Research Brief – Cannabinoids for The Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD)

Tartakover Matalon S, Azar S, Meiri D, et al. Endocannabinoid levels in ulcerative colitis patients correlate with clinical parameters and are affected by cannabis consumption. Front Endocrinol. 2021;12:685289. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.685289 

The Study

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes two inflammatory, chronic, idiopathic GI disorders. IBD may present as ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease (CD). This study examined the effects of cannabinoids on symptoms of IBS, including the patients’ quality of life.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is thought to play a role in the development of IBD. This study involved taking blood samples and biopsies from study participants with IBD to determine the effect of CBD and THC and endocannabinoids (i.e., molecules like CBD and THC made in the body) on symptoms.

Study Findings

Thirteen Chrone’s disease (CD), and 9 ulcerative colitis (UC) patients were treated with phytocannabinoids (i.e., plant-based cannabinoids) such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Another group of patients with UC and CD were given a placebo.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis negatively impact the quality of life in patients with IBS. In UC, for example, symptoms include diarrhea, urgency, and frequent bowel movements, rectal bleeding, and fatigue. In the study, the reduction in bowel movements was associated with changes in circulating endocannabinoids. There was a positive correlation between 2-AG (i.e., endocannabinoid) levels and quality of life improvement.

CD patients received CBD/THC oil containing 160/40 mg/ml or a placebo. Compared with the placebo group, the cannabis group exhibited a significantly improved Crohn’s disease activity index (CDAI) and quality of life (QOL) index.


IBS patients may benefit from cannabis use because phytocannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), alter the endocannabinoid “tone” (i.e., the ECS’s overall functioning) and may alleviate some IBD symptoms.
Link to study:

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