CBD for the Digestive Tract

CBD for the Digestive Tract

Researchers continue to be intrigued by the potential medicinal benefits of the cannabinoid CBD. They’ve found it effective for treating inflammation, pain, anxiety, and even certain bacterial infections [1]. They’ve recently turned their attention to its usefulness in treating gastrointestinal diseases. In the United States, roughly 60-70 million people are affected by a variety of digestive diseases [2]. There’s a good change that if you aren’t personally affected, you know someone who is. Those who suffer from digestive tract disorders often battle with their quality of life because these diseases can be very disruptive to daily routines. The possibility of using CBD to help ease some of that discomfort drives researchers to learn more about CBD and how it can be used to treat GI problems.

How the Endocannabinoid System Works

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an important part of human physiology. It’s responsible for maintaining the body’s state of homeostasis. If some sort of disruption is introduced in the body, the ECS will start working to make sure everything in the body remains at a stable and optimal level. This is an important function of the human body. All the internal systems need to be in a state of equilibrium to work effectively.  

There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:

  • Endocannabinoids: These are compounds that are naturally produced by the body, but are very similar to the chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD. The two main endocannabinoids in the ECS are called anandamide and 2-AG.
  • Cannabinoid Receptors: These receptors are found on the surface of cells throughout the body. The endocannabinoids the body produces, and any cannabinoids ingested will bind to these receptors. The action of binding allows them to communicate with different systems in the body, helping the ECS maintain an equilibrium in each of the specific systems. The two main types of cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2.
  • Enzymes: After the endocannabinoids attach themselves to the cannabinoid receptors and the ECS has achieved stabilization in the body, enzymes start breaking down the endocannabinoids to avoid a possible overcorrection. Each type of endocannabinoid has a specific enzyme that works at breaking it down effectively. The two enzyme types are called FAAH and MAGL and each is specific to a particular endocannabinoid.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating several of the most important bodily functions, including appetite and digestion. The ECS regulates digestive functions by communicating with the digestive system using the cannabinoid receptors. Specifically the CB2 receptors, which reside in the digestive and immune systems. When the receptors notice an imbalance in one of these systems, the ECS acts with precision to pinpoint the issue and works to stabilize the problem and get back to homeostasis. 

Endocannabinoid System and CBD

Since endocannabinoids and cannabinoids from cannabis plants are so similar chemically, it’s possible for cannabinoids like CBD to attach themselves to the receptors in the same way the naturally occurring endocannabinoids do. CBD has the ability to bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Once attached, CBD acts as an antagonist, or blocker, binding to receptors and dampening their signals. 

For example, CBD works to inhibit the FAAH enzyme which breaks down the anandamide endocannabinoid the body produces. Anandamide produces a calming feeling, so by keeping the enzymes from destroying this compound a naturally therapeutic effect should be felt immediately [3]

Researchers have found that CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in immune cells, which indicates they are both used in regulating inflammation and immune response [4]. Because CBD can attach itself to both these receptors, it could prove to be effective for treating those with gastrointestinal issues. 

Common Gastrointestinal Disorders

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract, the liver, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. This system helps break down and digest food. Effective digestion means the proper breakdown of food into nutrients and absorption of those nutrients to your body, where it’s used for energy, growth, and cell repair. There are many different kinds of digestive disorders, but the most common GI issues are listed below. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There are two types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and in the United States a little over 1% of adults suffer from one or the other [5]:

  • Crohn’s Disease: This disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract. With symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, severe diarrhea, reduced appetite, and weight loss, it is a disorder that can be completely debilitating to those who have it. There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease and the recommended treatments usually include a combination of dietary changes and a prescription for anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics.
  • Ulcerative Colitis: This disease causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. While technically considered the same type of inflammatory bowel disease as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis differs in that it only affects the colon and the rectum. It does, however, have all the same symptoms as Crohn’s disease and is also without a cure. Treatment is typically a combination of immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drugs, with additional prescriptions for pain relievers to manage any symptoms.


Gastritis is marked by inflammation of the stomach lining, and can be caused by a bacterial infection or overuse of pain medication or alcohol. It can also be caused by Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of gastritis include pain of the upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. If untreated, gastritis can cause stomach ulcers which can then lead to stomach cancer. 2 out of every 10,000 people suffer from chronic gastritis [6], however it is a very treatable condition with a combination of antibiotics, antacids, and histamine blockers. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes inflammation in the large intestine. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and weight loss. One of the most common GI issues, it affects 10% to 15% of people in the world [7]. IBS is found to be more common in women than men worldwide. Like other GI disorders, IBS is a chronic condition and has no cure. Most people manage their symptoms with a combination of diet, lifestyle, and supplements. Stress is a trigger for IBS, so often therapy or antidepressants are also recommended. 

