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nausea, vomiting and cannabinoids

What is nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting are not illnesses in themselves, but are symptoms of other health problems. Nausea is the unwavering feeling of being sick or feeling the need to vomit. It is not necessarily painful, but it can be incredibly uncomfortable and make everyday tasks difficult. Vomiting, or emesis, is the physical act of being sick. The contents of your stomach are voluntarily or involuntarily pulled out through your esophagus and out of your mouth. Nausea and vomiting can occur at the same time or one after another. Nausea is often thought to be the precursor to vomiting. In other words, it is a way for your body to tell you that you are going to be sick. However, this is not always the case. You can also experience one without the other.

What causes nausea?

The cause depends on the time scale and severity of the vomiting. If it only lasts a few hours or less than two days, it is normal. It may be a reaction to bad food, stress, dizziness, or something similar. These feelings should pass once the trigger is no longer present. If vomiting persists after 2 days (in adults) it may indicate something else. Cancer, concussion, meningitis, gallbladder disease, infections, appendicitis, and others may have vomiting as a symptom. At this point, you may want to talk to your doctor. Excessive vomiting has some negative side effects. If you are unable to continue eating or drinking without being sick, you can become severely dehydrated.

Nausea, however, can be caused by environmental, physical, or emotional triggers. Some causes of nausea are

  • Ear problems, infections, etc.
  • Head injury or concussion
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Migraine
  • Appendicitis
  • Poison and toxins
  • Heart attack
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications
  • Pain
  • Emotional problems

Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting

Chemotherapy, the treatment for cancer, is well known to cause severe nausea. This is known as , or CINV. It can be so bad that many patients who undergo chemotherapy experience what is known as early CINV. This is when the feeling of nausea begins before treatment has begun.

During chemotherapy, nausea is caused by the release of serotonin in the gastrointestinal tract. Antiemetics work by preventing serotonin from binding to the 5-HT receptors that stimulate the feeling of nausea. For many, conventional antiemetics are simply not strong enough to provide relief from their nausea. Not only this, but once the anticipated nausea develops, it no longer responds to pharmaceutical antiemetics. Therefore, alternative options are needed. The vomiting that occurs with chemotherapy and other drugs is well controlled with conventional antiemetics.

Would cannabinoids work?

One of the first documented uses of cannabis for nausea was in the 1970s for the CINV. Since then, research into why cannabinoids can provide relief has progressed. It appears that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in regulating the sensation of nausea.

They have found cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 in the entire gastrointestinal tract and in sites related to serotonin uptake It is understood that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may inhibit the interaction between serotonin and its receptors. A review of current evidence revealed that the introduction of cannabinoids was, in fact, effective in regulating the sensation of nausea. However, the evidence that our endogenous cannabinoids have anything to do with this was inconsistent. The treatment of nausea and vomiting with cannabinoids remains quite controversial. This may be because doctors do not have enough, or the right information. 

CBD can be used to support homeostasis and maintain a healthy immune system. It is not a cure, nor is it a medicine, but it can provide relief from many physical and emotional problems. Medical research is limited because of its cost, but what has been found so far is very promising. In addition, the anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of cannabinoids such as CBD is overwhelming. If you're thinking of trying it, it's always best to do as much research as possible, and seek your doctor's advice.


Singh, P., Yoon, S. and Kuo, B. (2016). Nausea: a review of pathophysiology and therapeutics. [online] NCBI. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].

Parker, L., Rock, E. and Limebeer, C. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids [online] NCBI. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jan. 2020].

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