Medical cannabis may help your Interstitial Cystitis symptoms. Learn more about how some patients have found symptom relief for their painful bladder. During sex, the abdominal pain that Interstitial Cystitis generates may be almost unbearable – however, many patients have reported significant improvement in their IC symptoms by using CBD. Living with interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome, feels like having a UTI that never goes away. For me, cannabis helps.
Cannabis May Be a Treatment Option for Interstitial Cystitis
Even though Interstitial Cystitis (IC), a very painful bladder disease, is not specifically named on state medical marijuana card requirements, many patients are able to get relief from cannabis. Many states do list persistent muscle spasms and chronic pain as qualifying medical conditions, which are the major symptoms of interstitial cystitis. However, an individualized consultation with a qualified physician is necessary to make an appropriate determination.
According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA), IC patients have a higher chance of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), endometriosis , vulvodynia, fibromyalgia , pelvic floor dysfunction, and migraines ( 6 ), with many of these disorders also qualifying for a medical marijuana card.
Considerations for Using Cannabis for Interstitial Cystitis
Since there is not much research about the delivery methods of cannabis when it comes to IC, it is important to talk about smoking. Smoking it is typically the primary delivery method that patients with IC choose, but it is important to be cautious. Much like smoking cigarettes, smoking the plant can irritate the bladder and cause other health problems ( 4 ).
Another promising method for using marijuana for bladder and pelvic pain for women is to use it vaginally in lubricants or vaginal suppositories. A woman’s reproductive tract is lined with mucosa and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that can quickly absorb cannabis ( 7 ). However, the long-term and reproductive effects of cannabinoids are still unknown.
Both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS can be found in the cells that make up the bladder, making marijuana a good potential treatment option for bladder pain as seen in animal studies that mimic IC and bladder pain ( 9 ).
By successfully activating the CB2 receptors, researchers were able to reduce bladder inflammation , indicating that the CB2 receptor is a potential pathway for reducing bladder pain in humans ( 9 ).
In another study, researchers were able to reduce both bladder inflammation and urinary frequency in mice through the activation of the CB2 receptors ( 10 ). This supports the need for similar studies in humans.
For more information on how CB2 receptors and the ECS works, please see our page on endocannabinoids here .
Recommendations for Relieving Bladder Pain with Cannabis
According to Dr. Curtis Nickel, a urologist—who prescribes cannabis for urologic chronic pelvic pain—vaping, tinctures, and edibles are all considered preferential to his patients and are easier to measure dosages with over smoking it. He generally recommends starting “low and go slow” and that patients start with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC. He encourages patients to carefully experiment with dosing to get the desired effect ( 3 ). Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most popular cannabinoids, or chemical compounds, found in marijuana.
Dr. Nickel cites the following as average dosages to work up to depending on the individual ( 3):
- Average doses of smoking and vaporizing is 1-3 g total per day
- A 10 mg dose of either THC or CBD is reasonable. Patients can start with 10 mg and then increase by increments of 5mg.
- Patients are advised to make their own edibles to control the concentration
- Oils are the most potent form of marijuana, and it is recommended not to exceed the equivalent of 1g of decarboxylated (or activated) oil a day
Dosage is particular to individual biology and other factors. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to speak with your doctor before trying medical marijuana for IC or other conditions. The doses above do not reflect beginning doses for most patients, but serve as potential guidelines of ideal doses. It is best to start with smaller doses and work yourself up to larger doses in order to minimize psychoactive effects.
There is no cure for IC, but there are many medications, including medicinal marijuana that may help reduce IC symptoms. Many of these symptoms below show anecdotally positive results from medicinal marijuana use, but they haven’t been researched directly in relationship to IC ( 4 ). A small, informal survey done by the Interstitial Cystitis Network (ICN) shows that several IC patients reported varied relief from the following ( 4 ):
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle tension
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Urgent and frequent urination
- Improvements in sleep relief
- Calm IC flare-ups
It is very important to speak with the doctor or health care provider treating your IC or bladder pain, because of the complexity of making and managing the diagnosis, and because the huge variety of medications prescribed may cause drug interactions with cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis products purchased at a dispensary. You should never delay medical care, self-diagnose, or self-treat any condition, especially painful ones. Marijuana may also carry other side effects and unknown, long-term risks. Other relevant considerations from the ICA can be found here ( 3 ).
