If you have pancreatitis, a condition involving inflammation in the pancreas, you may wonder if cannabidiol (CBD) can help.
The cannabis compound’s popularity keeps rising, with some people finding relief from pain and nausea, two common symptoms of pancreatitis. It’s also sometimes used for inflammation.
But does it actually work? Keep reading to learn what the research says, and find out how to spot a quality CBD product.
Although the research is still limited, there are some studies related to CBD and pancreatitis symptoms.
CBD has the potential to reduce inflammation in the body, which may be useful for pancreatitis. Still, much of the research that’s been done involved animals, not humans.
For instance, a 2013 study performed on mice with acute pancreatitis looked at CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects. The mice were treated with CBD, which helped reduce inflammation.
Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that happens when nerves are damaged or inflamed. It can cause pain and numbness and is sometimes associated with chronic pancreatitis.
A small 2020 randomized controlled trial looked at topical CBD oil’s effects on 29 people living with peripheral neuropathy. The study found that acute neuropathic pain was lowered in study participants who applied CBD topically.
The researchers suggested that CBD is not only well-tolerated, but that it may also be a useful alternative to traditional treatments for peripheral neuropathy.
Nausea and vomiting
As previously mentioned, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of pancreatitis. Animal studies have shown CBD can lessen vomiting, and anecdotally, some people report CBD lessening nausea.
A 2020 animal study found that CBD lowered vomiting and nausea in rats and shrews. The CBD was given subcutaneously, or under the skin.
According to the World Health Organization, CBD is generally believed to be safe. There aren’t any known safety issues specific to people with pancreatitis.
However, a 2019 study on mice found that CBD at very high doses (200 milligrams of CBD per kilogram of body weight) has the potential to cause liver damage. It’s important to note that the doses typically used by consumers are much smaller than this.
Talk with your doctor if you’re interested in CBD and have pancreatitis or fatty liver disease, which is associated with acute pancreatitis.
This is especially important if you’re taking any medications, particularly those that carry a grapefruit warning. CBD may interact with some medications.
Additionally, some people may experience side effects from CBD. These include:
- changes in appetite
- changes in weight
It’s worth noting that no over-the-counter CBD product is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only Epidiolex, a prescription medication that treats two rare forms of epilepsy, is FDA approved.
The FDA cautions against buying CBD from businesses that promote CBD products as a cure-all for diseases. The FDA also issues those companies warning letters, so it’s easy to see which companies should be on your “do not buy” list.
It’s also best not to self-treat pancreatitis with CBD only. Talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any research suggesting CBD can cause or worsen pancreatitis.
However, there are a few case studies on possible links between pancreatitis and cannabis. Cannabis generally contains much more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than CBD.
A 2018 case study and review looked at an 18-year-old woman who was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis. She reported smoking cannabis twice weekly over a 2-month period.
Similarly, a 2019 case study and review noted that a 25-year-old man who was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis used cannabis daily.
Both case studies concluded that cannabis may contribute to acute pancreatitis. Though, much more research is needed, as case studies are little better than anecdotes and a far cry from the gold standard randomized controlled trial.
If you want to try CBD for pancreatitis symptoms, you may want to consider trying a CBD tincture instead of a topical CBD product (which doesn’t significantly enter the bloodstream) or a gummy (which needs to first pass through the digestive system).
CBD tinctures can be absorbed directly under your tongue, offering faster results. Moreover, you’ll want to be careful to not introduce too much food into your digestive system, as that can aggravate acute pancreatitis.
The sugar in a gummy and the fat content in some CBD tinctures that use fat as a carrier, can stimulate your pancreas to release digestive enzymes, which can worsen symptoms of acute pancreatitis.
There are a few different types of CBD:
The entourage effect theory suggests that full-spectrum CBD may work best, but the type you choose is ultimately up to you. Just be aware that any type of CBD may contain trace levels of THC.
Like we mentioned, CBD comes in many forms. How you take it depends on the type.
You may choose to eat your CBD by consuming gummies or other edibles or by mixing CBD oil into your favorite food or drink.
Some people choose to apply their CBD dose right under their tongue for faster absorption. Others choose to apply it topically using a cream, lotion, or ointment.
If you choose to use an oil taken under your tongue, use the included dropper. Place the oil under your tongue and hold it there for at least 30 seconds before swallowing.
Absorption rates and appropriate dosages will depend on the type of product you decide to use, serving sizes, and other individual factors, like:
- body weight
- intended use
As you can guess, finding the perfect dosage for you may take some time. Start with the lowest dose you can, and work up from there if needed. Be sure to talk with your doctor for recommendations as well.
As you shop for CBD, remember that not all CBD products are created the same. Some are made using high quality practices and are tested for purity and safety, while others are not.
Since the FDA has not approved over-the-counter CBD products, it’s a good idea to critically evaluate each brand and product before you make a purchase.
Here’s what to look for:
- Testing. It’s important that your CBD product comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive certificate of analysis (COA) from an accredited third-party lab. The COA displays important information, like the amount of THC and CBD the product contains. You’ll also be able to see if the product passed tests for contaminants like mold, pesticides, and heavy metals.
- Transparency. The most responsible, reliable CBD companies clearly tell you about their products on the company website. You should be able to quickly find out where the brand sources its hemp and how its products are made.
- Ingredients. Scanning the product label closely can help you find any ingredients you may be allergic to, so you can avoid a serious reaction. This is also where you may learn about other added ingredients that may help with the specific symptom you’re hoping to improve.
- Company reputation. A quick search of the CBD brand name can help you avoid buying from companies that have pending lawsuits or received FDA warning letters.
There are treatment options for pancreatitis that are backed by more research than CBD.
Generally, treating acute or chronic pancreatitis requires hospitalization. There, your pancreas can heal as you receive supportive care, like IV fluids or a feeding tube.
During your hospital stay, you may also receive medication for pain management. If you have chronic pancreatitis and your pancreas isn’t creating enough digestive enzymes, you might be given artificial digestive enzymes.
Surgery is another option if you don’t see improvement with these treatments.
Additionally, your doctor may suggest some diet and lifestyle changes, like:
- eating a low-fat, balanced diet
- avoiding alcohol
- quitting smoking
Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, may also help improve your symptoms.
Contact a doctor if you’re experiencing pain that radiates from your left side to your back, or if you experience:
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal soreness
- unexplained weight loss
- bloating with a swollen abdomen
Although research around CBD and pancreatitis is limited, some animal and human studies suggest it may be able to help reduce inflammation, nausea, and vomiting — all of which are often associated with pancreatitis.
However, other, more traditional treatments for pancreatitis are backed by more evidence.
If you’re interested in trying CBD, talk with your doctor first.
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Breanna Mona is a writer based in Cleveland, OH. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism and writes about health, lifestyle, and entertainment.