Throughout centuries, physicians and folk medicine practitioners have been puzzled by the phenomenon of nausea. In the quest to eliminate this uncomfortable physical symptom, a myriad of tinctures, pharmaceuticals and breathing techniques have been recommended. However, many remedies are only effective at treating specific causes of nausea. For example, those who get motion sickness are often given dimenhydrinate, also known as Dramamine. Although these treatments may be effective, is it possible to treat the biological causes of nausea and vomiting without the use of pharmaceuticals?
For decades, scientists have asked themselves this very question. While many theories have accumulated over the years, the recent uptick in research within the realm of cannabinoids may hold the key to decoding this very human experience. And what is this answer? You may be surprised.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – A Fundamental Understanding
Cannabis is an enigma for many. While tens of thousands of research studies have attempted to further the understanding of this ancient herb, we’re still within the infancy of fully grasping its capabilities as a medicinal compound. The majority of studies have focused on the popular cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the compound responsible for the getting users “stoned.” However, another cannabinoid is showing greater promise when it comes to medicinal uses – CBD (cannabidiol).
Unlike THC and other related cannabinoids, CBD doesn’t appear to bind to either CB-1 or CB-2 receptor sites (1). Instead, its medicinal qualities may be caused by supporting a natural (endogenous) cannabinoid enzyme, known as anandamide.
The February 2013 edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggests the medicinal use of CBD can potentially (2):
- Suppress seizures
- Reduce severity of inflammatory diseases/disorders
- Protect neurological activity by warding off neurodegenerative disorders
- Reduce severity of depression and anxiety
However, one of the more interesting therapeutic effects of CBD is its antiemetic, or anti-nausea/vomiting, abilities.
The Cannabinoid Cure – Soothing Nausea and Vomiting
Although annoying, and sometimes detrimental, the biological causes of nausea and vomiting play an important role in the progression of many species. Classified as a defensive action, the sole purpose of this response is to inhibit the digestion of toxic compounds. Since the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), researchers have found this complex network of cannabinoid receptor sites plays a direct role in regulating both nausea and vomiting (3).
Preliminary findings suggest the introduction of CBD indirectly activates a unique compound known as 5-hydroxytryptamiine-1A (5-HT1A). Through a complex biological symphony, the activation of this monoamine neurotransmitter significantly reduces the sensation of nausea and its subsequent vomiting reflex (4). Because of such activity, researchers have found cannabis significantly reduces nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and other pharmacological treatments. In fact, studies have found the effects of cannabis to treat these symptoms is even more potent than many modern medicines (3).
Since CBD supports high levels of anandamide by inhibiting fatty acid enzymes responsible for degrading this compound, it’s believed its anti-nausea effects are partially due to the prolonged activation of CB-1 receptors within the brain (3).
As you can see, the ability to reduce nausea and vomiting through therapeutic doses of CBD is quite promising. By interacting with multiple biological processes, cannabis may be the key for those experiencing such symptoms. While we must expand our understanding of marijuana, and delve deeper into its interactions with the human body, what we do know is transforming the way we approach health and healing.