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Can Cannabis Help With Nausea?

January 7th, 2022

The short answer to the question, "does weed or cannabis help nausea", is yes, and then some. Basically, cannabis can help to suppress nausea and sometimes even address the underlying issues that may be causing it. In addition, cannabis strains with moderate to high amounts of THC are also known to stimulate appetite, which is why some of the best edibles for nausea contain cannabis. This can be vitally important if you are undergoing chemotherapy and experiencing a condition known as CINV. CINV stands for “Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting” and is a common occurrence for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

So, how does weed or cannabis help nausea? How do edibles help with nausea? And does smoking weed help with nausea too? Here is the lowdown when it comes to cannabis, including how it lessens nausea-related symptoms.

What Causes Nausea?

Nausea is defined as an urge to vomit which can either be acute or chronic. Most people are not aware that vomiting is actually a protective mechanism built into the body. The sensation is designed to facilitate the elimination of toxins. This may include toxins from ingested foods and beverages that are poisonous in general, have gone bad, or your body is intolerant of (like dairy for those who are lactose intolerant). Many people suffer from nausea associated with chemotherapy and we will address this in the next section. Whatever the cause, most people feel relief after vomiting. This is because, through this act, toxins are being released.

Nausea, i.e. the urge to vomit, originates from an area in the brain known as the medulla oblongata. This is the same area that regulates autonomic functions such as breathing and sneezing. Nausea and vomiting can also occur when this area and other areas of the brain that play a part in controlling this reflex are inflamed due to infections or tumors. Some common causes of nausea include: 

  1. Pregnancy/morning sickness
  2. Eating contaminated food
  3. Chemotherapy
  4. Drinking excessive alcohol
  5. Anxiety
  6. Brain tumors
  7. Head injury
  8. Severe pain
  9. Heart attack
  10. Vertigo
  11. Premenstrual syndrome
  12. Hepatitis
  13. Meningitis
  14. GI infections
  15. Pancreatitis
  16. Post-surgery reactions
  17. Food intolerance

How Do THC and CBD in Cannabis Help With Nausea?

Cannabis in general can calm nausea sensations, even those which are severe. It can also help to stimulate appetite in a variety of ways, which is why the correlation between weed and nausea prevention is so strong. 

But how does marijuana help with nausea?

Receptors associated with the endocannabinoid system are found in the region of the brain that regulates the vomiting (i.e. emetic) reflexes. This includes the medulla oblongata. Bioactive molecules in cannabis (especially THC) interact directly with these receptors as antiemetics. cannabinoids interact with CB1 receptors in particular to suppress vomiting. 

While different cannabinoids and terpenes are involved in suppressing nausea through synergistic effects, the evidence suggests that THC has the most direct effect when it comes to nausea. THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system through a network of CB1 receptors in the medulla oblongata. [1] A 2011 rat and mouse-model study conducted at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that TCH as well as the fatty acid amide hydrolase, found in cannabis and a few other substances in nature, was able to suppress “conditioned gaping reactions” associated with nausea and the need to vomit. [2]

cannabis for nausea

There is a lot that we now know about how THC in particular can affect nausea and vomiting reflexes. On the other hand, other mechanisms through which cannabis suppresses nausea are under investigation. One area of intense research is CBD.

Prior research has shown that CBD can suppress pain and relieve anxiety in general. CBD can also be used to support the anti-nausea effects of THC and can help to mitigate some of the side effects of high THC use as well. As a result, using weed for nausea is an increasingly popular treatment method for people dealing with disease or illness.

Scientists are hard at work discovering how CBD can help with nausea directly too. Initial evidence actually suggests that another cannabinoid related to CBD called CBDA has strong anti-nausea effects. [3] The researchers compared CBD with CBDA and found that the latter was actually more effective than regular CBD in regards to anti-nausea effects. As CBDA shows promise as a treatment for nausea, further research is needed to elucidate its potential. 

What is CINV (Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting) and How Can Cannabis Help? 

Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is a severe reactive complex that is triggered by chemotherapy drugs. When it persists, it often leads to extreme weight loss in cancer patients. This is known as cachexia

Nausea may also occur as a result of the “nocebo effect.” Patients undergoing chemotherapy are usually anxious about the treatment and this may trigger anticipatory nausea. The smell of chemotherapy drugs and the environment (the hospital, the lab, the clinic, etc) can be triggers for nausea as well. In addition, chemotherapy drugs can sometimes damage the GI system which can also be a trigger. But does weed help nausea from chemotherapy as well?

