Using CBD oil for ulcerative colitis may reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Learn what research says and how to dose CBD for IBD. Studies investigating the effects of CBD on ulcerative colitis have found a positive link between supplementation with CBD and reduction in IBD symptoms associated with this condition. Here we explore the science behind these findings. Here are some of the best CBD products for Ulcerative Colitis (UC), a chronic inflammatory disease which affects the large intestine and causes ulcers.
Using CBD for Ulcerative Colitis
Lindsay Curtis is a health writer with over 20 years of experience in writing health, science & wellness-focused articles.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH, is board-certified in gastroentrology. He is the vice chair for ambulatory services for the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that affects the large intestine (colon), causing inflammation and small sores (or ulcers). UC symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, bloody stool, and the need to pass stool frequently.
There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, so treatment prioritizes symptom relief and reducing flare-ups. Many people with ulcerative colitis turn to alternative treatments, such as cannabidiol (CBD), to take control of the disease and improve their quality of life.
Read on to learn more about how CBD may be a useful supplemental therapy in the management of UC symptoms.
Tinnakorn Jorruang / Getty Images
Inflammation, CBD, and Ulcerative Colitis
Cannabis plants contain chemicals called cannabinoids, which are compounds unique to the plant. The two primary cannabinoids are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has psychoactive effects that make a person feel “high”
- Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects but can provide a number of therapeutic benefits
Both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. The ECS is a complex biological system that regulates cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system functions.
CBD binds to and activates receptors in the brain that create a therapeutic effect in the body, helping users find relief from painful symptoms without feeling impaired.
CBD has many therapeutic properties and is a known anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD may be a potential therapeutic treatment for ulcerative colitis.
CBD for Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
CBD has been explored in several studies as a potential treatment for ulcerative colitis. Research shows that CBD may potentially help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal system caused by inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis.
One study found that participants with UC who took 50 milligrams (mg) of CBD oil twice a day, increasing to 250 mg per dose if needed and tolerated, experienced significant improvements in their quality of life. However, more research and follow-up studies are needed.
Another study analyzed the efficacy of CBD use in adults with ulcerative colitis. The study concluded that CBD extracts may help alleviate symptoms of IBD and UC.
Although more research is needed, current study results show promise that CBD may be beneficial for treating symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Though CBD is generally well tolerated, you may experience some side effects. Common side effects include:
- Changes in mood (e.g., irritability)
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth
CBD and Your Liver
CBD is metabolized by the liver, and large doses may lead to liver toxicity. Talk with your healthcare provider before using CBD. If you are on any prescription medications, they may recommend regularly monitoring your liver through bloodwork to ensure CBD is safe for you.
How to Use CBD for Ulcerative Colitis
While CBD won’t cure ulcerative colitis, it may help make your symptoms more manageable and help reduce flares.
There are many different forms of CBD, and you may need to try different delivery methods before finding the one that is right for you.
CBD is available in:
- Edibles (e.g., gummies, CBD-infused beverages)
- Plants (to be inhaled/smoked)
- Capsules and pills
- Tinctures and oils
- Topicals (e.g., lotions, creams)
To date, CBD has only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy. As a result, there is no standard recommended dosage of CBD for treating ulcerative colitis.
Shopping for CBD
When shopping for CBD, you will notice different types available. These include:
- Full-spectrum CBD: Contains all the natural components found in the cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD products contain trace amounts of THC. These compounds work in synergy in the body to obtain the desired therapeutic effects.
- Broad-spectrum CBD: Similar to full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD contains compounds in the cannabis plant, but with all traces of THC removed, so you will not experience any mind-altering effects.
- CBD isolates: All other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are removed to create a 99% pure CBD product.
For the best results, look for broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD products. These may combine the effects of multiple cannabis compounds that work together in synergy, creating an “entourage effect” to offer the most health benefits.
Because CBD is still a relatively new therapeutic option for managing different health conditions, including inflammatory bowel diseases, there is currently no recommended standard dosage.
In one study, patients with ulcerative colitis were given 50 mg of CBD oil twice a day. Some participants were able to increase to as much as 250 mg twice a day for a period of 10 weeks.
