For several decades now, medical cannabis users worldwide have been turning to therapeutic cannabis strains for relief from chronic and severe bowel conditions. Nevertheless, the medical community in general has been reluctant to suggest that cannabis could be used to effectively treat conditions like Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
However, this could all change dramatically in the near future. According to the results of a new study carried out at the University of Bath, some of the chemical compounds contained within cannabis could assist the body in its regulation of the essential signals that prevent and control inflammation within the gut. The researchers have stated that this could be why IBD patients who self-medicate with certain strains of cannabis often report far more manageable symptoms.
Research remains at a relatively remedial stage, though is expected to lead to the development of new treatments that could benefit millions of people worldwide.
“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 only worked in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans,” commented Professor Randy Mrsny, speaking on behalf of the University of Bath’s Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
“However, our results may provide a mechanistic explanation for anecdotal data that cannabinoid exposure benefits some colitis patients,”
“For the first time we have identified a counterbalance to the inflammation response in the intestine and we hope that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases.”
A Widespread Condition
Approximately 300,000 people in the United Kingdom alone are affected by Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Despite being among the most common inflammatory bowel diseases worldwide, there’s currently no specific cure or singularly effective treatment for either condition. Throughout the course of a lifetime, both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can inflict horrendous damage on the gut and intestines, which often requires invasive surgery to correct.
During the study, the scientists from Bath found that inflammation within the gut is regulated by two separate processes, which must remain perfectly balanced to adapt to the changing conditions within the intestines. In patients suffering from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the symbiosis between the two processes renders the body unable to effectively manage intestinal inflammation. A specific endocannabinoid plays a key role in maintaining balance within the intestine, which could be provided for sufferers of the disease in the form of a completely organic herbal medicine.
Ultimately, the researchers believe that the introduction of cannabinoids in measured doses could significantly relieve or even eliminate many of the life-affecting symptoms of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
“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,” commented Professor Beth McCormick, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which assisted with the study.
“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 that suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well.”
The findings come as authorities in the United Kingdom take the first important steps towards the partial legalisation of medical cannabis products for the very first time. Following two landmark rulings, it is widely expected that therapeutic cannabis products will be available in the UK on a more widespread basis within the next 3 to 5 years.