CBD: A New, Viable Nausea Treatment

CBD: A New, Viable Nausea Treatment

Scientific research has shown cannabidiol (CBD) is therapeutic for many conditions. Its unique ability to link physical and psychological cell receptors has provided some rich data to indicate that CBD therapies are comprehensive and far-reaching for a number of interrelated ailments. Because it is plant-based, rather than a synthetic chemical, it is more safe and better tolerated by many seeking treatment options.

The delicate interconnections between physical and psychological maladies is an area of emerging science. One common physical manifestation that is particularly bothersome is nausea. Often, extreme cases of nausea are chronic, causing vomiting, and making day-to-day life challenging.

In the case of nausea, one reason CBD treatment is so effective is that the source of this physical manifestation is often linked to a root cause like extreme stress or anxiety, depression, or pain-related disorders. Previous articles establish the efficacy of CBD for these specific ailments. Nausea can also be related to motion-induced illness, chemotherapy treatment, or palatability episodes (the act of eating in general, or a response to specific foods). CBD is shown to be effective for these treatments as well.

A study released by Project CBD(1) gathered scientific data from a number of research projects. The team analyzed the various data points to come up with some commonalities and scientific causation for efficacy. This article uses those findings as a jumping off point, and then explores the findings in more detail.

Key Animal Activity Show Promise

Key research findings are often present in animal studies first, then are expanded to include human models. One important animal study involved the use of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) to reduce nausea and vomiting by enhancing 5-HT(1A) receptor activation in these animal subjects.(2)

The approach in this study was looking specifically at nausea-induced conditions related to motion and toxin-induced vomiting, or palatability. This study shows a link in enhancing 5-HT (1A) receptor activation to a number of positive outcomes with regard to nausea.

Because a nausea response is linked to to 5-HT (1A) receptor antagonist, the effects of blocking this receptor antagonist result in delaying onset of nausea and vomiting in the animal study. The study's conclusions and implications state clearly that "CBD is an effective and potent treatment at inhibiting vomiting in shrews and nausea in rats, by enhancing 5-HT (1A) receptor activation, and action that accounts for CBD's ability to attenuate conditioned gaping in rats. Consequently, CBD shows promise at a treatment for nausea and vomiting, including anticipatory nausea for which no specific therapy is currently available."

Human Evidence of Nausea Reduction

A study compiled by the British Pharmacological Society took these findings in animals a step further.(3) In this study, there is considerable evidence that the manipulation of the endocannabinoid system regulates nausea and vomiting in humans and other animals. The anti-emetic effect of cannabinoids has been demonstrated in response to a toxic challenge. CB (1) agonism suppresses vomiting by suppression, whereas inverse agonism is shown to promote vomiting. Evidence from experiments suggest that CBD may be especially useful in treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea and anticipatory nausea in chemotherapy patients, which are less well controlled by the current available conventional pharmaceutical agents.

The promise of a treatment specifically for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting is a breakthrough for those battling cancer. Cannabiniod agonists combined with the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor suppresses conditioned vomiting reactions in animals, and is shown to suppress vomiting in emetic species.

The primary non-psychoactive compound in DBD suppresses nausea and vomiting within a limited dose range. The anti-nausea.anti-emetic effects of CBD may be mediated by indirect activation of the somatodendritic 5-HT (1A) receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Activation of these auto-receptors reduces the release of the 5-Ht in terminal forebrain regions. Preclinical research indicates that CBD may be effective for treating both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy treatments or other therapeutic treatments.

Cannabidiol (CBD) - A Fundamental Understanding

With a number of important scientific studies supporting the use of CBD as nausea treatment, two of which are cited in detail above, it's important to understand more about how and why CBD is a viable alternative for nausea treatment.

We are still in the infancy of understanding the myriad of complex ways CBD impacts brain function as a medicinal compound. Unlike other related cannabinoids, CBD doesn't appear to bind to either CB-1 or CB-2 receptor sites.(4)Instead, its medicinal qualities may be caused by supporting a natural (endogenous) cannabinoid enzyme, known as anandamide.

