Can CBD oil help with Crohn’s disease, and if so, how?

  • Crohn’s disease is a prevalent inflammation of the digestive tract that is often recognized by symptoms of abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, malnutrition, fatigue, and weight loss. It is a common type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), affecting more than 3 million Americans in 2015 (1).
  • Despite having no cure, doctors have developed therapies that may alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, allowing patients to function normally (2)
  • One particularly promising treatment is CBD (cannabidiol), a compound from the Cannabis sativa plant that supposedly has several therapeutic applications (3).
  • Several studies have shown that CBD can inhibit intestinal inflammation, provide pain relief, and improve the overall quality of life for patients with IBD (4-6).
  • As with any medication, it is in the best interest of people to consult a doctor before incorporating CBD into their regimen.

Why Some People Are Turning to CBD for Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract characterized by severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue. It is one of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects more than 3 million American adults in 2015 (7).

The disease is often associated with a decreased quality of life and frequent complications that require hospitalization and, sometimes, surgical procedures. Although Crohn’s disease has no cure, there are several therapies available that may reduce its symptoms and allow patients to function well (8).

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, may be a promising therapy for people with an IBD, such as Crohn’s disease. CBD is one of the primary compounds of the cannabis plant that, according to research, has several therapeutic applications (9).

Researchers of a study in 2011 found that CBD might inhibit inflammation in the intestine of mice with ulcerative colitis, another common IBD. They also learned that the compound reduced intestinal damage by counteracting the inflammatory environment caused by the disease (10).

Another study on rats with colitis has shown that CBD, together with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), was able to reduce inflammatory markers in the subjects (11). THC is also another chemical compound obtained from cannabis (medical marijuana). THC is often used together with CBD for medical conditions.

The study further showed that this combination of compounds lowered the occurrence of colitis symptoms. Scientists learned that CBD enhanced THC’s effects in alleviating the inflammatory bowel disease in rodents (12).     

A study in 2012 showed that applying CBD topically to mice with colitis led to significant improvement in the subjects’ health conditions (13). Meanwhile, rodents in another trial were given CBD orally to treat colitis, resulting in the reduction of injury and bowel movement commonly linked to IBD (14).

The studies mentioned were performed on animals. Further research would be necessary to see if the same outcomes can be obtained from studies conducted in human subjects.

Additionally, CBD is reported to engage with a receptor known as GPR55, which plays a vital role in intestinal inflammation (15).

Scientists believe that the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is in charge of numerous body functions, is a potential therapeutic target for treating IBD. They also think that its compatibility with cannabinoids, like CBD, is how these compounds bring about their therapeutic effects.

How CBD Oil Works to Help with Crohn’s Disease

The ECS assumes a crucial role in controlling many fundamental functions of the body. It also affects the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) by managing gut homeostasis and movement (16).

In people with Crohn’s disease, the ailment interrupts the ECS receptors designed to ensure efficient gastrointestinal operations. These chemical structures are expected to protect the gut by preventing the formation of inflammation and reducing intestinal motility.

One of the main goals of the ECS is to promote balance in the body, primarily through its CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD, being a cannabinoid that is compatible with these structures, may help in accomplishing this objective.

Scientists believe that dosing with CBD can stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in charge of anti-inflammatory effects (17). By activating these chemicals, cannabis products, like CBD oil, may inhibit inflammation and provide pain symptom relief.

This reduction in inflammation should contribute to regulating gut pain and irritation while normalizing bowel movement – all of which are clinical signs associated with Crohn’s disease.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

The Pros

  • Cannabinoids, like CBD, interact with the ECS to bring about their purported therapeutic benefits, one of which is providing balance in the digestive tract.
  • CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, which scientists believe can reduce the common symptoms of IBD.
  • According to a study, cannabinoids, such as CBD, may alleviate abdominal pain and diarrhea, two common symptoms of Crohn’s disease(18).
  • CBD is a natural compound acquired from the cannabis plant. It does not have mind-altering effects, unlike THC.
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration encourages and supports scientifically-based research on CBD(19).

The Cons

  • There is a distinct lack of human clinical trials on CBD for Crohn’s disease, as most of the studies were conducted on rodents.
  • Some of the animal studies show inconclusive results on CBD’s efficacy for IBD.
  • The FDA does not approve a marketing application on cannabis products for treating any disease or health condition (20).
  • Epidiolex is the only CBD product that the FDA allows. It is a prescribed drug for treating two rare forms of epilepsy (21).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Crohn’s Disease

Herbal treatments, like aloe vera juice, chamomile, and peppermint, are said to ease the symptoms associated with IBD. Meanwhile, probiotics may help in increasing the naturally good bacteria in the gut and restore balance(22).

Naturopathic therapies involving dietary changes are also said to successfully manage IBD, including Crohn’s symptoms (23).

Meanwhile, studies on CBD have shown that the compound contains properties that might help in alleviating chronic pain and fighting inflammation.

Today, CBD products are mixed with aloe vera, chamomile, peppermint, and other herbs to bring about the maximum effect in counteracting the symptoms of Crohn’s disease activity. CBD infused with probiotics are also popular in helping maintain a healthy intestinal tract.

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

There are three main types of CBD products that people can consider in easing IBD and Crohn’s disease symptoms.

Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the chemicals present in cannabis, including varying amounts of THC. These usually are sold as CBD tinctures, vaping oils, creams, and edibles.

According to federal law, this type of CBD is only allowed to have a maximum of 0.3% THC content.

Meanwhile, broad-spectrum CBD also has the compounds of cannabis except for THC. The psychoactive compound is removed to cater to individuals who do not wish to consume it together with their CBD.

