Cannabis eases the agony of IBD: Scientists find a compounds in marijuana reduce gut inflammation
Cannabis eases the agony of IBD: Scientists discover compounds in marijuana could reduce gut inflammation in Crohn’s sufferers
- Compounds in cannabis are structurally similar to naturally produced molecules
- The molecules, known as endocannabinoids, control inflammation in the gut
- Crohn’s occurs due to people suffering inflammation in their digestive tracts
- Medical cannabis will available in the UK after it was approved last month
- Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in 30 US states, including California
Scientists have discovered how cannabis eases the agony of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), new research suggests.
Compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, are structurally similar to the naturally produced molecules endocannabinoids, which control inflammation in the gut, a US study found.
IBD occurs due to gut inflammation, with Crohn’s disease affecting the entire digestive system and ulcerative colitis (UC) just the large intestine.
Medical cannabis will available on prescription in the UK after it was approved by the Government last month.
Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in 30 US states, including California, Florida and Ohio. Nine states permit the drug for recreational use.
Scientists have discovered how cannabis eases the pain of inflammatory bowel disease (stock)
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IS MEDICAL CANNABIS LEGAL IN THE UK?
Medical cannabis will be available on prescription in the UK after it was approved by the Government in July 2018.
Doctors will be able to prescribe medicine derived from marijuana ‘by the autumn’, the Home Office announced.
Home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: ‘Following advice from two sets of independent advisors, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.
‘This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need.’
Mr Javid added it is ‘in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.’
This comes after he granted an exceptional licence for Alfie Dingley, six, and Billy Caldwell, 12, to use cannabis for their epilepsy.
Possession of the class B drug will still carry an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail, while dealers face 14 years in prison.
How does cannabis reduce gut inflammation?
In the study, mice were treated with a chemical that damages their gut lining, leading to inflammation.
The researchers discovered gut inflammation is regulated by two processes, the first being the body’s immune response to pathogens in the bowel.
Although this response is necessary to kill bugs, it can damage the gut’s lining.
The second process involves molecules that move across the gut, turning inflammation ‘on or off’. This mechanism requires endocannabinoids.
If endocannabinoids are not present, inflammation is out of balance, which can result in the body’s immune cells attacking the gut lining.
Cannabinoids are structurally similar to endocannabinoids and may therefore have the same effect, according to the researcers.
‘There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of marijuana’
Speaking of the findings, study author Dr Beth McCormick, from the University of Massachusetts, said: ‘There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up.
‘For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation.
‘This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients that suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well.’
Although the results, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, are positive, the researchers add further studies are required.
Professor Randy Mrsny, from the University of Bath, who was also involved in the study, added: ‘We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans.
‘We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans.’
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