Another study also recorded dose ranges of 50 mg to 250 mg CBD capsules twice daily. Many participants were able to tolerate the higher dosage and saw improvements, though the study authors suggested that more research is needed.
As with many medications, it’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase the amount of CBD to determine the appropriate dosage.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before adding any supplemental therapy, such as CBD, to your ulcerative colitis treatment. They will be able to determine if CBD will be beneficial for your individual case and can recommend the right dosage.
How to Buy CBD
With so many different options available, it can be daunting to shop for CBD. CBD is generally safe and well tolerated, but the industry is poorly regulated, and consumers should be aware of what to look for before purchasing CBD.
You’ll want to carefully read the label of any products you are considering and look for:
- Amount of CBD per serving
- Suggested use/dosage
- Type (full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate)
- List of ingredients
- Manufacturer and distributor name
You’ll also want to consider:
- Cannabis source: Ensure the product you are purchasing is sourced from a company that ensures the quality and safe cultivation of their plants. Look for products that come from organic cannabis/hemp plants when possible.
- Certificate of Analysis (CoA): CoAs are conducted by independent, accredited labels that verify third-party testing of the products.
- Customer reviews: Testimonials from other users can tell you a lot about a product’s efficacy.
Avoid products and vendors that make broad, definitive statements or promises of a “cure” for something. If you are currently taking any other medications or supplements for your UC, speak with your healthcare provider before using CBD, as it may interact with other medications you are taking.
A Word From Verywell
People with ulcerative colitis may want to consider alternative treatments such as CBD to help manage their symptoms. It’s important to remember that while CBD may help improve your symptoms, it will not treat or cure the condition.
CBD is best used as a supplemental therapy alongside conventional treatments recommended by your healthcare provider, as well as dietary modifications. As with any supplement or medication, talk with your healthcare provider before trying CBD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties that may make them helpful in managing symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis. Research suggests CBD is a promising therapeutic for inflammatory bowel diseases, helping reduce mucosal lesions, ulceration, and inflammation associated with IBD. CBD may also help manage gastrointestinal pain, as well as secondary symptoms that come with IBD, such as anxiety, nausea, and sleep disturbances.
The cannabis plant (to be smoked/vaped) comes in different strains, with varying CBD and THC levels. CBD-dominant cannabis strains may provide the best relief for inflammation. These strains tend to be high in the terpene called myrcene, which helps reduce inflammation.
There are many delivery methods for CBD, including edibles (e.g., gummies), flowers, oils, tinctures, topicals, and suppositories. Finding the right one for you may require a little trial and error. The best method for you depends on personal preference and how quickly you may need relief. For example, you may get relief from painful symptoms sooner by vaping oil vs. consuming an edible. Start off with smaller doses and gradually increase the amount you use until you find the amount that offers you relief from your symptoms. Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin use.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms and causes of ulcerative colitis.
Blaskovich MAT, Kavanagh AM, Elliott AG, et al. The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Commun Biol. 2021;4(1):7. doi:10.1038/s42003-020-01530-y
Kafil TS, Nguyen TM, MacDonald JK, Chande N. Cannabis for the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;(11). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012954.pub2
Gyires K, Zádori ZS. Role of cannabinoids in gastrointestinal mucosal defense and inflammation. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2016;14(8):935-951. doi:10.2174/1570159×14666160303110150
Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
Surendran S, Qassadi F, Surendran G, Lilley D, Heinrich M. Myrcene—what are the potential health benefits of this flavouring and aroma agent? Front Nutr. 2021;8:699666. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.699666
CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis: How It Works and Dosage
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most prevalent types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). While the two conditions may involve similar symptoms, they have different causes and should be approached from different angles.
While Crohn’s disease may show up in any part of the digestive gut, ulcerative colitis is exclusively referred to as inflammation of the colon. Another name for this condition is the ‘large intestine.’ Unlike Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis causes inflammation only in the inner lining of the gut.
Current treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases are expensive and may have dangerous side effects when taken regularly. For this reason, many people have started to seek out alternative methods of treatment, with CBD standing at the forefront.
