Medical Research

CBD for Pancreatitis

Written by Lydia Kariuki

The pancreas is a pear-shaped gland located behind the stomach, and it plays a crucial role in digestion. Acute pancreatitis refers to the inflammation of the pancreas that occurs acutely (in a short time). The patient will present with sharp abdominal pain. The yearly incidence of acute pancreatitis is 35 people in every 100,000. This figure has been increasing due to the increasing number of obesity and gallstone cases.

A 2013 study looked at the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in acute pancreatitis. [1] This was a mouse model study where mice with acute pancreatitis were offered CBD treatment. The results demonstrated that CBD indeed has anti-inflammatory activity against acute pancreatitis. The administration of CBD significantly improved the pathological changes in the mice associated with the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. [1]

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with diverse therapeutic potential, as has been demonstrated by research. It regulates critical physiological functions such as immunity, metabolism, emotions, insulin sensitivity, pain, mood, hormone function, and inflammation. CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory activity primarily by regulating cytokine activity, reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines. [2]

Endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are weakly expressed in the pancreas islets of Langerhans cells. However, their expression usually increases when the pancreas is inflamed. While the CB1 receptor is responsible for fibrosis in the pancreas, the CB2 receptor is responsible for the opposite effect; anti-fibrosis.

CBD may also help to relieve peripheral neuropathy that happens in acute pancreatitis. This happens due to damage to the nerves when the pancreas is inflamed. A 2020 study demonstrated the potential benefits of CBD against neuropathic pain. This study confirmed that CBD is well tolerated and showed its possible use in treating peripheral neuropathy. [3]

Lastly, CBD may manage nausea and vomiting, which occur commonly with an acute pancreatitis diagnosis. There is sufficient anecdotal evidence for the use of CBD in suppressing nausea and vomiting. One pre-clinical study conducted in 2020 also demonstrated this effect when CBD was offered subcutaneously to nauseated mice in a lab. [4]

The evidence for the benefits of CBD in acute pancreatitis is preliminary and primarily based on CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential, which has been demonstrated in numerous studies. This serves as a pointer for future research in this area.


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1- Li, K., Feng, J. Y., Li, Y. Y., Yuece, B., Lin, X. H., Yu, L. Y., Li, Y. N., Feng, Y. J., & Storr, M. (2013). Anti-inflammatory role of cannabidiol and O-1602 in cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis in mice. Pancreas, 42(1), 123–129.

2- Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349.

3- Xu, D. H., Cullen, B. D., Tang, M., & Fang, Y. (2020). The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 21(5), 390–402.

4- Rock, E. M., Sullivan, M. T., Collins, S. A., Goodman, H., Limebeer, C. L., Mechoulam, R., & Parker, L. A. (2020). Evaluation of repeated or acute treatment with cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) or CBDA methyl ester (HU-580) on nausea and/or vomiting in rats and shrews. Psychopharmacology, 237(9), 2621–2631.


About the author

Lydia Kariuki