How CBD Can Help

Benefits of CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the cannabis plant and is one of more than 100 chemical compounds found within the plant that are called cannabinoids. CBD is usually extracted from the hemp plant as it naturally has higher concentrations of CBD, whereas the marijuana plant has higher concentrations of THC. Both plants produce CBD, but it’s often easier to extract from the hemp plant when the psychoactive effects of THC are not required or preferred. CBD does not contain any psychoactive elements and therefore the user won’t feel any sort of intoxication from consuming CBD. It should also be noted that unlike THC, CBD is legal in the United States. 

CBD can be a powerful tool against digestive tract discomfort. Because it’s able to interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract and immune system, it can help reduce inflammation and improve how the immune system responds to digestive disorders. It can also be a great option when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety which can be caused by digestive issues, or act as a trigger for them. 

  • Pain and inflammation relief: Studies have shown that CBD can be a powerful pain reliever and is especially beneficial when managing chronic pain [8]. Studies on mice have revealed that CBD works to manage pain by adjusting the way the brain reacts to pain. It is able to release neurotransmitters which in turn act as antidepressants [9]. CBD is also able to attach itself to the CB2 receptors in the immune system which work to suppress inflammation [10].

A recent study of mice who suffered from intestinal inflammation found that they had abnormal levels of endocannabinoid turnover [11]. This means the ECS might not be able to regulate inflammation effectively. To test CBD in cases like this, researchers gave the mice CBD oil and it relieved their inflamed intestines and effectively reduced their pain.   

The combined power of CBD against pain and inflammation makes it a great alternative to traditional prescription medications or treatments that aren’t seeing success in treating uncomfortable or painful gastrointestinal diseases.

  • Anxiety relief: Research is still on-going, but already studies on animals have found that CBD is helpful in reducing a range of anxiety and stress issues [12]. By using the ECS to manage situations that cause our bodies to feel discomfort or distress, CBD can be a great option for those who either experience anxiety or stress from their uncomfortable digestive disorders, or for those who suffer from something like IBS and need to maintain a calm lifestyle or risk upsetting their condition.
  • Nausea relief: There has been considerable research done suggesting the benefits of cannabinoids — including CBD — on easing nausea and vomiting [13]. As these are two very common symptoms of gastritis, being able to use CBD to assist in managing these is incredibly important.

CBD in Your Life

If you or someone you love suffers from a digestive disease, you know it can be frustrating to get the help needed. With many of these diseases currently incurable, it comes down to an effective and tolerable treatment plan. The symptoms of these diseases are life-altering enough, so adding further medications that could themselves come with side effects is not often a desirable choice for many people trying to find relief. For those people, CBD can be a great option. Using its powerful relation to the endocannabinoid system and its ease of use and gentle effect on the body, it can be a life-changing treatment. 

Always talk to your doctor before adding any new treatments and make sure that any CBD you purchase comes from a reputable source with proper certifications and analysis reports. 

Cannabinoids and Infections

Cannabinoids and Infections

In the year 2020 we’ve found ourselves caught up in a global pandemic unlike the world has seen in 100 years. People are scared of the coronavirus called COVID-19, yet curious about what they can do to better protect themselves and their families from it as it makes its way through most countries and populations. There is no vaccine for COVID-19 and this has left many doing their own research for medications and natural remedies that might be able to aid in the fight against this virus. Understandably this has led some to question how effective cannabinoids — specifically CBD — are when it comes to protecting them from this or any coronavirus, or fighting off the infection if they happen to catch it. CBD research is still in its early stages, so in this article we want to discuss what current research has shown about CBD and its impact on infections, and whether or not it can be helpful as a preventative measure against viral infections.

Cannabinoids For Infections

Current research has shown that cannabinoids can be powerful antimicrobials, suggesting that they are agents that can kill microorganisms or stop them from growing 1. Antibiotics and antifungals are well known and commonly used antimicrobials, however research has also shown CBD to be helpful against certain types of infections. We’ll discuss those in more detail below.

Cannabinoids For Bacterial Infections

In the 1950s researchers studied cannabis as a potential treatment for tuberculosis and other diseases [2], however the research hit roadblocks as cannabis became more heavily regulated and was eventually classified as a Schedule 1 drug. More recently, studies have found cannabinoids – the chemical compounds found inside cannabis — to be useful for treating MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in humans. MRSA is a bacteria known for being difficult to treat and for being unresponsive to many antibiotics. MRSA can often result in death for individuals with weakened immune systems or compromised health.

A study by scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom found that by applying extracted cannabinoids to bacterial cultures from six different strains of MRSA, the cannabinoid compounds successfully killed the Super bugs. In fact, it was just as helpful as the most popular and potent antibiotics that are commonly prescribed for the treatment of MRSA.