If you’re flirting with the idea of taking CBD oil for ulcerative colitis, this article will give you a detailed look into the scientific research on this subject on top of sharing some handy tips for using CBD.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the colon and causing persistent ulcers, or sores, in the digestive tract. It falls into the category of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) along with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The disease causes damage to the inner lining of the large intestine, which may lead to frequent bowel movements. Ulcerative colitis commonly affects adults aged thirty to forty years old and generates up to $15 billion in government spendings on healthcare in the United States (1).
The cause of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease isn’t fully understood. However, scientists suspect that hereditary factors are the major players in the development of these conditions.
Causes & Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The cause of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease isn’t fully understood. However, scientists suspect that hereditary factors are the major players in the development of these conditions. These are autoimmune diseases, meaning the immune system attacks healthy cells instead of potential “intruders,” causing chronic inflammation. But like we said, the “why” behind the development of chronic inflammation in the gut is yet to be discovered.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loose and frequent bowel movements
- Loss of appetite
- Low energy and fatigue
- Persistent diarrhea
However, these symptoms aren’t chronic in nature; a person with ulcerative colitis may go several months without any symptoms, only to be taken aback by severe flare-ups from time to time.
How Is Ulcerative Colitis Typically Treated?
Ulcerative colitis is theoretically incurable, but doctors may prescribe different medications to reduce the inflammation and manage the abdominal pain. These medications include aminosalicylates — the go-to treatment for the majority of IBD cases — but a physician may also prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroids.
In more severe cases of ulcerative colitis, surgery may be required to remove the parts of the large intestine that are most damaged. Sometimes, the disease can be cured with surgical removal of the colon, but it may seriously compromise a person’s daily functioning, not to mention the risks of such surgery, especially among elderly sufferers.
Can CBD Oil Help Ulcerative Colitis?
Researchers hypothesize that CBD may be an effective alternative for ulcerative colitis due to its remarkable anti-inflammatory properties.
According to the National Institute of Health, CBD has both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects on the gastrointestinal tract without causing intoxication.
Furthermore, few people are aware that the U.S. government holds a patent on CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids as strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents (2).
The patent says, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties… [making them] useful in the treatment of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, [including] inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
The human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which keeps the body in the state of internal balance (homeostasis), has high concentrations of cannabinoid receptors in the digestive system — including the colon’s lining.
Although there have not yet been clinical trials that would investigate the use of CBD oil for ulcerative colitis, preliminary research carried out for the last decade shows promising results.
Studies Exploring Use of CBD for Ulcerative Colitis
- A 2011-2016 Israeli study examined the correlation between cannabis use and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The researchers monitored 127 patients, using the Harvey-Bradshaw index to collect data from each subject. All patients have reported positive results with minimal side effects, including dry mouth and short-term memory problems (3).
- In a 2011 report published in PLOS One, the authors claimed that CBD has the potential to become a ‘new therapeutic strategy’ in treating inflammatory bowel disease. The aim of the study was to observe the effects of CBD on the samples of intestinal biopsies from patients who had ulcerative colitis. The research team concluded that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may help treat a range of IBDs, including ulcerative colitis (4).
- A 2018 study analyzed the efficacy of CBD in adults 18 and older with ulcerative colitis. Although the remission rates between those using CBD and the placebo group were nonexistent, the study suggested that CBD extracts may alleviate the symptoms of IBD (5).
- A clinical trial performed on mice showed that the topical use of CBD can improve colonic inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis (6).
Can CBD Oil Help with Crohn’s Disease?
Now that we’ve established CBD can help with ulcerative colitis, you’re probably wondering if it can have similar effects on Crohn’s disease. After all, this condition, too, belongs to the IBD group.
It’s time to elaborate on the aforementioned study from Israel. The study observed and evaluated the effects of cannabis use on patients with different types of IBD, including Crohn’s disease. The research team gathered 127 medical cannabis patients and closely monitored them using several assessment methods. These included forms of cannabis consumption, the use of other medications, side effects, and the long-term effects of cannabis use. The authors also took into consideration the exact THC and CBD levels the study’s subjects consumed.
