Cannabis oil has been shown to “significantly improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and the quality of life of sufferers”, according to a new study, despite having “no effect on gut inflammation”.
That inflammation was uneffected may have been down to the dosage – 15% CBD and THC 4% – not being strong enough. As the study concludes, more research is needed.
The study was the “first of its kind” because it was randomised and placebo-controlled. The researchers, working in Israel, found “that cannabis can produce clinical remission in up to 65% of individuals after eight weeks of treatment, but that this improvement does not appear to result from a dampening down of the underlying inflammatory process”.
Speaking at United European Gastroenterology Week 2018 in Vienna, lead researcher, Dr Timna Naftali said: “Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical conditions, and studies have shown that many people with Crohn’s disease 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 research team recruited 46 people with moderately severe Crohn’s disease, and randomised them to receive eight 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 eight 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 placebo group.”
Naftali said: “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 inflammatory markers we measured in the cannabis oil group compared with the placebo group.
“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.
“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 symptom relief for some people with Crohn’s disease.”
The research team plans to explore further the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.