While prescription antiemetics are sometimes prescribed by doctors to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy, research has shown that cannabis can significantly help relieve CINV as well. Indeed, anecdotal and scientific evidence supports the fact that medical marijuana can help in this regard perhaps more than any other modality. A 2001 systematic review found that THC was more effective than some traditional anti-nausea drugs in relieving chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. And when it comes to cannabidiol, nausea treatments are likely to become more prevalent over time, as CBD-based options to treat nausea become more widely available.

Best Ways to Consume Cannabis for Nausea Relief

In general, a full-spectrum cannabis dosage form can offer enhanced benefits for nausea with fewer side effects than THC-only products. In states where inhaled cannabis is legal, studies have found that this dosing method will deliver more speedy relief and can potentially prevent vomiting since the cannabinoids will hit the bloodstream minutes after you take the first puff. 

Vape cartridges are a good alternative to cannabis flower.

Ensure that you purchase them from legal cannabis dispensaries and not off the street. Also, always make sure that the brand you choose contains all-natural ingredients. In the past, there have been fatalities linked to the use of vape cartridges that were laced with vitamin E acetate, which is usually used as a diluent.  

Cannabis edibles, gummies, and capsules are easy to use, safe, and can control nausea just as good as inhaled forms. Keep in mind, however, that it usually takes about 1-2 hours before you will start to experience relief. Fortunately, this relief will last longer than inhaled forms once it sets in, usually 5-7 hours.

Methods of consumption

When discussing “does weed help nausea?” there are a few factors to consider—specifically which plant strain to use. It's important to find a strain that has significant levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids and terpenes that promote entourage benefits. That being said, the best advice when you are starting out is to begin with the smallest dose possible. This is usually 2.5 mg if you have never medicated with cannabis before (or even 1.5 mg if you think you may be extra sensitive). 

Be patient while observing the effects. Some medical cannabis dosage forms, such as edibles, take longer to “kick in” than others. If you are convinced that you need a higher dose, you can always adjust upwards accordingly until you find what works for you. While doing so, be careful and take it slow. 

It is also important that you work with a professional cannabis advisor if you are using cannabis for CINV. Our pharmacists all hold doctorates in their profession and are also trained in medical cannabis use and practices. Because of this, they are able to give you professional advice concerning drug interactions with cannabis as well as other factors, such as dosing recommendations.  Reach out to them today for a free consultation. We are usually able to get you speaking with a professional within 24 hours! 

Short Note About Dosing for Nausea

Like we stated above, the best thing to do is to speak with a professional about your dosing needs. That being said, an effective starting dose in general for most people when it comes to THC is 2.5 mg to start.

Can You Use Cannabis for Nausea in Utah?

The good news is that in Utah you can absolutely use cannabis to control chemotherapy-induced and naturally-caused nausea and vomiting. It is totally legal and many people use it for these symptoms, once you have obtained a medical cannabis card. In addition, any patient under hospice care can also use cannabis for nausea. 

The first thing you will need to do is apply for a Utah medical cannabis card that will allow you to purchase cannabis from any Utah dispensary. The second step is to speak with a medical cannabis professional, such as the certified, professional pharmacists we have on staff at WholesomeCo, a dispensary in Utah

In conclusion, there is ample evidence that shows that cannabis can help with nausea and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. For thousands of people each year, THC in cannabis suppresses the vomiting reflex, while CBD tackles the anxiety and pain that can trigger nausea and may be a viable option to steer away from other medications. 

Watch a video here about Cannabis and Naseau.

Cannabis and cancer

 

 


References
1.       Tramèr, M. R., Carroll, D., Campbell, F. A., Reynolds, D. J., Moore, R. A., & McQuay, H. J. (2001). Cannabinoids for control of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a quantitative systematic review. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 323(7303), 16–21.
2.     Parker, Linda A., Rock, Erin M., Limebeer, & Cheryl L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British Journal of Pharmacology. (Clinical research ed.), 163(7), 1411–1422.
3.      Bolognini, D., Rock, E. M., Cluny, N. L., Cascio, M. G., Limebeer, C. L., Duncan, M., Stott, C. G., Javid, F. A., Parker, L. A., & Pertwee, R. G. (2013). Cannabidiolic acid prevents vomiting in Suncus murinus and nausea-induced behavior in rats by enhancing 5-HT1A receptor activation. British journal of pharmacology, 168(6), 1456–1470.
4.      Volkow, N. D., & Weiss, S. (2020). Importance of a standard unit dose for cannabis research. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 115(7), 1219–1221. 

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