Cannabis has been known to be a natural nausea remedy for a long time now. However, cannabis contains the cannabinoid THC which is responsible for producing the “high” associated with this plant. While there is good research showing that THC is effective in relieving nausea and vomiting, some people prefer to avoid THC if another cannabinoid like CBD can provide nausea relief without the potential psychoactive effects. One of the benefits of CBD is that it does not cause the psychoactive effects that THC does.
However, the use of CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is not as well supported or documented as THC in research studies for nausea. Most of the information suggesting that CBD is effective in helping relieve nausea are based on preclinical studies using rats and shrews and anecdotal reports from people who have used CBD for nausea with good success. In studies that have evaluated the effectiveness of CBD on nausea, patients were given a combination of CBD and THC.
What Is Nausea?
Nausea is the feeling of an uneasy stomach accompanied by a feeling that one may vomit. Vomiting may or may not occur after one feels nauseated. Nausea and vomiting are both controlled by areas of the brain that control other involuntary functions in the body.
There are many causes of nausea and symptoms are often difficult for people to describe. Although it’s not painful, nausea may include feelings of discomfort in the back of the throat, chest, and/or upper part of the abdomen.
What Are Causes of Nausea?
The causes of nausea vary greatly but some of the most common causes include:
- Food poisoning
- Migraine headaches
- Motion sickness
- Some medications (including many chemotherapy drugs)
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Bowel obstruction
Can CBD Reduce These Symptoms?
Most research on CBD & nausea has been done with rats and shrews. A research study in 2011 discovered that CBD was effective in reducing nausea and vomiting “within a limited dose range” in these animal subjects.
One small study of 16 chemotherapy patients found that an oral spray combining CBD and THC along with standard antiemetic (anti-vomiting) therapy was more effective in reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) as compared to treatment with antiemetic therapy alone.
A reputable review of the effect of cannabinoids on nausea and vomiting in early 2014 stated “There are no reports of any specific evaluation of CBD alone to reduce nausea and vomiting in human chemotherapy patients.” Nevertheless, anecdotal reports from people who have used CBD oil for nausea have indicated it can provide relief.
How Does CBD Work For Patients With Nausea?
Surprisingly, not a lot of research has been done on CBD & nausea despite the promising research showing its effect in preventing nausea and vomiting in rats and shrews. Because of this, not a lot is known yet about how CBD works in the body to relieve nausea. In addition, researchers have not come to an agreement on exactly what cell receptors CBD works on that would help explain its effect on relieving nausea.
CBD works on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the brain which is “complex cell-signaling system” that researchers discovered in the early 1990s while doing THC research. The ECS exists and functions even in people who have not used cannabinoids before.
CBD is thought to work on two different types of receptors in the body: CB1and CB2 receptors, although researchers and medical experts do not fully agree on this. CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain and body with a higher concentration found on neurons and neuron support cells of the brain. CB2 receptors are also found throughout the body but mostly on organs and cells of the immune system.
Serotonin (chemically known as 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is another chemical that plays a role in nausea and vomiting. Serotonin is released from enterochromaffin cells in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in response to a toxin entering the body such as food poisoning or chemotherapy medications. Serotonin then travels to and activates 5-HT3 and/or 5-HT4 receptors on the vagus nerve which then sends a signal to nausea and vomiting centers of the brain.
Although researchers point out there is no evidence of CB1 receptors on serotonin-releasing enterochromaffin cells, researchers believe these cells likely have CB1 receptors on their surface that are involved with the release of serotonin based on studies with rats and shrews. Some researchers believe that when CBD binds to these CB1 receptors, serotonin release is decreased so the vagus nerve to the nausea and vomiting centers of the brain is not stimulated and nausea is relieved.
Are There Any Side Effects From CBD?
CBD is usually tolerated well, however, possible side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
It is important to note that one of the possible (though not common) side effects of CBD is nausea for some people. CBD can also increase blood levels of the blood thinner coumadin which can lead to an increased risk of bleeding. It can also increase the levels of other medications in your body the way grapefruit juice does which can be dangerous.
CBD can also inhibit some enzymes in the body that are responsible for metabolizing drugs in the liver. This can result in medications being less effective or more potent—both situations that can be dangerous. This includes chemotherapy medications. So, be sure to tell your doctor if you are using CBD oil for nausea and receiving chemotherapy.
How Much CBD Should You Take For Nausea?
Currently, there are no studies or recommendations confirming a dosage or dosage range of CBD when used for nausea. When considering if CBD might be the right natural nausea remedy for you, it is important to keep in mind that this and other cannabinoids affect each person differently, much the same way that medications can have different effects on different people. Therefore, it is suggested that you start with the lowest dose possible, monitor how you are feeling, and then slowly increase the dosage if needed.
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Always check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement routine, including the use of natural products, especially if you are currently taking any medications. You should never replace any nausea treatments with CBD oil unless you speak with your doctor first.