Using CBD for Ulcerative Colitis

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Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that affects the large intestine (colon), causing inflammation and small sores (or ulcers). UC symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, bloody stool, and the need to pass stool frequently.

There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, so treatment prioritizes symptom relief and reducing flare-ups. Many people with ulcerative colitis turn to alternative treatments, such as cannabidiol (CBD), to take control of the disease and improve their quality of life.

Read on to learn more about how CBD may be a useful supplemental therapy in the management of UC symptoms.

CBD Oil

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Inflammation, CBD, and Ulcerative Colitis

Cannabis plants contain chemicals called cannabinoids, which are compounds unique to the plant. The two primary cannabinoids are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has psychoactive effects that make a person feel “high”
  • Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects but can provide a number of therapeutic benefits

Both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. The ECS is a complex biological system that regulates cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system functions. 

CBD binds to and activates receptors in the brain that create a therapeutic effect in the body, helping users find relief from painful symptoms without feeling impaired.

CBD has many therapeutic properties and is a known anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD may be a potential therapeutic treatment for ulcerative colitis.

CBD for Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

CBD has been explored in several studies as a potential treatment for ulcerative colitis. Research shows that CBD may potentially help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal system caused by inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis.

One study found that participants with UC who took 50 milligrams (mg) of CBD oil twice a day, increasing to 250 mg per dose if needed and tolerated, experienced significant improvements in their quality of life. However, more research and follow-up studies are needed.

Another study analyzed the efficacy of CBD use in adults with ulcerative colitis. The study concluded that CBD extracts may help alleviate symptoms of IBD and UC.

Although more research is needed, current study results show promise that CBD may be beneficial for treating symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Though CBD is generally well tolerated, you may experience some side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Changes in mood (e.g., irritability)
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth

CBD and Your Liver

CBD is metabolized by the liver, and large doses may lead to liver toxicity. Talk with your healthcare provider before using CBD. If you are on any prescription medications, they may recommend regularly monitoring your liver through bloodwork to ensure CBD is safe for you.

How to Use CBD for Ulcerative Colitis

While CBD won’t cure ulcerative colitis, it may help make your symptoms more manageable and help reduce flares.

There are many different forms of CBD, and you may need to try different delivery methods before finding the one that is right for you.

CBD is available in: 

  • Edibles (e.g., gummies, CBD-infused beverages)
  • Plants (to be inhaled/smoked)
  • Capsules and pills
  • Tinctures and oils
  • Topicals (e.g., lotions, creams)

To date, CBD has only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy. As a result, there is no standard recommended dosage of CBD for treating ulcerative colitis.

Shopping for CBD

When shopping for CBD, you will notice different types available. These include: 

  • Full-spectrum CBD: Contains all the natural components found in the cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD products contain trace amounts of THC. These compounds work in synergy in the body to obtain the desired therapeutic effects. 
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: Similar to full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD contains compounds in the cannabis plant, but with all traces of THC removed, so you will not experience any mind-altering effects.
  • CBD isolates: All other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are removed to create a 99% pure CBD product.

For the best results, look for broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD products. These may combine the effects of multiple cannabis compounds that work together in synergy, creating an “entourage effect” to offer the most health benefits.

Dosage

Because CBD is still a relatively new therapeutic option for managing different health conditions, including inflammatory bowel diseases, there is currently no recommended standard dosage. 

In one study, patients with ulcerative colitis were given 50 mg of CBD oil twice a day. Some participants were able to increase to as much as 250 mg twice a day for a period of 10 weeks.

Another study also recorded dose ranges of 50 mg to 250 mg CBD capsules twice daily. Many participants were able to tolerate the higher dosage and saw improvements, though the study authors suggested that more research is needed.

As with many medications, it’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase the amount of CBD to determine the appropriate dosage.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before adding any supplemental therapy, such as CBD, to your ulcerative colitis treatment. They will be able to determine if CBD will be beneficial for your individual case and can recommend the right dosage.

How to Buy CBD

With so many different options available, it can be daunting to shop for CBD. CBD is generally safe and well tolerated, but the industry is poorly regulated, and consumers should be aware of what to look for before purchasing CBD.

You’ll want to carefully read the label of any products you are considering and look for: 

  • Amount of CBD per serving
  • Suggested use/dosage
  • Type (full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate) 
  • List of ingredients 
  • Manufacturer and distributor name 

You’ll also want to consider: 

  • Cannabis source: Ensure the product you are purchasing is sourced from a company that ensures the quality and safe cultivation of their plants. Look for products that come from organic cannabis/hemp plants when possible. 
  • Certificate of Analysis (CoA): CoAs are conducted by independent, accredited labels that verify third-party testing of the products. 
  • Customer reviews: Testimonials from other users can tell you a lot about a product’s efficacy. 

Avoid products and vendors that make broad, definitive statements or promises of a “cure” for something. If you are currently taking any other medications or supplements for your UC, speak with your healthcare provider before using CBD, as it may interact with other medications you are taking.

A Word From Verywell

People with ulcerative colitis may want to consider alternative treatments such as CBD to help manage their symptoms. It’s important to remember that while CBD may help improve your symptoms, it will not treat or cure the condition.

CBD is best used as a supplemental therapy alongside conventional treatments recommended by your healthcare provider, as well as dietary modifications. As with any supplement or medication, talk with your healthcare provider before trying CBD.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of CBD for gastrointestinal diseases?

    Cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties that may make them helpful in managing symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis. Research suggests CBD is a promising therapeutic for inflammatory bowel diseases, helping reduce mucosal lesions, ulceration, and inflammation associated with IBD. CBD may also help manage gastrointestinal pain, as well as secondary symptoms that come with IBD, such as anxiety, nausea, and sleep disturbances.

  • Which CBD strains help with inflammation?

    The cannabis plant (to be smoked/vaped) comes in different strains, with varying CBD and THC levels. CBD-dominant cannabis strains may provide the best relief for inflammation. These strains tend to be high in the terpene called myrcene, which helps reduce inflammation.

  • How do you use CBD for ulcerative colitis?

    There are many delivery methods for CBD, including edibles (e.g., gummies), flowers, oils, tinctures, topicals, and suppositories. Finding the right one for you may require a little trial and error. The best method for you depends on personal preference and how quickly you may need relief. For example, you may get relief from painful symptoms sooner by vaping oil vs. consuming an edible. Start off with smaller doses and gradually increase the amount you use until you find the amount that offers you relief from your symptoms. Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin use.

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13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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