The Different Types of Interstitial Cystitis
A common misconception about Interstitial Cystitis is that it only affects women, and that could not be further from the truth—with 1 to 4 million men diagnosed with the disease. Many people who have IC have symptoms that began as children, but the numbers of children affected have not been studied ( 1 ).
Some people with IC have pelvic pain, bladder pressure, urinary urgency, and urinary frequency at all times, while for others, these symptoms come and go from day-to-day or month-to-month ( 6 ). Because these symptoms vary so much in everyone, a few different types of IC have been discovered, in addition to end stage IC ( 8 ):
- Non-ulcerative IC: Patients have pinpoint hemorrhages, also known as glomerations, in the bladder walls. They do not experience bleeding, but still have bladder pressure and pain.
- Ulcerative IC: Five percent of patients have this form of IC that is characterized by Hunner’s ulcers, which are distinctive, red areas of inflammation on the bladder wall that bleed.
- End stage IC: End stage IC is characterized by persistent symptoms lasting more than two years, and patients typically have hard bladders from the inflammation. Having a hard bladder means that these patients have smaller bladder capacity and extreme pain.
What Interstitial Cystitis Patients Think About Cannabis
According to Jill Osborne, the founder of the Interstitial Cystitis Network (ICA), patients using their network have achieved promising results from using cannabis to improve their pain and decrease urinary frequency. The ICA also conducted a survey about patients using it to treat their IC.
“Interstitial cystitis and pelvic pain patients have used medical marijuana for years. Several years ago, we did a study on MMJ and IC with 492 patients reporting that they have used it. 17% reported that it resolved their symptoms completely, while 64% reported that it reduced their symptoms by 50%. It improved frequency and urgency for 80% of patients. It was most effective for pain management…with 32% reporting that their pain resolved while using it. Most used it daily or weekly. 92% say that they will continue to use it,” Osborne said (4).
Note: Veriheal does not intend to give this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided on this page. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.
1. Interstitial Cystitis Association 4 to 12 Million May Have IC. (2020, April 28). Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.ichelp.org/about-ic/what-is-interstitial-cystitis/4-to-12-million-may-have-ic/ .
3. Nickel J. C. (2018). Medical marijuana for urologic chronic pelvic pain. Canadian Urological Association journal = Journal de l’Association des urologues du Canada , 12 (6 Suppl 3), S181–S183. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040614/ .
4. Osborne, Jill. (2017, January 31). Is It Time to Consider Medical Marijuana for Bladder & Pelvic Pain? Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.ic-network.com/is-it-time-to-consider-medical-marijuana-for-bladder-pelvic-pain/ .
5. Rahnama’i, M. S., Javan, A., Vyas, N., Lovasz, S., Singh, N., Cervigni, M., Pandey, S., Wyndaele, J. J., & Taneja, R. (2020). Bladder Pain Syndrome and Interstitial Cystitis Beyond Horizon: Reports from the Global Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Society (GIBS) Meeting 2019 Mumbai – India. Anesthesiology and pain medicine , 10 (3), e101848. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32944561/ .
6. Symptoms of IC – Interstitial Cystitis Association. (2020, April 28). Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.ichelp.org/about-ic/symptoms-of-ic/ .
7. Walker, O. S., Holloway, A. C., & Raha, S. (2019). The role of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive tissues. Journal of Ovarian Research, 12 (1). doi:10.1186/s13048-018-0478-9 .
Best Lube for Interstitial Cystitis
During sex, the abdominal pain that Interstitial Cystitis generates may be almost unbearable. However, many patients have reported significant improvement in their IC symptoms by using CBD. For this reason, this article will discuss the best CBD lube for Interstitial Cystitis.
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, the second most common active ingredient of cannabis after Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t cause psychoactive effects.
Marijuana is the name used for strains of cannabis that have more than 0.3% of THC. Hemp, while low in THC, is comparatively high in CBD. We can generally define hemp as being from the Cannabis sativa strain and having a THC content of less than 0.3%.
