Cannabinoids and fish oil are lauded for their anti-inflammatory effects. Now, researchers are exploring the therapeutic potential of combining these compounds.
One reason why cannabis is enjoying a cultural renaissance is because of its vaunted health benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD) in particular has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore may help patients with various conditions. Exactly how cannabinoids affect the body isn’t entirely clear but it is known that they affect the body’s endocannabinoid system.
This popular oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which the body converts into endocannabinoids. Research indicates that consuming omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can provide multiple health benefits.
What the Science Says
“Some cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in [cannabis]…elicit anti-inflammatory and anti-pain action,” explains University of Illinois professor of comparative biosciences and biochemistry Aditi Das, PhD.
Dr. Das led a 2017 study that examined the effect of cannabinoids and omega-3s on the immune system. The research team identified an enzymatic pathway that converts endocannabinoids into inflammatory molecules via their derivation from omega-3s.
“This finding demonstrates how omega-3 fatty acids can produce some of the same medicinal qualities as [cannabis] but without a psychotropic effect,” noted Dr. Das.
A study published at the beginning of 2021 evaluated the effects of CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), and fish oil for a gastrointestinal condition called colitis in a pre-clinical model. CBG was found to be more effective at reducing inflammation compared to CBD, which had no effect on its own. In addition, fish oil boosted the effects of CBG and potentiated the ability of CBD to exert anti-inflammatory effects as well. Therefore, it appears that a combination dose of all compounds is most effective at reducing gastrointestinal inflamation.
The researchers concluded that “our preclinical data support a novel strategy of combining these substances for the potential development of a treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.”
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- McDougle DR, et al. Anti-inflammatory ω-3 endocannabinoid epoxides. PNAS. 2017;114 (30):E6034-E6043.
- Pagano E, et al. Efficacy of combined therapy with fish oil and phytocannabinoids in murine intestinal inflammation. Phytotherapy Research: PTR. 2021;35(1):517-529.