The February 2013 edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggests the medicinal use of CBD to potentially:

  • Suppress seizures
  • Reduce severity of inflammatory diseases/disorders
  • Protect neurological activity by warding off neurodegenerative disorders
  • Reduce severity of depression and anxiety
  • Produce strong antiemetic, or anti-nausea/vomiting abilities not responsive to other treatments
  • Give those seeking a natural treatment alternative an option for effective therapy

(Note: There is additional information on many of the topics listed above in other articles on this site.)

Nausea is classified as a defensive action, the purpose of which is to rid the system or inhibit digestion of potentially toxic compounds. Since the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), researchers have found this complex network of cannabinoid receptors sites plays a direct role in regulating both nausea and vomiting.

Though pharmacological drugs attempt to address the symptoms, there are still many for whom these drugs are not an option due to their side effects, inefficacy, or danger of combining with other treatments such as chemotherapy.

Preliminary findings suggest that the introduction of CBD into the physiological environment of the human body indirectly activates a unique compound known as 5-hydroxytrptamiine-1A (5-HT1A). Through a complex biological symphony, the activation of this monoamine neurotransmitter significantly reduces the sensation of nausea and its subsequent vomiting reflex.

Because of such activity, researchers are finding CBD significantly reduces nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy and other treatments. In fact, studies have found the effects of CBD to treat these symptoms is even more potent than many modern pharmacological treatments. Since CBD supports high levels of anandamide by inhibiting fatty acid enzymes responsible for degrading this compound, it's believed its anti-nausea effects are partially due to the prolonged activation of CB-1 receptors within the brain.

By interacting with multiple biological processes, CBD may be the key for those experiencing these symptoms. It has also been shown to be effective for those seeking a non-pharmacological treatment option, or for those with symptoms so severe other medications simply do not work.

A Brief History

CBD was first isolated from its parent plant in the late 1930s.(5) Its structure was elucidated in 1963, and its chemistry and interactions on the brain began to emerge. This first pharmacological studies were reported in the early 1970s. Over the next few years, scientific research focused primarily on the plant's anti-convulsive properties. Then, antianxiety effects came to the forefront, coupled with immune system activities that emerged at the same time.

Most recently, primarily since the turn of the century, research is focusing on CBD's effects on nausea, as an antioxidant in biological systems and as an anti-rheumatoid arthritis drug. As documented earlier in this article, the indirect activation of the somatodendritic 5-HT (1A) receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus seems to hold the key as to why CBD is so effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting.

Treatment Keys

CBD as a treatment for nausea is found to be particularly effective in the following instances because of its unique medical properties.

  • For chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting
  • Where strong pharmacological treatments are not well tolerated
  • Nausea as a result of anxiety, stress or depression
  • Learned toxic reactions to food or the act of eating (gag reflexes)
  • More extreme cases of nausea
  • Motion sickness (current treatments often result in extreme fatigue)

Promising Future

This is an area of emerging science that requires further study. But for those suffering from chemotherapy related nausea, gag reflexed, motion sicknesses or nausea induced by extreme anxiety and stress responses, CBD could hold the key to a safe and effective treatment option not currently available. Particularly for those sensitive to powerful pharmacological drugs and their undesirable side effects, CBD is an option worth exploring.


1 - "Health Conditions," Project CBD (www.projectcbd.org/conditions).

2 - Bolognini D, Rock EM, Cluny NL, Cascio MG, Limebeer CL, Duncan M, Stott CG, Javid, FA, Parker LA, and Pertwee RG, "Cannabidiolic Acid Prevents Vomiting," US National Library of Medicine (March 2013).

3 - Parker, LA, Rock EM, and Limebeer CL "Regulation of Nausea and Vomiting by Cannanbinoids," PubMed.gov (2011).

4 - Mechoulam R, Parker LA, Gallily R, "CBD: An Overview of Some Pharmacological Aspects," Clinical Pharmacology (November 2002).

5 - Mechoulam et al, see above.