Endocannabinoids and the gastrointestinal tract.J Endocrinol Invest. 2006; 29(3 Suppl):47-57.JE
In the past centuries, different preparations of marijuana have been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, such as GI pain, gastroenteritis and diarrhea. Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; the active component of marijuana), as well as endogenous and synthetic cannabinoids, exert their biological functions on the gastrointestinal tract by activating two types of cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1 receptor) and cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2 receptor). While CB1 receptors are located in the enteric nervous system and in sensory terminals of vagal and spinal neurons and regulate neurotransmitter release, CB2 receptors are mostly distributed in the immune system, with a role presently still difficult to establish. Under pathophysiological conditions, the endocannabinoid system conveys protection to the GI tract, eg from inflammation and abnormally high gastric and enteric secretion. For such protective activities, the endocannabinoid system may represent a new promising therapeutic target against different GI disorders, including frankly inflammatory bowel diseases (eg, Crohn's disease), functional bowel diseases (eg, irritable bowel syndrome), and secretion- and motility-related disorders.