Cannabis and chili peppers have common effects
An experiment with how chili peppers affect the stomach led to a revelation about how body’s natural endocannabinoid system — the one activated by marijuana — is crucial to communication between your brain and immune system. It turns out, cannabis and chili peppers have a lot more in common than you’d expect.
The preliminary animal research could open new avenues of study for using cannabis to treat inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and type II diabetes in humans.
The study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March, 2017, showed that capsaicin — the chemical in jalapenos and other chili peppers that make them spicy — reduces inflammation in the gut by stimulating the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a component of the nervous and endocrine systems that regulates the flow of all sorts of neurotransmitters, affecting mood, cognition, appetite, behavior, pain perception and all sorts of other functions.
It’s also the system stimulated by the cannabinoids in marijuana.
Cannabis can be used to treat autoimmune diseases in the gut
In mice, researchers at the University of Connecticut were able to cure or reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and other gut disorders linked to the immune system by feeding the animals capsaicin. The spicy chemical bound with a particular receptor in gut cell membranes, causing anandamide (AEA) production.
AEA is one of the crucial endocannabinoids your body produces naturally that’s similar in structure and composition to the THC and cannabidiol in marijuana.
It was the anandamide that calmed down the mice’s gut problems by suppressing their immune response.
“Here, we show that AEA plays a pivotal role in maintaining immunological health in the gut.” researchers state in the study abstract. “The immune system in the gut actively tolerates the foreign antigens present in the gut through mechanisms that are only partially understood. We show that AEA contributes to this critical process”
Because marijuana simulates naturally occurring endocannabinoids like anandamide, researchers are starting to explore whether cannabis can be used to treat the autoimmune disease of the stomach, intestines, pancreas or colon.
Next step? One of the study authors told MedicalXpress he was working with public health officials in Colorado, where marijuana is legal recreationally, to look at statistics for autoimmune disorders of the gut to see if there has been a decline since prohibition ended.
Summary (tl;dr): Both cannabis and chili peppers (mainly their active ingredient: capsaicin) trigger Anandamide production. Anandamide affects the endocannabinoid system and suppresses the immune response, which “cool down” gut problems like irritable bowel syndrome.
Cannabis and Chili Peppers References
“Active ingredients in both hot peppers and cannabis calm the gut’s immune system”
April 24, 2017
“Endocannabinoid system acts as a regulator of immune homeostasis in the gut”
Nandini Acharyaa, et al
University of Connecticut
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.
March 27, 2017