The marijuana plant Cannabis sativa and its derivatives,cannabinoids, have grown increasingly popular as a potential therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies have shown that modulation of the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various functions in the body and has been shown to play a key role in the pathogenesis of IBD, has a therapeutic effect in mouse colitis. Epidemiologic data and human therapy studies reveal a possible role for cannabinoids in the symptomatic treatment of IBD, although it has yet to be determined in human populations whether cannabinoids have therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects in IBD or are simply masking its many debilitating symptoms. Large, doubleblind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials using serial inflammatory markers, biopsy findings, and endoscopic disease severity to demonstrate objective improvement in IBD are necessary before cannabis can be empirically accepted and recommended as an IBD treatment option. Questions concerning its safety profile and adverse effects prompt the need for further research, particularly in regard to dosing and route of administration to maximize benefits and limit potential harms. Cannabis use should be reserved for symptomatic control in patients with severe IBD refractory to the currently available standard-of-care and complementary and alternative medicines.
Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease