Although many are embarrassed to talk about them, anyone can develop hemorrhoids, which are swollen and clotted blood vessels in and around the anus. Technically, these are called external hemorrhoids (even though they can be a bit “internal”). True internal hemorrhoids are another beast entirely and not part of our discussion here.
In most cases, these hemorrhoids are caused by straining during bowel movements. However, there are many factors that may lead one to develop hemorrhoids. For instance, those who are obese, pregnant, or tend to sit for extended periods of time are at an increased risk of developing hemorrhoids. Additionally, individuals who eat diets low in fiber, as well as those who suffer from certain gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, are also at a higher risk of developing hemorrhoids than the general population.
Recently, many people have been wondering if cannabis can help treat hemorrhoids. Ultimately, the answer is no: hemorrhoids are often easily treated with creams or suppositories containing hydrocortisone. Additional pain relief should be done with good old acetaminophen (Tylenol), assuming there’s no reason not to, which won’t increase your risk of bleeding like NSAIDs (Advil/ibuprofen/Motrin). Many people have reported that soaking in a warm bath can also significantly help relieve pain caused by hemorrhoids.
Most cases of hemorrhoids are painful but not really harmful. Prescription creams or suppositories are the treatment of choice. Office-based clot removal was often done to decrease pain, but is no longer as the outcomes were poor. Very few cases of hemorrhoids warrant surgery, but if your hemorrhoids are severe and other treatments have been unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend a hemorrhoidectomy, also known as a hemorrhoid removal.
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Again, cannabis-based medicines are generally not recommended for the primary management of hemorrhoids and similar conditions, but if used appropriately, marijuana can be used to help manage symptoms of pain and discomfort caused by hemorrhoids. Keep reading to find out why traditional medications should always be used for the treatment of hemorrhoids and why you should not apply a topical cannabis-based cream or oil to your hemorrhoids.
Avoid Using Cannabis-Infused Topicals When Treating Hemorrhoids
I do not advise treating hemorrhoids and similar conditions with cannabis salves, ointments, or any form of cannabis-infused skincare product. Topical creams and oils containing cannabinoids like delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have not been studied for hemorrhoids. Studies on topicals for other conditions suggest zero or limited benefit. Worse, cannabis topicals could contain other ingredients that could make raw or open tissue worse.
Additionally, these “cannabis-based skincare products” are usually sold at a premium and yet rarely contain the amount of cannabis-based medicine advertised on the label, if any at all. Consumers are therefore warned to steer clear of skincare products purporting to contain THC, CBD, or any other derivative of marijuana for hemorrhoids.
Cannabis for Pain Control
Those who are experiencing symptoms of pain and discomfort from hemorrhoids or another acute condition may find relief from vaporizing flower (not oil) or ingesting cannabis in which THC predominates. In general, strains rich in CBD, or cannabidiol, are not recommended for the treatment of pain. Although CBD is becoming increasingly popular on television and social media, there is little evidence to suggest that it is an effective pain reliever. On the other hand, THC is remarkably effective for reducing pain. It should also be noted that when taken in large doses, CBD can cause gastrointestinal distress which can worsen hemorrhoids.
If you are interested in learning more about using cannabis to help manage pain caused by hemorrhoids or a related condition, consider speaking to a physician who has experience helping patients with medical marijuana. A medical cannabis specialist will be able to best help you determine if medical marijuana may be right for you.
Jordan Tishler, M.D. is a physician, cannabis specialist, and faculty at Harvard Medical School. He is also the president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, and CEO of InhaleMD — a private institute of cannabis medicine. He has spent years assisting patients with cannabis. For more information, or to set up a consultation with the team at InhaleMD, call (617) 861-8519.