Researchers from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine have determined the endocannabinoid system may play a role in maintaining the health of the digestive tract. In the study, mice were given capsaicin, an ingredient found in chili peppers, and found that during ingestion, it binds with the TRPV1 receptor, which stimulates the production of anandamide, an endocannabinoid naturally produced by the body. This resulted in a calmer immune system, which was the same case when mice were given anandamide directly. The anandamide interacted with receptors in the endocannabinoid system inside the digestive tract to stimulate white blood cell production, which elicited an anti-inflammatory response and cured the mice of Type 1 Diabetes. Researchers speculate these effects could be similarly beneficial for colitis, Crohn's disease, and other inflammatory diseases.
Because some phytocannabinoids are chemically analogous to anandamide, researchers believe cannabis consumption could also provide this therapy. Senior author and Professor of Immunology and Medicine at UConn School of medicine plans to investigate if the prevalence of inflammatory-related stomach diseases in Colorado have dropped since marijuana was legalized. He says, “I’m hoping to work with the public health authority in Colorado to see if there has been an effect on the severity of colitis among regular users of edible weed... If the epidemiological data shows a significant change [since adult use marijuana was legalized in 2012], that would make a testable case that anandamide or other cannabinoids could be used as therapeutic drugs to treat certain disorders of the stomach, pancreas, intestines and colon."