Dr. Richard Koffler

Richard Koffler, MD

NPI Number- 1467557264

  • Dr. Koffler is a Physiatrist, specializing in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 
  • Graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in 1993 Dr. Koffler completed a one-year internship in internal medicine at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. 
  • Residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center in New York City. Board certified in 1998. 
  • Trained in acupuncture at Helms Medical Institute at UCLA His medical practice incorporates proven conventional western medicine integrating eastern alternative practices. 
  • Medical Director of several medical clinics in NYC, Stamford CT, and Miami Beach, FL.

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