CBD does not induce the same feelings of ‘highness’ that people experience when they use marijuana. Furthermore, the World Health Organization reports that CBD doesn’t show any evidence of dependence to date. CBD may be present in vaping fluids, capsules, chocolate products, oils, and lubricants CBD lube can help reduce feelings of discomfort and improve your sexual life.
What Is The Best Lube For Interstitial Cystitis?
Sexologist and author Dr. Sadie Allison, and CBD scientist John Renko, B.S.E. created GoLove, a formulated lubricant made specifically for enhanced sexual health and wellness.
GoLove CBD Lube helps relax pelvic floor muscles and reduces any discomfort from inflammation, including discomfort caused by IC. Plus, GoLove creates a full-body calming sensation that helps relieve tension and sexual anxiety so that you can be more at peace during intimate moments.
Why is GoLove such a great lube for Interstitial Cystitis? Since it was created by doctors, GoLove has extra attention to detail when it comes to health.
- GoLove is water-based, ideal for lubrication and friendly with the lining of the vagina, and contains 200mg of organic CBD, a concentration high enough to be safe and effective. GoLove contains no THC.
- GoLove is research-based and naturally manufactured with body-safe ingredients
- GoLove is hypoallergenic, pH-balanced, and latex-safe so that anyone can use it.
- GoLove is lab-certified and dermatologist-tested. You can find the certification here .
Why Does CBD Help Interstitial Cystitis?
Endocannabinoids are molecules made by the body regardless of whether or not we use cannabis. They are essential in regulating processes like appetite and digestion, metabolism, pain, sleep, stress, reproduction, and fertility.
Some hopeful findings say that cannabinoid receptors are present in the lower urinary tract , which means the bladder walls line up with cannabinoid receptors. So, if systemic cannabinoids affect the lower urinary tract, they may become clinically useful.
THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, but CBD doesn’t. This fact leaves scientists somewhat mystified as to how exactly CBD exerts its effects. Still, it might either prevent your own body’s endocannabinoids from being broken down or improve the receptors’ ability to bind to them. It is also possible that CBD attaches to another type of receptor that is still unknown.
Is There Any Risk To Using CBD Lube?
Though CBD can have a few rare side effects like nausea, fatigue, and irritability, the biggest concern is that it is a supplement, and the FDA does not regulate it. There are a few precautions that can help make sure you’re getting a decent product. First, find out where the hemp was grown and whether it was organically grown. Hemp grown organically in the United States is best because there are stringent regulations in place to qualify as an organic product.
Next, look for a company that grows and extracts its hemp and provides test results from a state-certified testing facility either openly or upon request. Check the inactive ingredients as well.
Look for companies with contact information that is easy to find and lists where their hemp comes from and how it’s grown. Try calling and see if you get through or, at the very least, send an email and see if you can interact with a natural person. For Golove, you can get in contact here .
Is CBD Legal?
The legality factor is how much THC is in the CBD; if the product has less than 0.03 percent THC, it can legally be bought online and shipped right to your door.
Legality is a big question since CBD can come from marijuana, which isn’t legal in all states. But at the end of 2015, the FDA lowered its requirements to allow researchers to do more research on CBD. Its legality can also depend on whether the CBD comes from the hemp plant or the marijuana plant. Hemp plant derivatives are legal, but marijuana plant derivatives aren’t legal everywhere. Each of the 50 states in the United States now has unique laws regarding the legal status of CBD.
Cannabis and chronic bladder pain
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, or UTI, then you understand the pain of interstitial cystitis (IC), a bladder condition marked by urinary urgency, frequency and pelvic pain. But unlike a UTI, which can be cured with antibiotics, interstitial cystitis has no cure, and the millions of (mainly) women who suffer from it are, for the most part, left to deal with the condition on their own.
I know this because I’m one of those women, and my journey with IC, also known as painful bladder syndrome, has been a textbook case of mystery and misdiagnosis.
It started over a decade ago with a urinary tract infection that just wouldn’t go away. For nearly a year, I was in and out of walk-in-clinics and off-and-on antibiotics, but no matter how many prescriptions I downed, the pain, urgency and frequency always returned.
