EducationA detailed guide to CBD for IBS

A detailed guide to CBD for IBS

8 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

A detailed guide to CBD for IBS

There are over three million people in the UK estimated to be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and its variety of symptoms. More and more treatments for the currently incurable condition are being sought, with one of the increasingly popular treatments being cannabidiol (CBD).


While the area of research is still in its infancys, recent studies into the effects of CBD on IBS show that the purported anti-inflammatory properties of CBD have the potential to improve the quality of life for some of those suffering with gastroenterological conditions such as IBS. With Guts UK reporting that approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK suffer from IBS – which works out at around 3.2 million people – there is clearly a need for complimentary therapeutic options to help boost the quality of life for millions.

Here, we will discuss how CBD may be able to help some people suffering from IBS and present some of the research supporting its usefulness in treating IBS symptoms. We will also explain how to administer CBD to treat IBS, as well as highlight some of the other natural remedies that help relieve IBS symptoms.

How can CBD help with IBS?

We will discuss the scientific research supporting the application of CBD to reduce IBS symptoms in more detail in the next section, but first we will provide a quick overview of the effects of CBD on the digestive system, inflammation, and its potential to alleviate IBS symptoms.

CBD’s effects on the digestive system

A growing body of evidence stretching back several years strongly suggests that the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system can be beneficial for discomfort and pain in the gut and digestive system.

CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation

In a 2021 study on the effects of cannabinoids on inflammation conducted by members of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology at King's College London, the authors confirm that they discovered that properly formulated CBD does indeed exhibit potential ‘anti-inflammatory activity’. 

CBD’s potential to alleviate IBS symptoms

The documented anti-inflammatory properties of CBD certainly suggest that they can help reduce the impact of IBS symptoms, although it should be noted that there is no guarantee that it will work for every individual. It is also posited by multiple researchers that CBD may help decrease gut motility, which is the movement of food, liquids, and waste through the digestive system. CBD may therefore also benefit those suffering severe diarrhoea and bowel cramps as a symptom of IBS.

Now let’s look closer at some of the scientific research supporting CBD as a treatment for IBS.

Research studies on CBD and IBS

Studies into the effects of CBD on various aspects of physical and mental health have been on going for almost two decades, with many of them focused on the effects of CBD on conditions like IBS and IBD. While more research is needed for a more detailed understanding, the research so far seems to be in agreement that CBD may have a positive impact on certain IBS symptoms with very few negative side effects.

Results of research studies

While also noting that an IBS-diet and stress-relief practice were required to boost the beneficial effects of any treatment, a 2020 study into IBS treatments conducted by researchers from the Universities of Padua and Naples in Italy discovered that manipulating the endocannabinoid system (ECS) had multiple benefits in treating IBS. The authors concluded “Although the pathophysiology of IBS remains unclear, targeting the ECS may represent a promising strategy to modulate gut motility, visceral hyperalgesia, low-grade intestinal inflammation, and gut-brain axis alteration, all features that may improve IBS symptoms onset.”

An earlier study, from 2018, looked even closer at the relationship between cannabinoids and gastrointestinal motility, ultimately concluding that “cannabinoid mechanisms are involved in control of gastrointestinal and colonic motility”. 

There is even cannabinoid research from as far back as 2009 which contains a statement in the executive summary confirming that the research discovered cannabinoids potentially suppressed inflammatory response and subsequently could ‘attenuate disease symptoms’.

More recently, research into the effects of cannabis oil on serious irritable bowel conditions discovered that participants reported a higher quality of life when taking CBD oil, compared to participants on placebos.

Limitations of research studies

Despite the amount of research already conducted, it’s important to remember that some of these studies are quite limited in scope with relatively small sample sizes. We also need more of them to build a more detailed picture of the benefits of CBD for treating IBS. 

It should also be noted that various diet and lifestyle changes remain the most common professional medical advice for treating IBS symptoms.

How to administer CBD for IBS

CBD can be administered in a variety of ways. Vaping is quickly becoming the most popular medicinal application thanks to the rapid onset of effects it offers, but eating various edible products containing CBD may be more effective in the reduction of IBS related symptoms. It can also be taken in the form of an oil or tincture, which is dropped or sprayed under the tongue for maximum effect.

Oils and tinctures are one of the fastest-acting methods for taking CBD, though not as fast as vaping. If you prefer taking CBD via an edible, then be aware that the effects can take a couple of hours to fully kick in, so be careful not to take another dose until after this timeframe. The effects of edibles will last longer than other administration methods, which another point to be cognisant of.

CBD dosage and precautions

If CBD therapy interests you, the first thing we recommend is to find a doctor that is not only registered to prescribe medical cannabis, but one that is experienced in doing so. While there is a massive range of over the counter CBD options available, only an experienced doctor will be able to provide you with specific and correct dosage recommendations. They will also provide medicinal cannabis products that have been subject to a much higher level of regulatory scrutiny than over the counter options.

With CBD, there can be some non-serious side effects to be aware of before administration. Such side effects include:

  • Light-headedness 
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness

CBD also has the potential to negatively interact with certain pharmaceuticals, so be sure to discuss any current medications you are taking with your prescribing doctor.

CBD products for IBS

  • Full-spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, as well as the largest trace amounts of THC in CBD products.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains most of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, but should have the majority of the trace amounts of THC removed.
  • CBD isolate should have all THC trace amounts removed as well as the other chemical components, leaving a 99% pure CBD product.

Which option is best for IBS sufferers?

This is a discussion that should be had with a doctor, but recent research is pointing to either full or broad spectrum options being the most effective. This is due to the"entourage effect”, which describes how cannabinoids work more efficiently when used in conjunction with the entire plant chemical makeup than when administered in an isolate form.  

Other natural remedies for IBS

Probiotics are beneficial to IBS sufferers as they can slow down the movement inside the colon, which in turn reduces the amount of bowel excavations required per day.  Probiotics are also thought to improve stool consistency.

Patients with IBS are often advised by physicians to increase their intake of dietary fibre, as it can help regulate stool consistency and even reduce abdominal pain.

Peppermint oil is an antispasmodic which relaxes the bowel wall to relieve stomach cramps and bloating in people suffering with IBS. It can also help reduce excessive flatulence.


A growing amount of scientific research certainly supports the idea that CBD can help with IBS, though it is also true that even more studies are needed to learn even more about the positive effects of CBD on IBS.

If you are interested in learning more about medical cannabis and all of its potential applications, head over to our educational portable. We have articles covering everything there is to know, or alternatively, reach out at anytime. Our dedicated, in house team of health care professionals is ready and waiting to answer your questions. In other words, We are here to help. 

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

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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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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