Life with Crohn’s disease can be downright painful—and mentally exhausting, too. With symptoms such as frequent diarrhea, acute abdominal pain, cramping and constipation, folks not only have to deal with physical suffering, but also worry about what will happen if they find themselves with no bathroom in sight.
Research from the past few years shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis can help ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Compounds found in marijuana seem to mimic naturally occurring molecules inside the body that have been shown to lower intestinal inflammation. This means that not only can cannabis help with pain, but it can also give Crohn’s sufferers a better quality of life.
Here are three of our most popular questions about how marijuana could help those with Crohn’s disease. The answers were provided by doctors, cannabis industry veterans and seasoned cannabis consumers in our Answers section. Head there to ask a question of your own whenever you’re unsure about anything cannabis-related.
Q: I want to get the medical benefits of cannabis for Crohn's, without the high. What should I be taking?
I've started with drops of a 20:1 CBD:THC tincture. Is this a good ratio or would 10:1 be more effective?
Answer: @PiantaTinta With the people I’ve worked with that have digestive issues, what has worked the best is either a 4:1 CBD/THC ratio or a 1:1 ratio. The THC is very helpful in relaxing the gut...with the 1:1 ratio product it depends on dosing, with larger dosing you might get a mild "high.”
Q: Which topical product would you recommend for muscle/joint aches associated with Crohn's?
Answer: @drolson I would suggest a CBD-dominant cream. And when using the topical CBD-dominant cream, do not forget to treat your spine. Typically, when a person has Crohn's disease or in any kind of G.I. distress, they may also notice of backache and this is called the visceral somatic response.
When the viscera, the G.I. system (your guts), become inflamed, the nerves that go to the spine pick up on the inflammation so in order to stop inflammation in the body you also want to treat the nerves in the spine that correspond to the area of your body that is inflamed. To calm the G.I. system, you would apply the topical CBD-dominant cream to your spine beginning about the level of the bottom of your scapula tip to the waistline. If you apply the cream every hour during your waking hours you likely will achieve long extended periods of pain relief in approximately one week.
Q: How to approach my doctor about using medical marijuana for Crohn’s remission.
My son was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2011. He was mostly symptom free until December 2015 when he took an antibiotic for strep throat which led to a severe flare. He was prescribed 60mg of prednisone and placed on remicade infusions. This combination made him feel awful, and he wasn't getting better. The pain was terrible and he was taking oxycodone just to get through the day. When the pain was more than he could take, we would make trips to the ER and spend 5–6 days in the hospital at a time trying to get the inflammation under control. Finally, in April he had surgery. Now we are wondering what to do to keep the Crohn’s in remission. He doesn't want to do the remicade anymore, and he is absolutely done with steroids. He has done a lot of research on medical marijuana and Crohn’s, but doesn't know how to approach the subject with his doctor. It’s something he wants to try, but doesn't think his doctor will be on board with it.
Answer: @dredmunds Doctor's tend to like data, and a literature search on Crohn's disease and cannabis will reveal an abundance of data supporting cannabis for the treatment of Crohn's disease. You might want to bring in an article written for the lay-person that references several studies, such as "Worth Repeating: Medical Marijuana Defeat's Crohn's Disease" published in SF Gate.
As this article points out, there have been several studies using cellular, animal and human models indicating that marijuana may not only be used for treating the symptoms of Crohn's disease (such as cramping, pain, and nausea) but may also reverse the disease process by modulating the immune system and decreasing inflammation. As a result, many patients have been able to wean off corticosteroids, opiates, and anti-inflammatory drugs and even potentially prevent surgeries necessitated by disease.
Photo credit: Mitchell Hollander