After 42 months of treatment, researchers used the said Harvey-Bradshaw Index to assess the effects of medicinal cannabis on the symptoms and overall well-being of the patients. A lower score on the index meant a decrease in the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. For cannabis users, the index score went down from 11 to 5, and the patients experienced a decrease in their bowel movements — from 7.0 to 3.4 on average. The participants also reported a considerable reduction in pain.
The results of the study were encouraging, with 78% of participants reporting no harmful side effects. Some patients experienced very mild side effects, such as dry mouth and short-term memory decline. However, these patients also noted that the improvements in their symptoms outweighed these minor reactions.
The authors of the study (Naftali et al.) concluded that cannabis can induce clinical improvements in people with IBD and that it can lead to decreased medication use and weight gain. They also noted that the subjects responded well to a dose of 21 mg THC and 170 mg CBD per day.
CBD vs THC: Which Is Better for IBD Symptoms
This question is difficult to answer due to the current state of scientific knowledge on using cannabis for IBD. In other words, the majority of studies suggest that using whole-plant extracts with various ratios of CBD and THC appear to provide the best results for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. No clinical trial has yet investigated the safety and efficacy of isolated CBD and THC for IBD.
Let’s take a look at these cannabinoids from a more practical point of view.
As mentioned, CBD has remarkable anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects. On top of that, it can modulate the inflammatory response of the immune system by improving communication between its cells. Numerous studies have mentioned these qualities in relation to a wide range of health conditions, including IBD and its symptoms.
However, studies also show that the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD are enhanced when you introduce some THC to an extract (along with other cannabinoids and terpenes). Researchers argue that even 1% of THC in a cannabis strain can significantly improve the plant’s therapeutic potential.
THC is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain killer as well, but on top of that, it produces a set of psychoactive effects known as a “high.” This “high” feeling usually elevates the user’s mood provided that they take it in moderate doses. However, high doses of CBD are known for their backfire effect, which can lead to more anxiety and paranoid thinking patterns.
Now, when you take both cannabinoids together, CBD blocks the psychotropic potential of THC, preventing it from elevating anxiety, while THC amplifies the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD. This mutual relationship is part of what scientists define as the entourage effect (6).
The entourage effect refers to synergistic effects between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in cannabis. This synergy improves their therapeutic potential, making them work better as a whole than in isolation.
If your state or country has a medical marijuana program, you can try medical-grade CBD oil. For others, full-spectrum CBD oil from hemp is the closest they can get to evoking the entourage effect.
How to Use CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?
If you decide to try CBD for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, it’s important to choose a form that will be the most beneficial. CBD is available in oil drops, capsules, edibles, vapes, and topicals; each of these products has different bioavailability, addresses different problems, and suits different types of users.
Here are the most common ways people take CBD for ulcerative colitis:
- CBD oil: the most common product on the list, CBD oil comes in glass bottles with droppers attached to them for accurate dosing. To use CBD oil, you need to squeeze the desired amount with the dropper, transfer that dose under the tongue, and hold it there for up to 60 seconds before swallowing. Since the oil absorbs right into the bloodstream through the tiny blood vessels beneath the tongue, you should be able to notice the first signs of relief within 15–30 minutes after administration. The effects of sublingual CBD last for up to 6 hours.
- CBD pillsand edibles: CBD capsules and edibles are oral products that come with a premeasured amount of CBD in each serving. Convenience is the name of the game here. Capsules and edibles are easy to take, low-profile, and eliminate the problem of swallowing earthy-tasting oil. They have a slower onset than the oil, though, as the CBD needs to be processed in the digestive system before passing into the bloodstream. The effects take hold usually between 40–90 minutes after ingestion, lasting 8–10 hours.
- CBD E-liquid (vape oil): CBD e-liquid can be heated in a vape pen and then inhaled for fast results and high bioavailability of CBD. CBD vape oil starts to act after around 5-10 minutes from inhalation, lasting up to 4 hours. CBD e-liquid isn’t the same as CBD oil. Regular CBD oil cannot be vaped because it’s too viscous. CBD vape oil is thinned down with ingredients like vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol.
