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October 2013

Marijuana May Reduce Crohn's Disease Symptoms

A recent study suggests that marijuana may provide some benefits for people with Crohn's disease.

Marijuana, hemp, and cannabis are common names for plants of the genus Cannabis. The term "hemp" is used for Cannabis plants that are grown for nondrug use, such as Cannabis sativaCannabis indica has poor fiber quality and is used to make drugs for recreation and medicine. The major differences between the two are appearance and the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana. The two most commonly studied constituents of Cannabis sativa are the psychoactive component, THC, and the nonpsychoactive component, cannabidiol (CBD). Available studies investigating Cannabis sativa have evaluated these compounds both alone and in combination.

In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 21 people with Crohn's disease who were not responding to standard treatments to receive a cannabis cigarette containing 115 milligrams of THC or a placebo cigarette containing cannabis flowers without THC twice daily for eight weeks. Participants were evaluated throughout the eight weeks and again two weeks after treatment ended.

A significant clinical decrease in Crohn's Disease Activity Index occurred in 10 of the 11 participants in the cannabis group, compared to four of 10 in the placebo group. Furthermore, three participants in the cannabis group reduced their dependence on steroids. The researchers found that five of the 11 participants in the cannabis treatment group reached complete remission of Crohn's disease by the end of the study, compared to one of 10 in the placebo group; however, significant results were lacking for this primary outcome measure. Significant side effects were lacking.

The authors concluded that while cannabis lacked significant effects on achieving remission, there were significant benefits for reducing symptoms. Additional studies are warranted to further evaluate these findings.

For more information about integrative therapies for Crohn's disease, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative EffectivenessDatabase.

For more information about cannabis, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

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  1. 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 Oct;11(10):1276-1280.e1. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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