Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition and form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which sees inflammation of the colon and rectum. Patients diagnosed with colitis often endure severe abdominal pain, experience recurring diarrhoea, fatigue and loss of appetite. 

And while the number of patients looking to treat IBD (and related conditions) with medical cannabis is growing, however the number of studies into the efficacy of the area are limited.

In a study conducted this year by researchers at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Tel Aviv University, it was found that ‘short term treatment of ulcerative colitis with THC rich cannabis induced clinical remission and improved quality of life in patients with mild to moderately active forms’ of the condition. Patients in the study reported significant improvement of the bowel movements, a reduction in abdominal pain and overall improvement of their quality of life.

This study used cigarettes to deliver the cannabis to patients, with each cigarette containing 16% THC (80g), 0.5% CBG, 0.1% CBD and traces of CBC, CBDV and Δ8THC. Those in the control group were given identical looking cigarettes where the THC had been extracted.

Patients were evaluated in a number of ways, including medical interview, physical examination, blood and stool tests among a range of historic assessments including looking at family history of IBD, recent blood test results and medication history.

The study analysed the difference in the Lichtiger score, which is an index that is used for the diagnosis and follow-up of acute severe colitis. It’s designed to attribute scores to certain symptoms and their respective severity to define the condition.

The study saw an active reduction in the Lichtiger disease activity index in the patient group from 10.9 (IQR 9–14) to5 (IQR 1–7, p<0.001), and in the placebo group from 11 (IQR 9–13) to 8 (IQR 7–10, p = 0.37). (p between groups 0.006).

The number of patients who reported severity of abdominal pain of ≥ 2 decreased from 10 (59%) at baseline to 1 (6%) after 8 weeks of treatment(p = 0.006) in the cannabis group.

Although the findings indicate that the reported cannabis-induced clinical effect is not directly linked to an anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis, the results do demonstrate a ‘signal for associated reduction in mucosal inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis’.

We’ve seen the benefits of medical cannabis treatment in our own patients, here’s what one of them had to say:

“I have chronic joint pain and IBD related gastric pain and discomfort. [Medical Cannabis] helped me to begin exercising again and start physio led routines to build leg muscles back before planned surgery. I can now eat in the morning with little to no stomach pains and my appetite has come back.” – N Sykes

If you or somebody you know is looking for an alternative way to manage colitis symptoms, you can find out more about how medical cannabis can treat this through our condition page.