- CBD topicals:topical products, such as creams, gels, and lotions, address localized problems, such as pain or inflammation resulting from injuries or flare-ups. Some studies have found that using CBD cream may reduce abdominal pain associated with IBD. They absorb through the skin into the epidermis layer, which contains high concentrations of cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors. The absorption rate, as well as the duration time of effects, may vary depending on the product’s formula, but usually, topicals need to be reapplied after several hours to maintain the relaxing effect.
CBD Dosage for IBD
There are no official recommendations when it comes to dosing CBD for ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. If you want to get a decent point of reference, we suggest that you review the dosage of past human clinical trials to determine the safe amount for intake.
According to the studies mentioned in this article, patients with IBD respond well to amounts such as 50 mg of CBD twice a day. The participants who tolerated the compound well continuously increased their intake up to 250 mg twice per day for ten weeks — without dangerous side effects.
The study showed that patients who took CBD felt better and no longer experienced colitis symptoms. A few participants reported mild reactions, such as nausea and dizziness.
Other Remedies for IBD
Complementary therapies for IBD include herbal medicines. They are believed to alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
For example, Italian complementary medicine mentions herbal therapies as frequently practiced by patients with IBD. In a similar manner, herbal remedies are recognized by Chinese literature that describes them as helpful in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.
These recommendations are based on the alleged anti-inflammatory benefits of specific herbs upon consumption.
Researchers mention Aloe Vera as a potential therapeutic agent in treating IBD, based on the positive outcomes of clinical trials on patients with the disease. Other herbs, such as Boswellia serrata and turmeric, are also reported to promote an anti-inflammatory response in the body.
Some CBD supplements are formulated with herbs such as Aloe Vera, Boswellia serrata, and turmeric. You can also mix different herbal remedies on your own, but we first recommend consulting a doctor knowledgeable about complementary medicine before you start your first trials.
Using CBD Oil to Treat Ulcerative Colitis: Does It Work?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease of the colon that mostly damages the lining of the large intestine, causing people to experience flare-ups and frequent bowel movements. The condition is often confused with Crohn’s disease, and although these two may share similar symptoms, their nature is completely different and thus should be looked at separately.
There is no clear explanation of what causes inflammatory bowel diseases, and as of right now, scientists are still trying to find a cure for them.
While conventional treatments provide short-term relief from the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, they lose efficacy in the long run on top of having dangerous side effects.
Several studies have suggested that CBD and cannabis, in general, are possible medical treatment options for ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory bowel conditions. Researchers found that CBD could prevent injury in the colon’s lining as well as inflammation, which is the underlying cause of all IBD’s.
Experts believe that CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory actions by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS.
However, researchers are yet to confirm whether the results from animal models and the preliminary findings from human subjects will be reflected in randomized controlled trials.
If you believe you could benefit from taking CBD for ulcerative colitis, visit a health provider experienced with CBD and cannabis oil.
- Cohen RD, Yu AP, Wu EQ, Xie J, Mulani PM, Chao J. Systematic review: the costs of ulcerative colitis in Western countries. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Apr;31(7):693-707. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2010.04234.x. Epub 2010 Jan 11. PMID: 20064142.
- Naftali, Timna et al. “Medical cannabis for inflammatory bowel disease: real-life experience of the mode of consumption and assessment of side-effects.” European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology vol. 31,11 (2019): 1376-1381. doi:10.1097/MEG.0000000000001565
- De Filippis, Daniele et al. “Cannabidiol reduce intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis.” PloS one vol. 6,12 (2011): e28159. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028159
- Irving, Peter M et al. “A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled, Parallel-group, Pilot Study of Cannabidiol-rich Botanical Extract in the Symptomatic Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis.” Inflammatory bowel diseases vol. 24,4 (2018): 714-724. doi:10.1093/ibd/izy002
- Schicho, Rudolf, and Martin Storr. “Topical and systemic cannabidiol improves trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid colitis in mice.” Pharmacology Vol. 89,3-4 (2012): 149-55. doi:10.1159/000336871
- Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology vol. 163,7 (2011): 1344-64. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
CBD for Ulcerative Colitis – August 2022
Can CBD Help With Ulcerative Colitis, and if So, How?
- Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease in a category known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and is known to affect the large intestine and cause sores, or ulcers, in the digestive tract (1) .
- Aminosalicylates have been the primary means of treating colitis for many years, with doctors aiming to reduce inflammation in IBD patients and improve their quality of life . Physicians may also prescribe medications, such as corticosteroids and antibiotics, to treat the symptoms of UC (2) .
- Studies have shown that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may help treat colitis (3) . Several studies report that CBD may prevent colon injury (4) , inhibit disturbances in the large intestine (5) , and reduce intestinal damage overall (6) .
- However, most of these studies were conducted on animal subjects . There is no substantial evidence that CBD can alleviate ulcerative colitis symptoms in humans.
- Seeking advice from a medical professional, particularly someone experienced in cannabis use, is best for individuals who want to take CBD for UC.
Why Some People Are Turning to CBD for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the colon and causes long-lasting ulcers, or sores, in the digestive tract.
UC affects the inner lining of the large intestine (microscopic colitis), causing a person to experience bowel movements frequently.
UC commonly affects adults aged thirty to forty years old and is said to account for about $8 to $15 billion in total economic burden in the United States (7) .
The cause of this type of inflammatory bowel disease ( IBD ) is not clear. However, researchers believe colitis develops in genetically susceptible individuals as a response to environmental triggers.
Although there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, doctors may prescribe treatment to reduce the inflammation that causes its symptoms.
Aminosalicylates have been the main form of treatment for the disease for many years. A physician could also prescribe corticosteroids or antibiotics (8) .
A new approach that could potentially alleviate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis is the use of CBD (cannabidiol). Studies have shown that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may help treat UC (9) .
Cannabidiol is one of the many chemical compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant, which could be hemp or marijuana.
Compared to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ), which is predominantly found in marijuana, CBD from hemp is non-intoxicating and does not cause a high when consumed (10) . Meanwhile, the use of cannabis (marijuana) induces psychoactive effects.
A study published in 2009 in the Journal of Molecular Medicine found that cannabidiol may have protective effects in rats with colitis (11) .
The researchers examined the large intestines of the subjects and found that CBD was able to reduce injury in the general area.
Another study on rats with ulcerative colitis was carried out the following year to learn about CBD’s effects on this type of IBD.
Results revealed that THC and CBD inhibited inflammation and functional disturbances in the large intestines of the rodents (12) .
The results of these two small studies led another team to continue examining CBD and how it affects colitis in animal models.
In a 2011 study published by the scientific journal PLOS One , scientists once again found that CBD reduced intestinal damage in mice with colitis (13) .
Meanwhile, a clinical trial found that applying CBD as a topical can improve colonic inflammation in mice with UC (14) .
Despite these positive results, most of the studies on CBD’s effects on colitis were carried out on rodents. However, at least one clinical trial attempted to translate the supposed health benefits of CBD on human subjects with UC.
The study compared the effectiveness of CBD oil capsules on individuals with UC to another group that was given placebo pills.
The CBD group participants were given 50 mg of CBD capsules twice each day, increasing up to 250 mg twice daily, if tolerated (15) .
After ten weeks, twenty-four percent of the subjects that took CBD claimed to have improved remission rates , stating that they no longer experience colitis symptoms.
Meanwhile, several participants also reported improved quality of life scores compared to the placebo group (16) .
Although appearing to have potential, CBD’s effects on human subjects with ulcerative colitis are unclear. The lack of human studies is why researchers today could not conclude the efficacy of cannabidiol in adults with active UC.
How CBD Oil Works to Help with Ulcerative Colitis
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system present in most mammals and is responsible for regulating several critical bodily functions. Its discovery in the 90s has led many researchers to believe that it could be manipulated to bring about therapeutic effects in parts of the body it controls (17) .
Knowing how the ECS works is essential in understanding how CBD may help alleviate ulcerative colitis and IBD symptoms .
Cannabinoids, like CBD, express their therapeutic effects in the body through receptors in the ECS (18) . The two primary endocannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are primarily distributed on neural tissue and the central nervous system. CB2 receptors mediate the functions concerning the immune system .
