Endocannabinoid Levels in Ulcerative Colitis Patients Correlate With Clinical Parameters and Are Affected by Cannabis Consumption

Shelly Tartakover Matalon, Shahar Azar, David Meiri, Rivka Hadar, Alina Nemirovski, Narjes Abu Jabal, Fred Meir Konikoff, Liat Drucker, Joseph Tam, Timna Naftali*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are chronic, idiopathic, inflammatory, gastrointestinal disorders. The endocannabinoid system may have a role in the pathogenesis of IBD. We aimed to assess whether cannabis treatment influences endocannabinoids (eCBs) level and clinical symptoms of IBD patients. Methods: Blood samples and biopsies were taken from IBD patients treated by either cannabis or placebo for 8 weeks. Immunohistochemistry for N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-selective phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) expression was done on colon biopsies, and sample levels of anandamide (AEA), eCB2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), arachidonic acid (AA), palmitoylethanolamine (PEA), and oleoylethanolamine (OEA) were measured in patient’s sera before and after cannabis treatment. Caco-2 cells were cultured with extracts of cannabis with/without tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and their proteins extracted, and Western blotting for NAPE-PLD and FAAH expression was done. Results: Thirteen patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) and nine patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) were treated with cannabis. Seventeen patients with CD and 10 with UC served as placebo groups. In all CD patients, the levels of eCBs remained unaltered during the treatment period. In UC patients treated with placebo, but not in those treated with cannabis, the levels of PEA, AEA, and AA decreased significantly. The percent reduction in bowel movements was negatively correlated with changes observed in the circulating AEA and OEA, whereas improvement in quality of life was positively correlated with the levels of 2-AG. In the biopsies from UC patients, FAAH levels increased over the study period. In Caco-2 cells, both cannabis extracts increased NAPE-PLD levels but reduced FAAH expression levels. Conclusion: Our study supports the notion that cannabis use affects eCB “tone” in UC patients and may have beneficial effects on disease symptoms in UC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number685289
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2021


  • Crohn’s disease
  • cannabis
  • endocannabinoids
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • ulcerative colitis


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