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Crohn’s Disease and CBD Oil: Current Research and Benefits

For an estimated 780,000 people in the U.S., Crohn’s disease is a daily reality, impacting sufferers’ ability to live a comfortable, pain-free life. Already proven to be a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, could cannabidiol (CBD) oil help calm the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

CBD oil is currently being used to help a number of conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to anxiety and Alzheimer's. While current research is limited, CBD oil is fast becoming a popular research topic for its ability to promote health through homeostasis.

The most common medical treatments for Crohn’s disease are not always 100% effective, leaving people looking for answers elsewhere. This is where CBD oil comes in.

CBD oil may be able to provide a range of benefits to Crohn’s patients. If you’re dealing with this disease and are curious if CBD could help, here’s everything you need to know.

Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling in the digestive tract and gastrointestinal tract. It can be uncomfortable and painful, causing sufferers to experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, fevers, and loss of appetite. The causes of this chronic disease aren’t definitively known, making treating it an especially difficult endeavor. However, because Crohn’s is inflammation-based, CBD oil may offer benefits without the side effects of traditional medications currently used to treat it.

CBD oil’s well-known anti-inflammatory properties present potential for its use to help manage and treat Crohn’s disease.

At the moment, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease and any medical intervention is aimed at reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, or surgically removing damaged tissue. CBD oil may offer some of the same benefits of pharmaceutical treatments without any of the side effects.

Because Crohn’s can present differently between individuals, treatments are often a matter of trial and error. And traditional medications, while being effective, may come with a range of side effects.

Below is a table outlining the most popular medications for Crohn’s disease and their uses, side effects, and potential interaction when taken with CBD oil.

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Crohn’s Disease Medication What It Is Used For Possible Side Effects Side Effects of Using Medication with CBD Oil
Azathioprine Immune system suppressant Nausea; vomiting; temporary hair loss; increased risk of cancer There are no known interactions between azathioprine and CBD oil
Mercaptopurine Immune system modulator Nausea; vomiting; poor appetite; diarrhea Using CBD oil and mercaptopurine together may increase the risk of liver damage. Consult your doctor first.
Infliximab Immune system suppressant Headaches; stomach ache; nausea Using CBD oil and infliximab together may increase the risk of liver damage. Consult your doctor first.
Corticosteroids like prednisone and budesonide Immune system suppressant May cause confusion; restlessness; excitement There are no known interactions between CBD oil and corticosteroids.

Interestingly, CBD oil has been shown to inhibit the immune responses that cause the inflammation associated with Crohn’s without yielding side effects like those that can accompany the medications in the table above. For this reason, CBD oil may be a gentler treatment option to replace—or combine with—your current treatment plan.

The Effectiveness of CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

Thanks to the recent legislative changes included in the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD oil is now legal at the federal level, making it easier to pursue medical research into its benefits.

Unfortunately, because Crohn’s is a varied and poorly understood condition, there is minimal direct evidence as to how CBD oil can help treat it. Therefore, most of its potential benefits must be gleaned from research into other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

One of the few studies specific to Crohn’s disease was conducted using cannabis and not specifically CBD oil, though the results were still promising. Of the 21 patients in the study, half were randomly assigned to a placebo group, and the other half to a test group. All patients had Crohn’s that didn’t respond to steroids or immunomodulators.

After eight weeks, three of the 11 patients who’d received cannabis were no longer dependent on steroids, and five test subjects even reported complete remission. Improved symptoms were reported in 10 of the 11 patients who’d used cannabis, and all experienced improved appetite and sleep with no significant side effects.

A further study on patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) analyzed the role of cannabis on quality of life, disease activity, and weight gain. Again, this study used whole plant cannabis, as opposed to CBD alone. There were 13 patients involved in the trial who completed disease activity indexes and quality of life questionnaires, and had their body weight recorded both pre- and post-testing.

After three months, patients gained an average of 4.3 kg, showing that cannabis improved the gastrointestinal system’s function with respect to absorbing nutrients. Patients also responded better on quality of life questionnaires in areas including social functioning, ability to work, pain, and depression.

How to Use CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

Drops, tinctures, edibles, and gummies are all common options for using CBD oil for Crohn’s disease.

Edibles, gummies, and capsules are some of the most popular ways to take CBD oil. They provide a consistent dose and offer an administration route that is familiar to most people. These items are best used as part of a long-term treatment plan. They typically provide 4 to 6 hours of symptom relief, but because they have to pass through the digestive system before being absorbed into the bloodstream, they can be slow to show their effects.

CBD oil tinctures or drops can be a convenient and discreet way to take your CBD oil. Tinctures and drops can be worked into a daily supplement routine or used to address the sudden onset of symptoms. With tinctures and drops, the CBD bypasses the digestive system and is absorbed through the skin under the tongue. They can go to work in about 30 minutes and last for several hours. Taking CBD oil in this format also enables simple dosage adjustments. Because the CBD oil is administered through a dropper, the dose can be controlled right down to the drop.

The fastest acting and one of the most popular ways to take CBD oil is through inhalants. Using a CBD vape oil or CBD flower can provide some of the best relief for sudden pain, cramping, and inflammation. In this instance, the CBD is absorbed directly through the lungs, going to work almost instantly. The effects do not last as long as with the other delivery formats, but it is fairly easy to take more if needed.

Regardless of the delivery method you’re considering, always talk to a doctor before using CBD oil. Not only can CBD oil interact with some common medications for Crohn’s disease, but it can also interact with things like antidepressants and antibiotics. Even if you think you are in the clear, it is always best to ask first.

It is likely that in the not too distant future, we will have a better understanding of CBD oil and all of the ways it can help manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Until then, keep an open mind, educate yourself, and talk to your physician. CBD oil could be the solution you’ve been seeking all along.

+ 3 sources


  1. 2018 Farm Bill - U.S. Department of Agriculture https://www.farmers.gov/working-with-us/farm-bill
  2. Timna Naftali et al. (2013) Cannabis induces a clinical response in patients with Crohn's disease: a prospective placebo-controlled study - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23648372/
  3. Adi Lahat et al. (2011) Impact of cannabis treatment on the quality of life, weight and clinical disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease patients: a pilot prospective study - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22095142/

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