Cannabis improves symptoms of Crohn's disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation

Crohn's disease
High magnification micrograph of Crohn's disease. Biopsy of esophagus. H&E stain. Credit: Nephron/Wikipedia

In the first study of its kind, cannabis oil has been shown to significantly improve the symptoms of Crohn's disease and the quality of life of sufferers but, contrary to previous medical thinking, has no effect on gut inflammation.

In a randomised, placebo-controlled study, researchers from Israel have shown that cannabis can produce clinical remission in up to 65% of individuals after 8 weeks of , but that this improvement does not appear to result from a dampening down of the underlying inflammatory process.

Speaking at UEG Week 2018 in Vienna, lead researcher, Dr. Timna Naftali explained, "Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical conditions, and studies have shown that many people with Crohn's use cannabis regularly to relieve their symptoms. It has always been thought that this improvement was related to a reduction in inflammation in the gut and the aim of this study was to investigate this."

The Israeli team recruited 46 people with moderately severe Crohn's disease, and randomized them to receive 8 weeks of treatment with either cannabis oil containing 15% cannabidiol and 4% tetrahydrocannabinol or placebo. Symptom severity and quality of life were measured before, during, and after treatment using validated research instruments. Inflammation in the gut was assessed endoscopically and by measuring inflammatory markers in blood and stool samples.

After 8 weeks of treatment, the group receiving the cannabis oil had a significant reduction in their Crohn's disease symptoms compared with the placebo group, and 65%met strict criteria for clinical remission (versus 35% of the placebo recipients). The cannabis group also had significant improvements in their quality of life compared with the group.

"We have previously demonstrated that cannabis can produce measurable improvements in Crohn's disease symptoms but, to our surprise, we saw no statistically significant improvements in endoscopic scores or in the we measured in the cannabis oil group compared with the ," said Dr. Naftali. "We know that cannabinoids can have profound anti-inflammatory effects but this study indicates that the improvement in symptoms may not be related to these anti-inflammatory properties."

Looking ahead, the research group plans to explore further the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis in the treatment of . "There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal diseases," said Dr. Naftali. "For now, however, we can only consider medicinal cannabis as an alternative or additional intervention that provides temporary relief for some people with Crohn's disease.'


Explore further

Cannabis link to relieving intestinal inflammation explained

More information: 1. Naftali T, Bar-Lev Schlieder L, Konikoff F, et al. Cannabis induces clinical response but no endoscopic response in Crohn's disease patients. Presented at UEG Week Vienna 2018, October 22, 2018.

2. Lal S, Prasad N, Ryan M, et al. Cannabis use amongst patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011;23(10):891-6.

3. Weiss A, Friedenberg F. Patterns of cannabis use in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A population based analysis. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;156:84-89.

4. Naftali T, Bar-Lev Schleider L, Dotan I, et al. Cannabis induces a clinical response in patients with Crohn's disease: a prospective placebo-controlled study. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;11(10):1276-1280.e1.

Provided by United European Gastroenterology
Citation: Cannabis improves symptoms of Crohn's disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation (2018, October 22) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-cannabis-symptoms-crohn-disease-effect.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
593 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 22, 2018
So if it didn't affect inflamation what did it affect to improve symptoms?

Oct 22, 2018
I think it is likely that the CBD content was not high enough to affect inflammation. 15% isn't very high. Epiodolex is 98% CBD. Trials on Crohn's are needed with this.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more