Why Cannabis Can Both Ease and Cause Nausea
The cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis are believed to offer a range of medical benefits. We don’t know what all those benefits are simply because we don’t have enough research. However, there is some evidence that cannabis can help people manage both acute and chronic nausea. Unfortunately, it can also cause nausea too.
This should not surprise you if you understand the reality that people react to medications differently. Even something as common as an antibiotic can lead to different reactions in different patients. Some patients tolerate penicillin quite well. Others are actually allergic to it.
Cannabis, and the two primary cannabinoids around which most therapeutic uses revolve – THC and CBD – follow the same rule. To people for whom it helps manage nausea, cannabis is a godsend. To those for whom it causes nausea, it is a bit of a downer.
The Mechanics of Nausea
Nausea is more of a sensation than an actual biological mechanism. Though it can be caused by many things, the thing that triggers the actual sensation is a reaction of the brain to certain stimuli. For example, some people get nauseous when riding in a car, traveling by sea, or flying in a plane. Their brains are triggered to perceive that something is wrong and send signals to the stomach as a warning.
Of course, some cases of nausea have an actual physical cause – like eating bad food. The spoiled food triggers a physical reaction that starts with nausea and ends with vomiting. In such cases, both the nausea and vomiting are therapeutic.
Managing Nausea with Cannabis
Nausea has so many root causes that it can be difficult to quantify them. It can be caused by migraines, seizure disorders, inner ear infections, gastrointestinal issues, infections, heart attack, and even psychiatric disorders. It can also be caused by medical treatment. Cancer patients often experience nausea as a result of radiation and chemotherapy.
Utahmarijuana.org, a Utah organization that helps patients obtain medical cannabis cards, says they frequently see patients looking to manage nausea caused by cancer treatment. In so doing, some of them also enjoy relief from their cancer-related pain.
Regardless, the CBD found in both marijuana and hemp seems to work well for managing nausea by interacting with serotonin receptors. When taken in small doses, some patients also reported experiencing a relief from the anxiety that comes with chronic nausea.
THC is less understood as a mechanism for managing nausea, though patients report that it does work. It could be that THC binds to certain brain receptors to dull sensations of nausea. THC’s ability to create euphoric feelings might also help manage nausea by distracting from it.
When Cannabis Causes Nausea
Unfortunately, not all cannabis users have a pleasant experience with the drug. Some frequent users experience nausea and vomiting as a result of a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Science still doesn’t know a whole lot about the syndrome because, as with most things involving marijuana, research has been limited to date.
One thing we know for sure is that people who suffer from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome report regular bouts of nausea and vomiting. It could be because THC slows down the gastric response to food, resulting in the brain thinking that vomiting is the only means of emptying out the stomach.
At any rate, people react to cannabis differently. For some, CBD and THC represent the best way to manage acute or chronic nausea. For others, THC actually causes nausea and vomiting. Science is not exactly sure why the differences exist, but perhaps we will have the answers someday.