A Lot To “Digest”: Cannabinoids in the Gastrointestinal System

As a society, we are indebted to researchers who’ve dedicated entire lives to investigating less popular subjects. Early on, medical researchers heightened interest in cannabis miffed a lot of the scientific community as a whole, who thought of cannabis as a recreational drug unworthy of study. However, the study of cannabis and its active ingredients lead directly to the discovery of the mammalian endocannabinoid system. While we initially saw this system as an unessential group of cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoids, and enzymes involved in regulating that system, we now understand just how vital it is to the body. Likewise, while we initially thought cannabinoid receptors only played a direct role in bowel inflammation, we now understand that the entire endocannabinoid system plays a major role in the digestive process. Recently, researchers at UC Riverside released an aggregate review of studies involving the endocannabinoid system in relation to the gastrointestinal system. We found this review especially helpful and have summarized important highlights for readers. The full article is free to the public at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4940133/   Gut Motility To function, the intestine must absorb nutrients but also send food onward. The ability to move food onward is called “motility” and is driven by timed contraction of the intestinal muscle. The gut interacts with the brain to determine the pace of contraction and therefore, food motility. Unfortunately, sometimes the timing of contractions can go haywire. Cannabinoids, whether naturally occurring endocannabinoids or externally administered cannabinoids, have been shown to reduce motility in a dose-dependent matter.…

CBD & Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an affliction that affects approximately one million Americans, with incidence rates much higher in developing countries. IBD is characterized by illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Excessive inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract results in intestinal damage and disturbances in motility and secretion. Serious pain follows, as well as a range of other pervasive symptoms. Currently no cures are known, and treatment is measured by reduction of symptoms and suppression of flare-ups. Alleviation of IBD is currently accomplished with a number of medications that induce and retain remission. Steroidal treatment is another pathway that is currently used. These drugs possess limited efficacy however, and many contain unwanted side effects. Cannabis Indica (nomenclature 2004 IU), the marijuana plant, has a long and storied history in medical application. Extracts of Cannabis were used in the USA a century ago for the treatment of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anectodal accounts have been very prevalent regarding the effective use of Cannabis for IBD. Self-medication under state medical cannabis laws is used by a generous subset of IBD patients for its analgesic activity in the abdomen, as well as the increase in appetite and reduction of diarrhea. However, the greatest limitation to exploring the full efficacy of cannabis on inflammation and other IBD symptoms lies with the activation of CB1 and CB2 (cannabinoid) receptors by delta-9 THC and the resulting psychoactive effect. CBD, however, does not activate CB1 or CB2, and therefore is devoid of psychoactive properties. The…