Cannabis for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease treatment

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Chemicals found in cannabis could prove an effective treatment for the inflammatory bowel diseases Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, say scientists.

Laboratory tests have shown that two compounds found in the cannabis plant - the cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol - interact with the body's system that controls gut function.

Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which affect about one in every 250 people in Northern Europe, are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. The researchers believe that a genetic susceptibility coupled with other triggers, such as diet, stress or bacterial imbalance, leads to a defective immune response.

Dr Karen Wright, Peel Trust Lecturer in Biomedicine at Lancaster University, will be presenting her soon-to-be published work at The British Pharmacological Society's Winter Meeting in London today (Thursday).

She said: "The lining of the intestines provides a barrier against the contents of the gut but in people with Crohn's Disease this barrier leaks and bacteria can escape into the intestinal tissue leading to an inappropriate immune response.

"If we could find a way to restore barrier integrity in patients we may be able to curb the inflammatory immune response that causes these chronic conditions."

Dr Wright, working with colleagues at the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby, has shown that cells that react to cannabinoid compounds play an important role in normal gut function as well as the immune system's inflammatory response.

"The body produces its own cannabinoid molecules, called endocannabinoids, which we have shown increase the permeability of the epithelium during inflammation, implying that overproduction may be detrimental," said Dr Wright.

"However, we were able to reverse this process using plant-derived cannabinoids, which appeared to allow the epithelial cells to form tighter bonds with each other and restore the membrane barrier."

The research was carried out using cell cultures in a dish but, interestingly, when the team attempted to mimic the conditions of the gut by reducing the amount of oxygen in the cells' environment, much lower concentrations of cannabinoid were needed to produce the same effect.

Dr Wright added: "What is also encouraging is that while THC has psychoactive properties and is responsible for the 'high' people experience when using cannabis, cannabidiol, which has also proved effective in restoring membrane integrity, does not possess such properties."

The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) - the primary UK learned society concerned with research into drugs and the way they work - is hosting its annual Winter Meeting in London, attracting experts from across the world.

The three-day conference, running from 15 to 17 December 2009, will hear presentations on the latest pharmacological developments to tackle a range of conditions and diseases.


  1. Lazlo Lazlo United Kingdom says:

    Pity the government's 'understanding' of the science (read: the agenda of corruption and violence must always be upheld with propaganda full of cherry picked untruths) says that some cannabis expert (debra bell) has an irrational, unfounded opinion that cannabis has no use in medicine. Its like saying guns have no use in killing. But hey when there is an excuse to root through peoples personal lives & property, to subject them to the mental, social and economic anguish of a criminal record/prison and the life of poverty it brings to all but the privileged sons & daughters of the MPs & whoever is passing them backhanders for laws to protect their business interests.

  2. Scott Goodman Scott Goodman United States says:

    I can attest this is true.  I have Crohn's Colitis and also use cannabis to treat its symptoms.  It seems to help avoid flare-ups, and with adjustments to diet you can live an almost normal life.
    Once the medical cannabis exemption law went into effect in Oakland, California in 1996 where I lived, I was able to ween myself off prednisone, asacol, and sulfasalazine.   I have yet to have a big flare-up since.   A little pot each day staves it off...  It seems to calm the plexus, but not sacrifice motility.  It may also decrease inflammation down there.

    I am a long term patient and I know what I know.  Cannabis medicine helps this condition, and many others too.

    • harsh harsh India says:

      Hi there, can you please tell me in details as to how do you take cannabis for this - what quantity, and how do you get hold of cannabis, regards
      [email protected]

    • Simon Fox Simon Fox United Kingdom says:

      Hi bud I suffer bad from ulcerative colitis, use loads of drugs, for years, went to Amsterdam on vacation, smoked some marjowana, diahoreah, stomach cramps, loss of energy wear all a lot better, now im home in UK I cant use it as its illegal here still, If I take it im breaking the law, our govt needs to licence this for medical patients, its mad

  3. Rev Mike Rev Mike United States says:

    The reason US doesn't allow this kind of research is because big pharma doesn't want to find cures for anything, they just want to find more expensive treatments and drugs.  Marijuana could put big pharma out of business because hemp oil activates the cannabinoid receptors in our brains which in turn activate our self healing capabilities. Self healing is not profitable.  Self healing is how humanity survived so long.  

