Yo, what’s good? It’s your boy Dan here to talk about something that affects everyone at some point—nausea. Whether it’s from a hangover, morning sickness, or just from feeling anxious, we’ve all felt that queasy feeling in our stomachs. But did you know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS)—the system in your body that interacts with cannabis compounds—plays a crucial role in regulating nausea? Keep reading to learn more about how weed can help with nausea.
So, what is nausea? Nausea and vomiting often go hand in hand, but they’re not the same thing. Vomiting is when you expel the contents of your stomach through your mouth uncontrollably, whereas nausea is that uneasy feeling in your stomach that often comes before vomiting. Nausea can be caused by a bunch of different things, like stress, motion sickness, morning sickness during pregnancy, and even food poisoning. Although it can be protective in some cases—like when we eat food contaminated with bacteria—it often occurs when it’s not really necessary.
Our bodies have a ton of automatic reactions aimed at keeping us safe, and nausea falls into that category. The signal that triggers nausea comes from several areas of the brain and leads to gastric dysrhythmias and subsequent nausea. But did you know that endocannabinoids—the signalling molecules responsible for interacting with ECS receptors to maintain biological balance—are found almost everywhere in the body, including in the gut and brain areas largely involved in nausea regulation?
That’s right—endocannabinoids play a key role in regulating nausea and vomiting. They control visceral sensation and inflammation, gastrointestinal motility, gastric acid secretion, and even enhance food uptake. The ECS also serves as an important regulator of the gut-brain axis—a pathway linking up regions of the brain responsible for emotion and cognition with peripheral gut functions. This means that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can interface with the ECS and offer similar results as endocannabinoids.
But hold up—does weed actually cause nausea? It’s true that many people who use cannabis frequently experience “greening out” at some point—an uncomfortable sensation involving nausea, vomiting, panic, and anxiety after consuming too much weed. This occurs because THC binds to ECS receptors in the central nervous system and overstimulation of this site can result in nausea and vomiting. Chronic cannabis users may also experience Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), which involves cyclic nausea and vomiting over weeks.
However, there’s promising research showing that certain cannabis constituents like dronabinol and nabilone (synthetic versions of THC) can help with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as a form of cannabinoid antiemetic therapy. Other cannabis constituents like THCA and CBDV also show early promise in nausea research. Endocannabinoid tone (the amount of circulating endocannabinoids) could also play a role in regulating nausea—the lower levels of 2-AG found in motion-sick participants suggest that cannabinoids targeting both CB1 and CB2 receptors could be effective against nausea.
One non-psychotropic cannabinoid that’s been rising in popularity is cannabidiol (CBD). Early animal research shows that CBD could buffer against nausea through action at serotonin receptors, while human trials using Sativex (a combination of THC and CBD) for chemotherapy-induced nausea have shown interesting results. More human trials are needed to put other cannabinoids to the test for different forms of nausea.
In conclusion, although there’s no definitive answer on whether smoking weed helps with nausea or what strain is best for it, research suggests that cannabis-based medicines can be effective treatments for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The science behind the ECS and eCBome in regulating nausea will continue to develop, strengthening the argument for using cannabis to treat different forms of nausea. So next time you’re feeling queasy, consider trying some weed to see if it helps!