Finally, there are CBD isolates that are made of pure cannabidiol. These are often obtained from hemp plants and do not contain the other compounds of medical cannabis.

Users should seek medical advice from a doctor before deciding to use CBD for Crohn’s disease.

Here are several tips to help choose the safest and most reliable form of CBD today:

  1. Buy high-quality CBD products only and find legitimate brands that sell them. Most reputable companies grow their hemp or purchase them from reliable producers.
  2. Read up on product reviews before buying from an online shop. If they are a physical store or dispensary, check whether the store is allowed by the government to sell. 
  3. Compare company claims with third-party lab reports by obtaining a certificate of analysis (COA) for each CBD product purchased.
  4. Be aware of the precise legal stipulations associated with CBD use in the area where one is going to buy and consume the extract.
  5. Look for certification codes for CBD products. There are certification authorities that approve only certain CBD goods after they have undergone thorough screening tests.

CBD Dosage for Crohn’s Disease

Since CBD is a relatively new medical treatment of Crohn’s disease, healthcare providers are still figuring out the right dosage that is both effective and safe for users. It may be helpful to look at the dosage used in past clinical trials to get the proper amount.

One small study concerning CBD for treating ulcerative colitis had its participants take 50 mg of CBD oil twice each day, increasing the dose to as much as 250 mg. Researchers found that users that took CBD had significant clinical remission and improved quality of life (24).

Additionally, the study revealed that the participants did not experience severe side effects after ten weeks of treatment with cannabis use.

Meanwhile, other health experts recommend a starting dose of 40 mg and gradually increase the amount from there.

Like with any medication, the best advice would be to start at the lowest effective dose and gradually increase this as needed. Keep in mind that lower doses often have lower side effects compared to higher ones with increased risk.

How to Take CBD Oil for Crohn’s Disease

CBD products are available in various delivery formats. The following are the forms of CBD that can potentially relieve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease:

  • CBD capsules and pills – Studies done on using CBD capsules for IBD have shown improved quality of life in the human subjects consuming the product daily.
  • CBD edibles – These CBD products may be found as gummies or chocolates. They are ideal for users that have trouble swallowing capsules.
  • CBD oils and tinctures – These are often applied under the tongue and are known to take effect immediately.

Conclusion

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that is known to affect more than 3 million Americans. This health condition is often linked to a poor quality of life for its patients and regular complications that lead to hospitalization and surgery.

The symptoms that are associated with the disease include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, malnutrition, weight loss, and fatigue.

Although there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, there are several forms of therapy that could help reduce symptoms and allow IBD patients to function normally. CBD is one promising complementary therapy that, according to research, may alleviate the pain and gut inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease.

However, most of the studies that were made for the disease were carried out on animals. No direct evidence exists that proves CBD is an effective treatment for IBD and Crohn’s disease.

Interested users should seek advice from a medical professional before deciding to incorporate CBD into their diet.


  1. Dahlhamer JM, Zammitti EP, Ward BW, Wheaton AG, Croft JB. Prevalence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Among Adults Aged ≥18 Years — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1166–1169. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6542a3external icon.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Crohn’s Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353304.
  3. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009
  4. De Filippis D, Esposito G, Cirillo C, et al. Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28159. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028159
  5. Jamontt JM, Molleman A, Pertwee RG, Parsons ME. The effects of Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol alone and in combination on damage, inflammation and in vitro motility disturbances in rat colitis. Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(3):712-723. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00791.x
  6. Kafil TS, Nguyen TM, MacDonald JK, Chande N. Cannabis for the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD012954. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012954.pub2
  7. Dahlhamer JM. et al. op. cit.
  8. Mayo Clinic. op. cit.
  9. Crippa JA. et al. op. cit.
  10. De Filippis D. et al. op. cit.
  11. Jamontt JM. et al. op. cit.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Schicho R, Storr M. Topical and systemic cannabidiol improves trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid colitis in mice. Pharmacology. 2012;89(3-4):149-155. doi:10.1159/000336871
  14. Pagano E, Capasso R, Piscitelli F, et al. An Orally Active Cannabis Extract with High Content in Cannabidiol attenuates Chemically-induced Intestinal Inflammation and Hypermotility in the Mouse. Front Pharmacol. 2016;7:341. Published 2016 Oct 4. doi:10.3389/fphar.2016.00341
  15. Stančić A, Jandl K, Hasenöhrl C, et al. The GPR55 antagonist CID16020046 protects against intestinal inflammation. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2015;27(10):1432-1445. doi:10.1111/nmo.12639
  16. Alhouayek M, Muccioli GG. The endocannabinoid system in inflammatory bowel diseases: from pathophysiology to therapeutic opportunity. Trends Mol Med. 2012;18(10):615-625. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2012.07.009
  17. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333-1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
  18. Hasenoehrl C, Storr M, Schicho R. Cannabinoids for treating inflammatory bowel diseases: where are we and where do we go?. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;11(4):329-337. doi:10.1080/17474124.2017.1292851.
  19. US Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
  20. US Food and Drug Administration (2020, January 1). FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-cannabis-research-and-drug-approval-process.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Currò D, Ianiro G, Pecere S, Bibbò S, Cammarota G. Probiotics, fibre and herbal medicinal products for functional and inflammatory bowel disorders. Br J Pharmacol. 2017;174(11):1426-1449. doi:10.1111/bph.13632
  23. Naturopathic Doctor News & Review. Crohn’s Disease: Successful Treatment Using a Dietary Intervention. Retrieved from: https://ndnr.com/gastrointestinal/crohns-disease-successful-treatment-using-a-dietary-intervention/.
  24. Kafil TS. et al. op. cit.
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