Can Cannabinoids Treat or Prevent Nausea?
Nausea is an uneasy and discomforting sensation in the abdomen. It is usually associated with the urge to vomit. So many factors may contribute to nausea ranging from very mild cases to severe illnesses. Research shows that cannabinoids can be an effective nausea remedy. Cannabinoids effectively treat nausea once it has developed and also help prevent anticipatory nausea.
An Overview of Nausea
Nausea, basically, is the urge to vomit. In many cases, the sensation can be debilitating and result in vomiting. Though nausea is mostly caused by stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis), there are many diverse causes of nausea, including:
- food poisoning
- morning sickness
- motion sickness
- Crohn’s disease
Both nausea and vomiting play a vital role in defense by rejecting the digestion and or ingestion of potentially poisonous substances. The sensitivity of the vomiting reflex and nausea is not high though, and it can be activated easily, resulting in additional problems and negatively impacting the patient’s quality of life. For instance, nausea and vomiting can prevent prolonged use of medications intended to treat serious conditions.
For patients with cancer, nausea can develop after radiation treatment or chemotherapy. Additionally, they can experience what is called anticipatory nausea. If a patient has fallen sick a number of times after treatment, then the sights, smells or even the sound of the treatment is enough to trigger a nauseous sensation.
Inability to control nausea can result in alterations in chemical balance in the body, changes in mental health, dehydration, loss of appetite, and malnutrition. It can also cause prolonged hospital stays, difficulty in handling daily activities, and depression.
Research: How Cannabinoids Affect Nausea
Previous studies have shown that nausea can indeed be controlled by cannabis. Most effective are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The reason is that both have a high affinity for the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Activation of this receptor suppresses the vomiting reflex. Research has shown that the efficacy of CBD in producing anti-nausea effects could also be attributed to its indirect activation of the somato-dendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptors present in the brainstem.
For patients whose nausea is caused by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, cannabis also relieves the symptom. Studies have shown that industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids reduce conditioned rejection and nausea induced by chemotherapy.
In 1985, the FDA approved nabilone and dronabinol for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). About 30 clinical trials have been carried out since then. These trials have proven that cannabinoids are more effective in the treatment of CINV compared to the conventional dopamine receptor antagonists.
Dronabinol and Nabilone work by inhibiting the interaction of dopamine and serotonin, both of which have a relationship with CINV, at receptor sites. Some of the endocannabinoid receptors in the body lie within the emetic reflex bodies, making them a promising target for the management of CINV. Emesis (nausea and vomiting) is regulated by the dorsal vagal complex in the brainstem. It coordinates communication between signals in the blood (just like it happens in chemotherapy) and the neurons that trigger emesis. The gastrointestinal tract and the dorsal vagal complex have endocannabinoid receptors, and all have shown to possess anti-emetic responses when the receptors are activated by THC.
Cannabinoids Improve Quality of Life
The results are in; cannabinoids are a safe, natural nausea remedy; but the possible treatment and preventive health benefits of cannabinoids have not even begun to be discovered or substantiated with research. Cannabis has an untapped wealth of benefits to offer humanity, one area of which is the various cannabinoids that might be able to act as viable therapeutic agents for countless diseases and disorders. Our body’s endocannabinoid system proves that we are naturally designed to receive and benefit from these naturally occurring chemicals.
The above information is just one of an innumerable amount of examples of how cannabinoids can improve the lives of patients. The 2014 Farm Bill has made it possible to safely farm, research, and market industrial hemp, from which cannabinoids are derived. It would not only be irresponsible but cruel not to further research and develop the benefits of cannabinoids on the diseases and disorders that afflict humanity. As our awareness of the benefits of cannabinoids continues to grow, we will discover and reap the full potential that cannabinoids have to offer.
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