EducationIs CBD a safe treatment option for gut inflammation?

Is CBD a safe treatment option for gut inflammation?

9 min read

Sam North

Is CBD a safe treatment option for gut inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to harmful stimuli like injuries and infection. It effectively quarantines the site of the injury and infection in order to attack any invading bodies or contaminants. In the modern world, however, there are more negative stimuli that can trigger inflammation than ever, from stressful living and working conditions to processed foods and airborne pollution. These can cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue.


Inflammation is the root cause of many serious and potentially life-threatening autoimmune diseases, from inflammatory bowel disease to multiple sclerosis. Gut inflammation, in particular, can lead to a number of potentially serious conditions such as IBD, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut. A growing body of medical research has identified a strong link between gut health and the overall health of the body and mind, with many high-profile scientists raising awareness of the importance of the microbiome in our overall health.

Whether you are afflicted by inflammatory conditions affecting your digestive health, or whether you want to ensure good health by looking after your gut microbiome, cannabidiol (CBD) could be beneficial in a number of ways. CBD is a naturally-occurring medical cannabis compound that is found in the stems, flowers, and leaves of cannabis and hemp plants. It has been linked to a number of positive health outcomes throughout the body.

Join us as we explore the safe and effective use of CBD to treat gut inflammation.

What causes gut inflammation?

Before we look at the role of CBD, let’s take a look at the causes of gut inflammation. As with all autoimmune conditions, medical scientists believe that there is a genetic factor at play, with some being more at risk than others. These genetic susceptibilities can be exacerbated by environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle or exposure to viruses and bacteria. The World Economic Forum has specifically identified the Western lifestyle and fast food diet as key factors in the global rise of autoimmune conditions.

While medical science has not identified any specific cause of inflammatory gut disorders, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that genetic predispositions, unhealthy diet and other lifestyle factors such as immune dysregulation caused by stress are major contributors.

Does CBD help intestinal inflammation?

While CBD supplementation is still in its relative infancy, there is some encouraging data to suggest that it can help to mitigate the effects of gut inflammation.

A 2011 US study found that CBD supplementation was effective in reducing gut inflammation of not only rodents but human intestinal biopsies from patients with ulcerative colitis. Enteric glial cells (EGC) actively mediate acute and chronic inflammation. The study demonstrated that CBD interacts with these cells in order to curb inflammation and reduce intestinal damage. The study concluded that “CBD is able to control the inflammatory scenario and the subsequent intestinal apoptosis […] CBD is therefore regarded as a promising therapeutic agent that modulates the neuro-immune axis, which can be recognised as a new target in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disorders.”

The study also notes that CBD proves effective by modulating the neuro-immune axis, the relationship between the immune and central nervous system, without the psychotropic effects of THC – the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Another smaller study, carried out by an Israeli team in 2018 found that CBD helped to reduce the symptoms of human patients with moderately severe Crohn’s disease– a condition that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

CBD reacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This is a complex system of neurotransmission that helps to regulate everything from sleep and appetite to fertility and reproductive health. While there is no evidence that CBD can conclusively cure inflammatory conditions within the gut or elsewhere, there is evidence to suggest that it can help to restore the gut’s natural pH balance, reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and help to alleviate the pain and discomfort that can come from inflammation of the intestinal tract.

Can CBD be used to prevent inflammatory gut conditions?

Even if you do not currently suffer from a condition caused by gut inflammation, CBD may still be used as a prophylactic in order to help maintain good gut health. A 2012 UK study demonstrates that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a key role in managing the body’s ‘second brain’, facilitating communication between the brain and digestive system, maintaining digestive function, and managing inflammatory response. While scientists are still not completely sure how CBD works, one leading theory is that it prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down, strengthening the communication between chemical signals and cellular receptors throughout the body.

The naturally anti-inflammatory nature of CBD may help to manage inflammatory gut conditions and prevent the intermittent bouts of bloating, pain, discomfort, and bleeding that are experienced with inflammatory gut conditions like Crohn’s disease.