A study in 2001 mentioned that CB1 receptors are said to play a role in controlling gastrointestinal motility and gastric intestinal secretion (19) . This statement is supported by at least two studies on mice, which demonstrated that CB1 and CB2 receptors are crucial in modulating colonic inflammation (20) .
Although both CB1 and CB2 receptors are considered mediators of inflammation in the ECS, the CB2 receptor seems to be the primary regulator of inflammation and immune functions (21) .
When CB2 receptors are activated, they trigger a response which fights inflammation in the body. This anti-inflammatory reaction is said to help treat chronic inflammatory diseases, one of which is colitis (22) .
CBD supposedly provides its anti-inflammatory benefits by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. Doing so could help treat inflammation of the colon, which is common in ulcerative colitis.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis
- CBD is said to have anti-inflammatory properties (23) that could potentially alleviate ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease symptoms .
- Several studies on cannabis and inflammatory bowel conditions support the concept that compounds, like CBD, can be used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases (24) .
- CBD intake does not result in a euphoric high, unlike THC, which is the psychoactive component prevalent in medical marijuana .
- People can purchase CBD oil products even without a prescription so long as they do so in locations where they are legal.
- According to a study in 2018, cannabidiol is non-addictive and may even help with substance abuse and drug addiction (25) .
- Most of the findings from the studies mentioned earlier were obtained from clinical trials on rodents. At the time of writing, there is no direct evidence proving that CBD can effectively treat ulcerative colitis.
- Research on CBD’s efficacy on human subjects with colitis has shown limited clinical response , with the results of these studies being generally inconclusive.
- People who take CBD may experience adverse effects , such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and headache (26) .
- At this time, Epidiolex is the only CBD product approved and evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) (27) .
- The FDA also warns the public that using CBD and other medications together may affect how these drugs work, potentially causing severe side effects (28) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Ulcerative Colitis
Herbal medicines have been used in treating IBDs, like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease . They are said to be effective in alleviating inflammatory bowel disease symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract .
In Italy, complementary medicines, particularly herbal therapies, are frequently used by patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (29) .
Likewise, Chinese literature recognizes the IBD treatment of ulcerative colitis with herbal remedies.
Herbs, such as aloe vera, Boswellia serrata , and turmeric, are often used in the hopes of alleviating the symptoms of colitis (30) .
This belief is based on the alleged anti-inflammatory effects that these herbs provide upon consumption.
Aloe vera is said to have therapeutic potential in treating IBD, based on the positive results of a clinical trial on patients with the disease (31) . Meanwhile, Boswellia serrata (32) and curcumin from turmeric (33) are also reported to have anti-inflammatory activities.
CBD has been shown to possess characteristics that could combat inflammation and help with IBDs, like colitis. There are CBD products available in the form of tinctures and capsules that are infused with herbal medicines.
Users can find CBD oil mixed with herbs, such as aloe vera, Boswellia serrata , and turmeric. There are also CBD supplements in the form of soft gels that contain Boswellia and curcumin.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis
Choosing the right type of CBD oil is imperative to experiencing CBD to the fullest. Three variants of CBD oil are being manufactured by companies today.
The first is full-spectrum CBD, which has all of the chemical compounds that are naturally found in cannabis. This type also has other chemical compounds, like terpenes that provide the distinctive aroma in cannabis plants and flavonoids, which give their unique colors.
Full-spectrum CBD also contains trace amounts of THC, which cannot cause a psychoactive reaction.
Combining all of these compounds and consuming them provides the user with the entourage effect. This effect means that the cannabis constituents are more effective when consumed together compared to taking them individually.
Cannabidiol is not the only compound of cannabis that is said to have therapeutic effects. When choosing a CBD product, users often decide to select one containing the full range of cannabinoids to maximize their health benefits .
The second type of CBD oil is called broad-spectrum, which is similar to full-spectrum. It also contains all of the phytocannabinoids that are derived from cannabis except THC.
This variety of CBD is ideal for individuals who do not want to consume THC.
The third type of oil is known as isolate, which contains pure cannabidiol. Users that are allergic to specific cannabinoids of the hemp plant, or those who want to take pure CBD, can opt for CBD isolates.
