Though it is known that cannabis is indicated for the treatment of nausea and vomiting, especially during chemotherapy, it was thought that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was the main component of the plant to do so. THC is the psychoactive aspect of the plant which can cause the sensation of feeling high in patients.
However, a new study released by the University of Guelph suggests that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of the plant, can actually turn off nausea triggers better than THC, thus reducing the high and some unwanted side effects some patients may feel.
The study was done on rats in a laboratory. Though rats cannot vomit, they do express the emotion of disgust, which happens when they are exposed to food triggers that have previously made them sick.
Mechanism of action of CBD
The general mechanism of how this works involves the insular cortex, which is part of the brain’s limbic system. The insular cortex causes nausea in both rats and humans when serotonin is released in that part of the brain.
Researchers discovered that CBD actually prevents a spike of serotonin in the insular cortex and stops the rats from experiencing nausea and thereby vomiting. They also say that CBD helps to increase the amount of 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), a natural endocannabinoid found in the body, that decreases nausea.
This discovery is important because CBD has the potential to benefit a multitude of symptoms without any side effects that could cause increased heart rate and anxiety in many cancer patients.
Even patients willing to try cannabis may be deterred by the current general use of THC for nausea which does have some significant side effects in patients whose immune systems are already compromised.
Though the results of this study prove to be promising, it is to be noted that this research was not conducted on humans. It considered to be pre-clinical in that it only took place in a laboratory, so human trials are still some ways off.