Does Weed Help Nausea (and What’s Better: THC or CBD)?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

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Nausea is more of a symptom than an ailment on its own. It can be caused by a wide range of conditions. Some are temporary or easily alleviated, while others are chronic and difficult to identify, let alone treat. 

Cannabis interacts with receptors throughout the body, including the digestive system, meaning it may offer relief to people suffering from chronic nausea.

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What Causes Nausea?

The most common cause of nausea is viral gastroenteritis, the common “stomach flu.” However, nausea can also be caused by bad food, drinking alcohol, multiple minor ailments, and even extreme hunger. These causes are temporary and often fade in a few days or less. 

Chronic nausea, on the other hand, can be brought on by conditions that are more often used as criteria for a physician to recommend medical cannabis. 

  • Cancer treatment
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Ulcers
  • Inflammatory bowel disease(IBS)
  • Nervous system conditions or damage
  • Hepatitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Migraine headaches

Nausea Signs & Symptoms

Nausea is generally considered a symptom rather than a condition in and of itself. It can be an indication that something else is wrong. Sometimes the cause is simple, like a stomach virus or drinking too much, and the feeling will pass in a few hours or days. Other times, nausea can be a sign of a serious medical condition that needs treatment from a physician. 

Nausea often presents as a feeling of digestive discomfort, which might include cramping or pain. It can also cause excessive salivation and lead to vomiting. 

How Cannabis Can Help Alleviate Nausea

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Nausea is a common symptom for which physicians recommend medical cannabis, and most states cite nausea as a qualifying condition. Cannabis has shown the potential to provide relief for people dealing with nausea and vomiting symptoms, particularly in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.1 

Research conducted on the underlying mechanisms that allow cannabis to alleviate nausea has shown that THC activates CB1 endocannabinoid receptors within regions of the brain and gut, mediating symptoms of nausea. CBD, on the other hand, while it also has the potential to relieve nausea at low doses, acts on the serotonin receptors within the brain.2

A study from the University of New Mexico analyzed data collected from the Releaf app to see how effective medical cannabis users found the plant at treating their nausea symptoms. Researchers also considered the methods of cannabis consumption and the types of cannabis used to treat nausea. The researchers found that more than 96% of those surveyed felt relief from cannabis.

Dried smokable cannabis flower and cannabis concentrates showed the strongest results, followed by edibles and tinctures, and finally, vapes. The research team also noticed that users consuming Sativa- and hybrid-labeled strains reported greater relief than consumers who used Indica-labeled strains. Additionally, the study found that higher THC strains seemed to bring more relief than high CBD strains.3

It should be noted that cannabis may not provide nausea relief for every consumer or be the ideal choice for all cases of nausea. Researchers caution that cannabis may not be the best option for pregnant women as the effects on development are not well understood.

In rare instances, overuse of cannabis can lead to cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), which is characterized by extreme nausea and repeated vomiting. CHS isn’t completely understood, but it is believed to be caused by an overstimulation of endocannabinoid receptors. It’s unclear why the condition develops in some individuals and not in others, but research is investigating a potential genetic link. The only known way to fully alleviate symptoms of CHS is to abstain from cannabis, even if temporarily, to restore the body's endocannabinoid system.4

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers nausea to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.
If you find that your state recognizes nausea as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to register for your state’s medical marijuana program.

How NuggMD Can Help

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NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 22 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,000,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all of their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis & Nausea

What terpenes are best for nausea?

Terpenes are common in herbal remedies for nausea. Mint and ginger appear effective and are rich in limonene and beta-caryophyllene (two of the most common terpenes found in cannabis). Research indicates that limonene and beta-caryophyllene may have anti-nausea properties.5,6, 

What strains are best for nausea?

Research suggests that strains high in terpenes, like limonene, may be more effective than others when seeking relief from nausea. Common strains that patients have reported relief from include:

Do edibles help with nausea?

Research suggests that smoking dried cannabis flower or inhaling concentrates (dabbing) are more effective and provide quicker relief, but edibles may be just as effective, depending on the individual.

Resources

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice. Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids In: The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. National Academies Press (US); 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425748/
  2. Parker LA, Rock EM, Limebeer CL. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology. 2011;163(7):1411-1422. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x
  3. Stith SS, Li X, Orozco J, et al. The Effectiveness of Common Cannabis Products for Treatment of Nausea. Journal of clinical gastroenterology. 2021;56(4):331-338. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/mcg.0000000000001534
  4. Russo EB, Spooner C, May L, Leslie R, Whiteley VL. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Survey and Genomic Investigation. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022;7(3):336-344. doi:10.1089/can.2021.0046
  5. Yavari Kia P, Safajou F, Shahnazi M, Nazemiyeh H. The effect of lemon inhalation aromatherapy on nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a double-blinded, randomized, controlled clinical trial. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2014;16(3):e14360. doi:10.5812/ircmj.14360
  6. Shim HI, Song DJ, Shin CM, et al. Korean J Gastroenterol. 2019;74(4):199-204. doi:10.4166/kjg.2019.74.4.199

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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