Cannabis smokers are known to suffer from the munchies – and perhaps a sore stomach after they’ve gorged themselves. But it turns out that weed might have a ‘beneficial effect’ for people suffering from problems with their digestive system. A team of researchers wanted to see if anecdotal evidence about the health implications of ganja were true. They were astonished to see that the active chemicals present in cannabis helped to control and reduce intestinal inflammation in mice.
It’s hoped the discovery could lead to treatments for humans living with inflammatory bowel disease as well as conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. “There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up,’ said Beth McCormick, director of the University of Massachusetts Center for Microbiome Research. ‘For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation. This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well.’ The researchers found that intestinal inflammation was caused by two processes. The first is well-known and involves the immune system attacking the lining of the gut.
A second process identified in their paper found that the inflammation response runs wild without the presence of chemicals called endocannabinoids, which are similar to the cannabinoids in weed. This means weed could potentially stimulate a natural process which removes toxins from cells in the intestine and reduces inflammation. Randy Mrsny, professor of pharmacy and pharmacology at the University of Bath, added: ‘We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans. We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans.’