This type of CBD is often available in powdered form but can sometimes be found as crystals.
Regardless of whether a person chooses full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate, careful consideration is necessary to obtain the best CBD oil suitable for one’s preferences.
Here are several tips to ensure that high-quality, safe, and reliable cannabis products are bought today:
- Look for the certificate of analysis (COA) or the laboratory report of the CBD product selected. This document is especially important since it indicates that the item has undergone thorough testing and contains precisely the specifications listed on its label.
- Read up on product and shop reviews when buying from an online store. If purchasing from a physical dispensary, check if it has proper authorization to sell CBD.
- Only buy organic CBD derived from hemp. The hemp plant is the most reliable source of quality cannabidiol.
- Ensure that the legalities involving CBD are followed in the state where it is planned to be bought and used.
- Consult a medical professional, preferably someone experienced in medical cannabis , before deciding to use CBD for the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Additional Tips to Get the Best CBD Oil Products
- Keep an eye out for CBD brands claiming that their CBD is acquired from the stalk and seeds of hemp plants. Cannabidiol is not found in hemp seeds, and there are minimal traces of CBD in the stalks of hemp.
- Do not purchase CBD vape cartridges containing thinning agents, such as propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, as these can be toxic and harmful to one’s health.
- Avoid purchasing low-quality CBD edibles and gummies that are made of artificial colors and sub-standard ingredients.
- Contact CBD brands directly for any questions or concerns. Try another CBD company if they do not respond.
CBD Dosage for Ulcerative Colitis
There are no official guidelines concerning the consumption of CBD for ulcerative colitis. However, it might help to review the dosage of past human clinical trials to have an idea concerning the safe amount for intake.
From the study mentioned earlier, patients with UC were given 50 mg of CBD oil capsules twice a day. The participants who tolerated it well took increasing amounts, reaching as much as 250 mg twice per day for ten weeks.
The study showed that the subjects who took CBD felt better and claimed to no longer experience colitis symptoms. A few individuals also reported mild reactions, such as dizziness and nausea.
A systematic review of CBD dosing found that patients who took doses between 1 and 50 mg/kg per day reported significant improvements in their conditions (34) . This review took into account the results of twenty-three studies and found that CBD was well-tolerated in all subjects.
Perhaps the best rule to apply with regards to CBD dosage is to start with a small amount and then observe its effects. If there are no severe reactions, users can gradually increase their dosing until they experience the desired outcome.
How to Take CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis
When seeking the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD for colitis, users can choose to take CBD sublingually via tinctures and droppers. This approach involves placing drops of CBD oil under the tongue and keeping it there for several seconds before swallowing.
Applying CBD by way of tinctures is probably the fastest way to deliver cannabidiol to the body as the compound can enter the bloodstream immediately.
CBD in capsule form is also another way to take cannabidiol, allowing individuals to take them daily, similar to supplements.
Meanwhile, users can find CBD edibles in the form of cookies and gummies that can be consumed as snacks.
This kind of product is usually available in various flavors and can be a delightful introduction to CBD. However, edibles can take effect longer than other forms of CBD, as it has to travel through the gastrointestinal tract first.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the colon that primarily affects the lining of the large intestine , causing people to experience frequent bowel movement or flare-ups .
UC commonly occurs in adults between the ages of thirty to forty years old and is reported to be a significant economic burden in the United States.
There is no clear indication of what causes colitis and, as of this time, scientists have not yet found a cure for the disease.
Aminosalicylates are the most prescribed treatment for UC, with doctors aiming to reduce inflammation and improve the quality of life of IBD patients.
Several studies have shown that CBD is a possible medical treatment option for ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel conditions. Researchers discovered that CBD could prevent injury and inflammation to the colon, potentially providing relief for colitis disease activity .
Experts believe that CBD may reduce inflammation by interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS.
However, most randomized controlled trials were carried out on animals, with no direct evidence showing that CBD is an effective treatment for UC symptoms in humans .
When deciding to purchase CBD for intestinal inflammation , interested cannabis users should consult a doctor to get the right medical advice.
People can benefit from visiting a healthcare provider experienced with cannabis oil and CBD .