The researchers tested five specific cannabinoids and found the two that were the most powerful were also non-psychoactive, meaning they can be extracted from a hemp plant instead of a marijuana plant. Since marijuana is still considered illegal in many places, being able to harvest these beneficial cannabinoids from the legal hemp plant means the access to cannabinoid therapy could be easier and more affordable for those who would be otherwise unable to obtain it [3].

Cannabinoids For Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are often extremely uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing for those suffering from them. They normally occur on the skin or within the body and frequently overwhelm the immune system. Usually antifungal medications are prescribed, including those with steroid properties. In an attempt to search for alternative treatments or to avoid steroids altogether, people have turned their attention to cannabinoids as a more natural remedy.

Researchers have found that some cannabinoids have moderate antifungal properties, specifically three types of cannabinoids [4]. Much like the cannabinoids used for bacterial infections, these three cannabinoids don’t cause the user to feel intoxicated. They naturally boost the effects of a specific type of oxide inside our bodies, which in turn works as an extremely powerful antifungal.

Cannabinoids For Viral Infections

With compelling evidence that cannabinoids can work for bacterial and fungal infections, some are rushing to conclusions about what that means for its usefulness against viral infections. It’s important to remember that just because they might be successful against certain types of bacteria and fungus, does not mean they will be useful against viruses.

There are currently very few studies about the effectiveness of cannabinoids and viral infections. The only such study that exists at this time is related to using cannabidiol (CBD) to treat viral hepatitis. The research shows that while CBD doesn’t seem to have any effect on hepatitis B, it was shown to actively assist in treating hepatitis C. This is especially important since hepatitis B has a vaccine and hepatitis C does not. Since there is no vaccine for hepatitis C and it has shown resistance to drugs, treatment can be costly. Even though the research is only just beginning on using CBD to help treat hepatitis C, the possibility of it being a beneficial treatment could open a lot of doors for those who suffer [5].

CBD For Stress and Anxiety

These are troubling times. That much we know to be true. The world is worried right now and that can have repercussions on our health. In response to this outbreak, the CDC has published an article highlighting the damage that stress can have in our lives and in our bodies. In this guide they note that stress can lead to the worsening of chronic health problems [6].

Stress can do a lot of damage to our bodies. In a time when we need to focus on maintaining our overall well-being, suffering from stress can be exceedingly dangerous. Stress can cause a person to have headaches, stomach problems, or trouble sleeping. Someone suffering from stress might turn to drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy eating habits. Many can feel fatigued, sad, or overwhelmed when stress consumes them. These behaviors are damaging to our immune system and can make us more susceptible to viral infections [7].

Likewise, there are many who suffer from chronic anxiety, and now those who are feeling newly anxious as the pandemic becomes part of our daily lives. Since so many of the same symptoms of stress show themselves in those who are suffering from anxiety, researchers believe there might also be a connection between anxiety and our immune systems [8]. The research is still ongoing and there haven’t been any solid conclusions at this point, however with such terrifying symptoms associated with feelings of anxiety, relief from it could be very important to those who suffer. This is especially true during these trying times.

CBD has been heavily researched and reported for its value in the treatment of stress and anxiety in both animals and humans. It is effective in reducing both the behavioral and physiological aspects of stress and anxiety, meaning it can help to calm the mind when it won’t stop running, and the heart when it won’t stop pounding [9]. During a time when so many stressful events are happening on an almost daily basis, gaining control over our stress level is important and could mean a healthier immune system.

Will CBD Protect Me From Viruses?

In a word? No. The research is still ongoing and no solid conclusions have been drawn yet. In regards to the COVID-19 virus, there is no vaccine or known cure for it. There are no known medicinal or therapeutic preventative measures. The best line of defense is maintaining social distance and doing your absolute best to keep yourself healthy. This can mean eating healthier foods, exercising, and managing your stress levels.

Experts have already warned the public about outlandish claims by those declaring they have some sort of miracle cure for COVID-19, which includes claims that cannabis or CBD are cures for the virus [10]. Unfortunately there are always people who will prey on others during hard times, and right now we need to be diligent about making sure we have all the facts and finding treatment plans that can work for us without someone else pushing it on us.

So while CBD has been shown to be powerful in the fight against stress and anxiety, there is no proof showing it has any effect on most viruses. If you find yourself struggling with stress or anxiety during this troubling time, perhaps CBD has a place in your life. The effects stress has on your body can be immensely damaging and could potentially make you more susceptible to infections. Getting a handle on that stress before it causes harm is just another tool in your toolbox when it comes to fighting off any viral infection, including COVID-19.