  4. bob bob United States says:

    The government gets to use it, and obviously somebody is buying it, since so much of it crosses the border at any price.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to give our farmers work to do, and make industrial products and medications out of the best smelling plant in the world?

  5. zw zw United States says:

    Every day we learn more and more of what incredible medicinal riches are found in cannabis. Can you name another medicine that has NO level of toxicity? One that provides not just symptomatic relief but is prophylactic and curative? One that has been found beneficial for an amazing range of physical and mental conditions? And that same plant produces huge amounts of oil (corn is for people & animals, not cars!), can be used for paper instead of trees, can product durable fiber, etc etc. The stupidity of people who want to prevent access to this plant is overwhelming. And folks, especially you Crohn's people out there, please youtube about cannabis juicing!

  6. bob zimway bob zimway United States says:

    I can contribute that whenever I stop using cannabis my lower tract reverts to colitis type inflammation. A few years ago when I was weedless it included giant mouth sores. Now I'm a MM card holder and grower, having finally realized this plant's healing qualities and its major responsibility for my improved health.

  7. ed ed Ireland says:

    whats the best way to take it?

  8. Niels Niels Netherlands says:


    I'm on my iPhone so I won't type a long comment.
    Just wanted to let everyone know that the best way to take it is to vaporize it. If you do this the marihuana will be heatened till around 200 degrees Celsius, if this happened the THC an the cannabinoids will vaporize. But the harmful chemicals won't.

    I'm 17 right now, have Crohn's disease since I was around 14 and I started smoking marihuana regularly since almost a year now. It has helpe me to quit smoking ciggarets and to quit the medicin prednison.

    • Joe Draper Joe Draper United States says:

      this was posted to my fb wall, so I had to register, and tell you what I've heard. RICK SIMPSON OIL is another alternative to this illness. RUN FROM THE CURE can help start your journey to better health, I cant say smoking it is better then the oil.  but alot of folks I my wall use it different forms, If it was legal to use in the state I live and I could grow it myself I would.

      Not to smoke it, I would like to try juicing it, there's a You tube video Named LEAF (the health benefits of juicing cannabis). It is very enlightening. It proposes that heating the plant lowers its healing qualities/properties. Anyhoot I hope any of you can try it and tell the world how it help crohn's / ulcertive colitis/ this plant helps so many more disease/illnesses. If you dont believe us then watch rick simpson documentary and stop your Suffering. One Love JD

  9. Ls Ls United States says:

    Don't  you have to live in California to get a mmc?

  10. Dave Love Dave Love Australia says:

    I have Ulcerative Colitis I got diagnosed after being being sick for a long time and finally rushed to hospital with an HG level of 8.5 and was offered a blood transfusion.     I opted for an Iron infusion instead was also told have had chronic active inflammation of my bowel, likely UC.  I started on sulfasalazine, 2 per day and ramped up to 6 per day.

    That did help somewhat, but my iron level dropped from 600 back to 15 in a few months and my HG was dropping again from its peak of 15.   I had another infusion but had a reaction as soon as it started.   Was told I could never have another Iron infusion.  No one could tell me what the option was.   My specialist said maybe they could dilute the iron and drip it in over 48 hours.   I read about the possible benefits of Cannabis and it sounded like it was worth a try.

    So I started getting 1Oz about every 6 weeks.   First thing I noticed was when I had a bad day, the days where it feel like you got a brick in your stomach and end up going to the toilet 10 times in the day, that 1 puff of pot and it would stop the feeling in 5 minutes.   Nothing else could do that.     After using it regularly and dropping back on the sulfasalazine (4 per day), my bowel went back to normal.  I never thought I would have a normal bowel again, but I did.   My stomach went flat, my iron went up to 90 and I felt great.      Anyway I decided to stop the pot a few months ago.  It is hard to get where I live and at my age (42) and also some of it is just too strong for my likings.      Well I'm back to having the brick feeling, loose stools, enlarged stomach, bleeding etc.     There is no doubt that the Pot helps like nothing else does.  
    I am back to 6 sulfasalazine per day, but it dosn't work as well without Pot and I get joint pain and itching from it.   It's joke that the cure is right at my finger tips, but so difficult to get because of the laws in Australia.

    No doubt, that it works to treat UC.    I can only hope the laws will change soon so people like me don't have to suffer.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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