The role of stress in disrupting digestive health and exacerbating inflammatory digestive conditions cannot be overlooked. There is evidence to suggest that elevated stress levels can exacerbate the symptoms of inflammatory intestinal conditions, disrupting the gut’s microbiome and triggering an inflammatory response.

By helping to curb inflammation and mediate cortisol levels, CBD administration can help to maintain digestive health and help to prevent gut inflammation and its symptoms.

Why use CBD? Is it safe?

Because it is free of psychoactive compounds and generally well tolerated by the body, CBD is widely believed to be a safe and versatile supplement. Because it can be consumed in a wide variety of ways, it is extremely easy to integrate into even the most hectic lifestyles. 

CBD can be taken orally as either a pill or an edible sweet. It can be added to teas, coffees and soft drinks. It can be applied topically and absorbed by the skin, applied in sublingual drops, or even safely inhaled as vapour.

There is a huge variety of CBD products on the market, all of which must be THC-free (less than 0.2% THC) in order to be sold legally in the UK. Most products use another oil such as an edible vegetable oil to act as a carrier in order to be introduced into the bloodstream. It is important for consumers to identify the hallmarks of a safe and high-quality CBD product to ensure its safety and efficacy. For instance:

  • Does it use full-spectrum CBD (made from the whole plant rather than CBD isolates)?
  • What is the percentage of CBD and what other ingredients does the product contain?
  • Does the manufacturer have a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) that can be viewed on their website?
  • Has the hemp been grown organically without the use of harsh chemical pesticides?
  • Is it free of harmful chemicals like butane, propane, and hexane?

Although CBD is often readily absorbed into the body, excessive consumption of CBD has been linked to a few potential side effects. The most commonly observed are:

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • vomiting and diarrhoea

CBD may also interact with the enzymes in the liver that break down many prescription and over-the-counter medications. It may compete with these enzymes for metabolism, thereby impeding the absorption of these drugs into the bloodstream. Drugs known to react negatively with CBD include:

  • blood thinners 
  • thyroid medications 
  • heart medications 
  • anti-seizure drugs

There is also one study that demonstrates an excess of CBD can actually be detrimental to maintaining the gut’s microbiome. The bioavailability of orally-ingested CBD is fairly poor, averaging a maximum of 19%. As such, some may find themselves taking excessive doses in order to ensure a potent effect, thereby increasing their risk of excessive dosage.

How to use CBD for gut inflammation

There are many different ways to take CBD. However, one of the most effective methods is to use sublingual drops (under the tongue). This area is full of capillaries, making it easier for the CBD to reach the bloodstream in this way.

It is generally accepted that the human body can safely tolerate up to 1,500 mg of CBD per day. However, recommended daily doses are often much lower than this. Those experiencing problems from gut inflammation may wish to start with a daily dose of 10 mg and increase their dosage incrementally to find their optimal personal tolerance. This is only a very loose guide, and by seeking the recommendations of a doctor that is experienced in both gut health and medicinal cannabis, you will be offered the best possible advice in terms of dosage and method of delivery.  

What else can I do to combat gut inflammation?

It’s important to remember that CBD is a supplement. Like any supplement, it is not a substitute for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can be assisted and potentially enhanced by certain lifestyle changes.

Regular exercise is known to aid digestion and increase blood flow to the muscles of the gut. Avoiding inflammatory foods like processed red meats, sugars, refined carbohydrates and trans fats like margarine can also help to avoid gut inflammation. Using orally-applied CBD along with a probiotic supplement and a diet rich in fermented foods can help to restore the gut’s microbiome, ensuring digestive health and reducing the effects of inflammation.

How do we ensure safety?

As this article has demonstrated, while CBD is generally a safe and effective way to manage symptoms of inflammatory gut conditions, CBD, and cannabis products should not be used indiscriminately. Our subscription service offers patients with gastrointestinal issues a highly personalised approach to cannabis therapy. Our expert team takes the time to get to know each person’s individual needs, assigning the correct strain and dosage, and making adjustments as they progress. This helps to ensure safety, efficacy, and value for money.

Accessing vcan be challenging due to the stigma surrounding it. However, Releaf makes it simple with our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your 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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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

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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