Mysteriously, every time my urine was tested for bacteria – the tell-tale sign of a UTI – it came back clean. Meanwhile, I was getting out of bed to pee constantly, sometimes 20 times a night.
Sometimes I go months without symptoms, and sometimes I find myself in a ‘flare’ that ends in the emergency room, with internal bleeding and swollen kidneys, but still no infection. Why?
No one’s really sure – not my family doctor, not my urologist, and not my rheumatologist, physiatrist, naturopath, physiotherapist, or the numerous other experts I’ve consulted for this, and potentially related conditions. That’s just how it is.
Interstitial cystitis is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it’s only given after other potential causes – like a UTI, bladder cancer, kidney stones, endometriosis or a sexually transmitted infection – have been ruled out. There’s only one ‘clincher’, the presence of either glomerulations (superficial hemorrhages) or of Hunner’s ulcers (distinctive patches of inflammation) on the bladder wall. I have Hunner’s ulcers, but more than 90 per cent of diagnosed IC patients don’t express either of these so-called classic IC signs.
It’s also possible that IC is not one condition, but a related set of symptoms with a variety of causes. Researchers aren’t even sure what kind of condition it is, but they have a few guesses: the top contenders are that it’s a neurological condition, an autoimmune attack or a reaction to toxic substances or bacteria that haven’t been identified yet, or aren’t picked up by current tests.
What I do know is this: I’m not uncommon. The Interstitial Cystitis Association reports that three to eight million American women and one to four million American men may have IC. They don’t provide Canadian stats, we can guess that the numbers are similar here, affecting up to six per cent of women and almost one per cent of men.
Often IC patients experience other conditions concurrently, most commonly fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and food intolerances, celiac disease, chronic fatigue, lupus, pelvic floor dysfunction, vulvodynia and endometriosis.
Without knowing the exact cause of the condition, it’s hard for doctors to know how to treat it, and every patient responds uniquely to different methods. Classic therapies include dietary modifications, pelvic floor physiotherapy, bladder retraining, antihistamines, antidepressants, antispasmodics and analgesics. Some patients may opt to receive medications directly into the bladder via catheter.
For me, the best treatments so far have been strict dietary modifications and cannabis. The last was a bit of a surprise. I’ve always liked cannabis, and although getting high on weekends was a pleasant distraction from my pain, I never saw it as a practical way to deal with a chronic condition, mainly because I didn’t want to be high every day. It wasn’t until I started taking a regular dose of non-intoxicating CBD oil, which I’d been prescribed for another condition, that I experienced a wonderful side effect – my first extended remission from IC. That prescription helped so much, I switched careers – now I spend my days exploring why cannabis so many conditions, and sharing those stories here.
There are clinical explanations for my positive experience with cannabis, and researchers are just starting to tease them out. One promising finding shows that like other organs, the bladder walls are lined with cannabinoid receptors, the “locks” that allow cannabinoids, or the “keys” to turn.
Cannabis extracts have been shown to help multiple sclerosis patients suffering from incontinence, while more recent studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system – composed of the bodily receptors that process cannabinoids – “is implicated in many gastrointestinal and urinary physiological and pathophysiological processes, including epithelial cell growth, inflammation, analgesia, and motor function.”
The same study goes on to say that modulating the endocannabinoid system might help patients with a range of gastrointestinal and bladder conditions. Its authors write that any drug that can inhibit endocannabinoid system degradation or raise the body’s levels of endocannabinoids -which CBD does – “are promising candidates for gastrointestinal and urinary diseases.”
Early research is promising, but there isn’t enough yet to form a full picture. I’d like to better understand why cannabis seems to reduce my flares, but for now, I know it’s helping, and that’s enough.
Personal anecdotes are no match for peer-reviewed studies, but the fact is there’s still a lot we don’t know about IC. In that respect, it’s not that different from the many painful conditions – largely suffered by women – we know little about, such as fibromyalgia, or endometriosis.
I look forward to increasing research that can explain why I experience pain, and why cannabis helps it. But until that day, I get a certain philosophical satisfaction from the fact that a drug we don’t know that much about seems to help so many conditions we don’t know much about either, including IC.