All you need to know about CBD oil for ulcerative colitis

All you need to know about CBD oil for ulcerative colitis


With 5 years of cannabis journalism behind her after graduating from De Montfort University and writing for cannabis publications such as The Cannavist, Lucy is a dedicated journalist passionate about cannabis education and culture.

As more research is conducted into the potential therapeutic effects of medical cannabis and CBD oil, more possible benefits are discovered. One such discovery is the potential for CBD oil to help alleviate certain symptoms in people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

Some older research documented in the U.S. National Library of Medicine had already shown that CBD oil may help reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent. Today, more recent research supports this idea, with a 2018 study by the Journal of Clinical Investigation demonstrating that cannabinoid-activated endocannabinoids in the gut can prevent inflammation while maintaining homeostasis.

Essentially, CBD oil may help our guts ‘turn off’ inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis. To begin understanding how this works, we must examine how CBD oil interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

How CBD oil interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system

Endocannabinoids are compounds that our bodies naturally produce, with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) being a complex regulatory system of cannabinoid receptors, chemical signals (endocannabinoids), and metabolic enzymes found within our bodies.

The system of endocannabinoids helps our bodies to regulate our mood and emotions, as well as our memory, appetite, and pain. It also helps to modulate gastrointestinal motility, stress responses and our immune functions. This happens via the endogenous cannabinoids binding with the cannabinoid receptors through chemical signals to activate them.

The full spectrum of interactions between cannabinoids and the body’s endocannabinoid system is broad, with their widespread distribution throughout the body allowing them to influence a variety of bodily functions. According to a growing body of research – some linked above and below in this article – some of the most beneficial effects of the endocannabinoid system interacting with the cannabinoids in CBD oil occur in the gut and digestive tract.

Research supporting the use of CBD oil for treating ulcerative colitis

Our bodies produce endocannabinoids that interact with the ECS, but certain plants also produce cannabinoids. While they are not exactly the same as our endogenous cannabinoids, they are close enough in structure for the ECS to recognise and interact with them.

For this reason, supplementing our bodies with cannabinoids from plants such as medicinal cannabis and hemp has been found to influence bodily functions in positive ways.

These molecules are used by the brain cells to communicate with neurotransmitters which regulate the chemical signalling activity across multiple cognitive, emotive, and sensory functions. This is especially interesting when it comes to the gut, as more and more medicinal cannabis research is discovering a link between the functionality of the endocannabinoid system and the pathology of IBD conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Another study on cannabis oil treatments for ulcerative colitis had mixed results in terms of symptom remission, but did confirm that those taking CBD oil reported significant improvements in their quality of life compared with participants who took a placebo.

Benefits of using CBD oil for ulcerative colitis compared to traditional treatments

Traditional treatments for ulcerative colitis include anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, and immune system suppression medications. The conventional method for these treatments is rectal application via suppositories or enemas.

The benefits of CBD oil as a complement to such traditional methods clearly involve negating the need for rectal application, although by no means should conventional medical treatments be abandoned without official medical advice regardless of how effective CBD oil treatments are.

The application of CBD oil is very simple, with most practitioners recommending placing it under your tongue via a dropper or spray for a minute, as this will help the CBD reach the bloodstream quicker. This works as that area of the mouth is rich in capillaries..

Determining the Correct Dosage of CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis

There are several factors to consider when determining the correct dosage of CBD oil for ulcerative colitis. As it is still a relatively new option for treating ulcerative colitis, there is no standardised dosage.

Your correct dosage must be determined by first taking a low dose and working up to the most effective dosage level. As with all medicinal cannabis treatment options, for the best chance at symptom suppression, it is always recommended that you seek the advice of a doctor experienced in prescribing medicinal cannabis before making any changes to your current treatment plan. 

Recommended starting doses for CBD oil

As is recommended for most medications, it is better to start with a low dose and only increase it if the dose is not effective. You then simply increase the dose in small increments until it does become effective. While a doctor will be able to best guide you on dosage, a good starting point is around 10 mg.

Tips for Taking CBD Oil for Ulcerative Colitis

If you want to try treating ulcerative colitis with CBD oil, then it is important to know a little about the different types of CBD oil that are available. These are:

  • Full-spectrum CBD
  • Broad-spectrum CBD
  • CBD isolates

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the natural components found in the original cannabis or hemp plant. These include terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids, as well as all the cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD oil may also contain trace amounts of THC, but here in the UK, that level must be less than 0.2% THC.

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum, as it contains the majority of the compounds in the cannabis plant. Where it differs is that all traces of THC have been removed.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolates have had all undesired cannabinoids removed, along with terpenes and flavonoids. A CBD isolate should be between 97% – 99% pure CBD product.

So, which option is best?

Again, only a doctor that has experience providing medical cannabis treatment options can properly advise you on this. However, many people find that full-spectrum CBD is the most effective as it contains all the natural components found in the original cannabis or hemp plant and therefore provides a more complete range of benefits. 

Best practices for taking CBD oil for ulcerative colitis

With studies establishing a clear link between cannabinoids and their potential to help relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, it is important to understand the best practices for using CBD oil. You should know the right type of CBD for your condition, as well as the correct starting dosage and incremental increases.

Potential side effects of CBD oil and how to mitigate them

CBD oil is generally well tolerated, but some people may experience side effects, especially at very high doses. Potential side effects include:

  • Mood changes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhoea

Side effects can be mitigated by lowering the dose of CBD oil.

How to monitor the effectiveness of CBD oil for treating ulcerative colitis

As the research so far indicates that CBD oil has a noticeably positive effect on the quality of life of people suffering from ulcerative colitis, this is where you should focus your monitoring. Try rating your discomfort and pain on a scale of 1-5 over the course of at least a week prior to beginning CBD oil treatment, and then continue to rate once the CBD oil treatment starts. 


With research on IBS from last year discovering that 1 in 123 people in the UK is living with an IBD such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, it is important that we educate ourselves on all the possible treatments. While more studies are needed, recent research has shown that CBD oil has real potential to help reduce symptoms in some people suffering from ulcerative colitis.

If you would like to find out more about medicinal cannabis and how it may be able to make a true difference in the severity of your symptoms, we are here to help.

Releaf understands that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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