Cannabis offers mmediate relief from symptoms of nausea, but product use matters: UNM Newsroom




UNM researchers use a mobile phone app to measure how whole natural Cannabis flower affects nausea symptom intensity

Researchers at The University of New Mexico examined the effects of consuming cannabis on nausea symptoms from five minutes to one-hour post-cannabis consumption and showed that using Cannabis results in an average symptom improvement of nearly 4 points on a 0-10 scale just moments after consumption with increasing benefits over time.

Nausea is a common symptom but is often difficult to treat using conventional treatments ranging from herbal remedies like ginger to prescription pharmaceuticals. Common causes of nausea include food poisoning, emotional distress, gastrointestinal disorders, motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy. Cannabis has been used to treat nausea for millennia. Although its effectiveness for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea is widely recognized even in modern times, the use of cannabis for nausea remains under-researched in the general population with no studies on the time-to-relief and how relief varies with product characteristics. Flower and concentrates yielded faster and greater relief than edibles or tinctures while vaping yielded less relief than consuming cannabis via a joint or pipe. 

In a recent study, titled “The Effectiveness of Common Cannabis Products for Treatment of Nausea” published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, researchers showed that the vast majority of patients using cannabis to treat nausea experience relief with more than 96% of the study sample reporting nausea relief within one hour. “Despite increasing clinical concerns regarding cyclical vomiting or hyperemesis syndrome in cannabis users, almost all users experienced relief,” said author Sarah Stith, an assistant professor in the UNM economics department.

Sarah See Stith and Jacob Vigil

UNM Economics Assistant Professor Sarah See Stith and Psychology Associate Professor Jacob Vigil.

The study was based on data from 2,220 cannabis self-administration sessions recorded by 886 people using the Releaf App, a mobile software application designed to help users manage cannabis consumption by allowing users to record real-time changes in symptom intensity. 

The extent of nausea relief experienced by the study sample varied across product characteristics with flower and concentrates outperforming tinctures and edibles. Products labeled as Cannabis sativa and “hybrid” outperformed products labeled as Cannabis indica. Among combusted products, joints were associated with greater symptom relief than consuming via a pipe or vaporizer. The study further examined the effects of THC and CBD among consumers of cannabis flower. Coauthor, Jacob Vigil, associate professor, UNM psychology department, explained that “perhaps our most surprising result was that THC, typically associated with recreational use, seemed to improve treatment among consumers of Cannabis flower, while our CBD, more commonly associated with medical use, actually seemed to be associated with less symptom relief.”

“The mechanisms behind cannabis’ ability to rapidly reduce feelings of nausea are not fully clear, but like involve the plant’s ability to activate CB1 receptor responses to other stimuli in the central nervous system, such as the insular cortex, which is involved in interoception, conscious awareness of internal bodily states, and an example of a brain region that is naturally modulated in part by endocannabinoids that naturally develop in the human body. Therefore, it is unsurprising that phytocannabinoids that develop in the Cannabis plant are also effective at stimulating similar brain regions” says Vigil.

The electronic recording software made it possible to measure how consumption of Cannabis products affected changes in the intensity of feelings of nausea and which types of common product characteristics are associated with the strongest effects. Thus the Releaf App data-enabled UNM’s researchers to analyze prospective, real-time recording of cannabis administration sessions, including the broad range of Cannabis products currently available throughout the U.S., the largest study of its kind to date.

Some of the implications of the study may not be entirely positive concerning cannabis consumption. “Our results show that cannabis is used to treat nausea with a high rate of effectiveness, but concerns exist that its effectiveness relative to conventional options may induce high-risk populations, such as pregnant women and children, to consume cannabis,” cautioned Stith. “And the long-term effects of cannabis and its effects on development are a significant gap in the existing literature on the medical use of cannabis in general, “ added Dr. Xiaoxue Li, Department of Economics, University of New Mexico. 

This investigation was supported partly by private donations from individuals to the University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund. Descriptions of similar research can be found at the Cannabisconnectionuniversity.com and Vigil’s Youtube lab educational channel, Cannabis Connection University.



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