I had my reservations about it in the beginning, but the research and my own experience have made me a true believer in the healing powers of cannabis.
Growing up in the Bible Belt, I was always incredibly reserved and hesitant of any substance going into my body. I always wrote off individuals who used cannabis, even medically, as “hippies” and dismissed the idea altogether.
But when I moved to California from South Carolina in 2015, I quickly noticed that there wasn’t a stigma around marijuana the way there was back in the Southeast.
In fact, I heard many stories of friends using a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two compounds found in cannabis, to help with their sleep, anxiety, inflammation, and many other ailments.
Color me impressed!
As someone who has been living with ulcerative colitis for over a decade, I had spent years researching all-natural ways to reduce inflammation, including overhauling my diet. Cannabis was about the only natural treatment I hadn’t tried.
So I began to do my own research to see if it really does help the way my friends said it did, and to see if it could help me with ulcerative colitis and inflammation in general.
The cannabis plant contains many active compounds. The two you’ve probably heard of are THC and CBD.
THC is the compound with psychoactive elements that causes the “high” associated with cannabis, while CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound often touted for having less side effects. Both THC and CBD have anti-inflammatory properties.
When I was doing my research back in 2015, I found a study (in rats) that showed THC reduced inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis, but was most effective when combined with CBD. Another study found that CBD was effective in preventing active inflammation from recurring in colitis patients.
After spending a week reading all the research I could on the positive effects that THC and CBD might have on ulcerative colitis, I was officially on board. (Since then, much more research has come out on CBD for IBD.)
Is CBD legal?
Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Even though I was intrigued, I still had a few hesitations about trying it for the first time. Was I going to get really high? And also what did getting really high even feel like?
I had no idea. All I knew is that it might help me and that I needed to figure out the best way to begin.
To help me overcome my concerns of feeling out of control or just not knowing what to expect, I went straight to the source — a trusted dispensary in my area. Talk about an overwhelming assortment of options! They had cannabis in every form you can imagine, like chocolate bars, cookies, candies, mints, and vape pens.
After my salesperson answered all 1,000 of my questions, he guided me to a product that had an 8:1 ratio of CBD to THC that wouldn’t give me the intense high I was so concerned about. I felt so relieved after talking to him and confident that I had made the right choice.
If you have any hesitations, I highly recommend going to a dispensary and just asking questions. Many are often highly knowledgeable about their products and can prevent you from getting overwhelmed with the options. However, many are not legally able to provide medical advice, so be sure to work with a qualified cannabis/CBD clinician if you have a serious medical condition.
The very first time I tried THC and CBD for my ulcerative colitis, I started with a tropical-flavored gummy. This can be one of the easiest ways to control the dosing, especially for newbies. And yes, they were as delicious as they sound.
I waited until 2 hours before bed. This way I was at home, in a controlled environment, and able to notice how the gummy made me feel.
The result? I felt very calm and never felt the high that I expected. Plus, I had the most amazing night of sleep!
Since I did feel super calm and relaxed, I knew that I needed to keep it as a nighttime ritual rather than during the day or at work, at least until I built up a better tolerance for it.
I’ve come a long way since my slew of questions during my very first dispensary trip.
In the past few years I have experimented with different types of products and I will say that the gummies and liquid tinctures are my favorite. They’re simply the easiest to track the dosage. (Gummies have smaller portions and tinctures have measurement lines on the dropper.)
During a flare-up, I take 2.5 milligrams (mg) of 3:1 CBD:THC in the morning when I wake up and 5 mg of 1:1 CBD:THC at bedtime. When I’m in remission and healthy I take 2.5 mg of 3:1 or 1:1 at bedtime.
I personally don’t like the feeling of being high, so I either take a higher dose at bedtime so that I sleep well and don’t really feel the high, or I take a very small amount in the morning at a ratio that’s much higher in CBD than THC.
You can choose the ratio that best fits how you want to feel. For healing and pain management, the higher the CBD the better.
You still want THC present, though, so that the CBD will work most effectively. If you’re highly sensitive to any amount of THC or trying it for the first time, I suggest taking it in the evening before bed so you can function properly during the day.
In short, the answer is a resounding YES.
In all honesty though, it’s hard to notice from the naked eye if my inflammation is reduced. However, the side effects and symptoms surrounding ulcerative colitis decreased dramatically.
The most noticeable difference is my quality of sleep. Taking my gummies before bed made me sleep like a baby and that, in itself, helps the healing process tremendously.
I have to take prednisone far more than I would like, which causes awful insomnia. On the nights when I take a gummy before bed, I have no trouble sleeping — regardless of whether I am on prednisone or not.
I also have significantly less bloating in my stomach on the days when I take a gummy. I get awful bloating during a flare-up and this truly helps my confidence and quality of life.
Prednisone and the constant fight against a flare-up have caused a lot of anxiety in my life, and I notice a massive reduction in anxiety when I use CBD and THC.
With stress being the number one cause of my flare-ups, it’s really important for me to proactively manage the anxiety I feel before it causes a flare-up or makes an already existent flare-up worse.
Using CBD and THC really helps to calm my body down and reduce my physical anxiety.
I recommend a higher ratio of CBD to THC, either an 8:1, 10:1, or higher if it’s available. Then test it out at home a couple of hours before bed to give yourself a chance to see how it makes you feel.
Most importantly, check the laws in your state. I am blessed to live in California, where recreational cannabis is now legal — but not all states have legalized cannabis.
If you live in a state that doesn’t yet allow recreational or medical marijuana, then I recommend the 100 percent CBD products that are legal in all but 3 states. You’ll still get anti-inflammatory benefits, so it’s still worth it!
While I had my reservations about it in the beginning, the research and my own experience have made me a true believer in the healing powers of the CBD and THC combo.
Holly Fowler lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their fur child, Kona. She loves hiking, spending time at the beach, trying the latest gluten-free hot spot in town, and working out as much as her ulcerative colitis allows. When she isn’t seeking out gluten-free vegan dessert, you can find her working behind the scenes of her website and Instagram, or curled up on the couch bingeing the latest true-crime documentary on Netflix.