Studies show that marijuana can help you feel better when you are nauseous.
One of the most well-known benefits of marijuana is its ability to relieve nausea. Nausea also happens to be a common reason for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.
In fact, THC has been prescribed since the 1980s for the treatment of nausea, specifically as a side effect of chemotherapy.
Researchers believe marijuana’s anti-nausea effects have to do with a link between the endocannabinoid system in the brain and the centres that control nausea and vomiting.
Let’s take a look at what science says about treating nausea with marijuana.
What is Nausea?
Nausea is that queasy feeling you have in your stomach that makes you feel like you are going to be sick or throw up.
Nausea can be a side effect of certain viruses or illnesses, eating spoiled food, and consuming certain drugs or chemicals. It can also be caused by things like anxiety, fear and motion sickness.
Throwing up, or vomiting, is a normal physical response that can happen when you feel nauseous.
Nausea, because of its ongoing nature, is often said to be more upsetting than actual vomiting. It causes a generally unpleasant feeling, so much so that people often look for ways to treat their nausea.
Does Marijuana Help With Nausea?
Compounds in marijuana have been shown to help treat nausea. THC, the main active compound in marijuana, is an effective antiemetic. Marijuana can be prescribed to treat nausea, and many use it as a home remedy.
THC is an Antiemetic
The THC in marijuana is an antiemetic, which means it’s a treatment to relieve nausea and vomiting. Other antiemetic drugs include over-the-counter products to settle your stomach, such as Gravol.
In a 2001 study, researchers gave syrup of ipecac (a substance that causes vomiting) along with THC to healthy volunteers. The THC in marijuana significantly reduced feelings of “queasiness” and vomiting.
Many Use Marijuana to Treat Nausea
Many people use marijuana to soothe their stomachs and make them feel better when they are nauseous.
In a 2005 survey of adults who used marijuana for medicinal purposes, almost 1 in 3 reported using it to treat nausea and found marijuana to provide “great relief.”
Some women have even reported using marijuana to treat their morning sickness while pregnant, but most doctors do not recommend this.
Who Can Benefit From Marijuana?
Marijuana is a recognized treatment for nausea and vomiting in cancer and AIDS patients.
Despite advances in managing nausea and vomiting in general, many patients still experience distressing and unpleasant symptoms.
Nausea and vomiting is a common side effect of cancer treatment and is often poorly controlled. But studies have shown that THC and other cannabinoids may work to prevent vomiting caused by certain types of chemotherapy.
A 2015 review reported that patients using cannabinoids to treat their nausea were more likely to report complete absence of nausea and vomiting, and many preferred marijuana over other drug treatments.
A 2001 review spanning 30 studies of over 1300 patients reported that cannabinoid-based medications (such as Cesamet and Marinol) were more effective than other antiemetics for controlling chemotherapy-related sickness.
Taking antiretroviral medication regularly is essential to successfully battling HIV/AIDS.
Recent studies have shown that medical marijuana may help patients’ adherence to antiretroviral therapy, particularly for those suffering from nausea.
A clinical trial of patients with HIV/AIDS and weight loss found that those who took THC had increased appetite and stopped losing weight.
How Does It Work?
Scientists believe that a link between the endocannabinoid system and the areas of the brain that control nausea and vomiting explains how marijuana helps treat nausea.
Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Nausea
An upset stomach or the feeling of being nauseous might have more to do with the brain than the stomach. Cannabinoid receptors are found in areas of the brain associated with nausea and vomiting.
THC is the main active ingredient in marijuana that acts on specific pathways found in the body known as cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are involved in the regulation of many bodily functions.
Endocannabinoids — cannabinoids found naturally in the body — are thought to play a role in reducing the likelihood that someone will throw up.
Marijuana and Hyperemesis
Since the discovery of how cannabinoids work, the understanding of their role in controlling nausea and vomiting has greatly increased. Smoking marijuana activates cannabinoid receptors, which is why it helps with nausea.
However, the link between marijuana and nausea is complicated. Heavy marijuana users can experience cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome or excessive vomiting when they consume marijuana. It’s still not known why this happens in some users, especially because most studies show positive effects on nausea.
While it’s extremely uncommon, it shows that the link between marijuana and nausea is not straightforward.
Marijuana has been shown to be an effective antiemetic, reducing nausea and vomiting.
Marijuana can be prescribed for cancer patients and HIV/AIDS patients for treatment-related nausea. And aside from these conditions, many people report using marijuana to successfully treat their nausea.
Scientists believe pathways in the brain related to nausea are linked to the endocannabinoid system — the system in your body that responds to marijuana. When THC activates cannabinoid receptors, it suppresses nausea and vomiting.
The bottom line is, if you’re feeling sick to your stomach, using marijuana may help you feel better.