Monday, December 4, 2017

Medical Cannabis Benefits: Treating Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that makes the liver swell and affects 2.7 million people in the United States. Studies have shown medical cannabis shows great potential as a anti-inflammatory treatment and helps patients manage symptoms associated with the virus.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease caused by the hepatitis virus that leads to inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood borne virus that is most commonly transmitted through unsafe injection practices, but can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infection individual.

HCV can cause both acute and chronic infections. The acute HCV virus is typically asymptomatic and only in rare cases is it life threatening. Fifteen to 45% of those with an acute HCV infection will clear themselves of the virus within 6 months and without any treatment. The remaining 55 to 85% of people will have their virus develop into chronic HCV infection, and 15 to 30% of those individuals will develop cirrhosis within 20 years. Chronic HCV can also develop into liver cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, because acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, few people are diagnosed during the acute phase. However, some infected individuals may experience fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray-colored feces, joint pain and jaundice. Those who continue to be asymptomatic will either unknowingly cure themselves of the virus or have it develop into chronic HCV.

Once a person is diagnosed with HCV, the treatment goal is to cure with direct antiviral agents.

Research suggests that cannabis has the potential of offering therapeutic benefits to patients with HCV and other liver diseases (Mallat, et al., 2011). Major cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),bind with or influence the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system within the body. CB2 receptor activation has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and beneficial effects on alcoholic fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, liver injury, regeneration and fibrosis. A research review determined that the cannabinoids found within cannabis look to tame aspects of chronic liver disease (Zamora-Valdes, et al., 2005).

Previous studies had actually implicated cannabis in the progression of cirrhosis, fibrosis, and other liver diseases (Fischer, et al., 2006). In addition, researchers have expressed that the potential treatment benefits of cannabis on hepatitis C outweigh the risks earlier studies had suggested (Fischer, et al., 2006).

Cannabinoids have proven effective for managing nausea and vomiting produced by therapeutic treatments (Parker, et al., 2015). In what is likely due to this symptom relief offered by cannabis, use of cannabis was found to significantly affect whether patients with hepatitis C were able to stick with their treatment prescription (Sylvestre, Clements & Malibu, 2006).

Currently, 12 states have approved medical cannabis specifically for the treatment of hepatitis C. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

A number of other states will consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of hepatitis C with recommendation by a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of cannabis has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), and Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), (other conditions subject to approval).

In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical cannabis as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.

Use of cannabis significantly affected whether HCV patients adhered to their virus treatment regimen.
Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for hepatitis C.

Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenoids Useful for Treating Hepatitis C

The following chart denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids also work synergistically with each other for possible therapeutic benefit. It may be beneficial to seek out strains that contain these cannabinoids and terpenoids.

Americans For Safe Access Condition-based Booklets
These booklets summarize the history of medical cannabis and the recent research used to treat a variety of conditions, including Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Pain, Arthritis, GastroIntestinal Disorders, Movement Disorders, HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to Aging. (About Americans For Safe Access)

A Patient's Guide to Medical Cannabis

This guide for patients who use medical marijuana (cannabis) covers everything you need to know. Created by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a non-profit advocacy organization, this publication will help individuals who are using or considering cannabis treatments to better educate themselves, their families and their physicians. ASA has been developing information resources about medical marijuana (cannabis) for patients, their families, doctors, and elected officials for over a decade.

Article: "How to Qualify for Medical Cannabis in New Mexico"


Understanding medical cannabis.Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.

Caraceni, P., Domenicali, M., and Bernardi, M. (2008, May). The endocannabinoid system and liver diseases. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20 Suppl 1, 47-52. Retrieved from

Fisher, B., Reimer, J., Firestone, M., Kalousek, K., Rehm, J., and Heathcote, J. (2006, October). Treatment for hepatitis C virus and cannabis use in illicit drug user patients: implications and questions. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 18(10), 1039-42. Retrieved from

Hepatitis C. (2015, July). World Health Organization. Retrieved from

Mallat, A., Teixeira-Clerc, F., Deveaux, V., Manin, S., and Lotersztajn, S. (2011, August). The endocannabinoid system as a key mediator during liver diseases: new insights and therapeutic openings. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1432-40. Retrieved from

Parker, L.A., Rock, E.M., and Limbeer, C.L. (2011, August). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-22. Retrieved from

Sylvestre, D.L., Clements, B.J., and Malibu, Y. (2006, October). Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for hepatitis C. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 18(10), 1057-63. Retrieved from

Viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis C Information. (2015, May 31). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Zamora-Valdes, D., Ponciano-Rodriguez, G., Chavez-Tapia, N.C., Mendez-Sanchez, N. (2005). The endocannabinoid system in chronic liver disease. Annals of Hepatology, 4(4), 248-254. Retrieved from