Cannabis oil significantly improves symptoms of Crohn’s disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation, according to new research.
The study, revealed at UEG Week conference in Vienna this week, found that cannabis produced clinical remission in up to 65% of individuals after eight weeks of treatment. However, it also found that it did this despite having no effect on gut inflammation, contrary to previous medical thinking.
The research looked at 46 people with moderately severe Crohn’s disease. Researchers gave them eight weeks of treatment with either cannabis oil or a placebo. It found that 65% of the cannabis oil group met the criteria for clinical remission, compared to 35% of the placebo group.
Inflammation of the gut was then assessed endoscopically and by measuring blood and stool samples.
Lead researcher from Tel Aviv University, Israel, Dr Tinma Naftali, said: “We have previously demonstrated that cannabis can produce measureable 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.”
Researchers have said the next step is to explore the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis to treat inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr Naftali added: “There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal diseases. 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.”