Cannabis and Intestinal Worms

wormsIntestinal worm infestations (fasciolopsis buski) cause considerable hurt, and damage to the health and well being of an untold number of people and animal populations especially in South-East Asian nations with poor water and hygiene infrastructures.

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Once the adult worms, also known as giant intestinal flukes, enter the digestive tract they can lay thousand of new eggs on a daily basis. The worms will attach itself to the intestinal walls and can grow to several cm in length. Many times infections are mild or without any obvious signs. However, patients may feel abdominal symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, cramps, fluid build up (ascites), and even death from the absorption of toxins secreted by the parasites.

Modern medicine uses a class of drugs called anthelmintics (to kill worms), such as oxyclozanide for animals, or thiabendazole for humans to kill the fluke. Both drugs carry the risk of potentially severe adverse effects such toxic reactions to the liver and the reproductive organs.

Historical records show that cannabis extracts have been used in the treatment of parasites including gastrointestinal parasite.

An experiment published in The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology (1995)1 and conducted by researchers using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) technologies was the first know modern laboratory study to look at the effects cannabis on worms.

Results from this laboratory experiment showed that cannabis leaf extract of 5, 10, 20 mg/ml of phosphate buffered saline caused destructive, degenerative, and necrotic alterations to the parasite. Moreover, the crude extract was found more lethal than the pharmaceutical oxyclozanide.

Jumping forward in time to 2015 we find another study examining the effects of cannabis and its relationship to intestinal worms.2 This time researchers looked to a tribe of nomadic pygmies in the Congo Basin, Africa called the Aka.

The Aka are plagued by a high prevalence of intestinal parasites. Researchers collected stool samples of hundreds of volunteers and established the presence of intestinal parasites by counting the number of eggs present in the samples. Microscopy established heavy infection rates of hookworm, roundworm, and Ascaris.

The Aka use cannabis recreationally, a widespread local practice. In addition to stool samples scientists used an immunoassay to test participants urine for THCA.

Results demonstrated that those who smoked and inhaled had significant fewer worms than those that didn’t. Furthermore, re-infection rates were slower in those participants who used cannabis compared to those who didn’t.

While this study, even though it is using measurable biomarkers, is a correlation and not necessarily a causation it suggests that using cannabis might produce an internal environment hostile to these parasites.

Namely, that the relaxing and mind altering effect of the plant shift the internal environment, the internal architecture of mind, in such a way as to support a body chemistry hostile to parasites.


1 Roy, Bishnupada, Tandon, Veena. In vitro fluckicidal effect of leaf extract Cannabis sativa Linn. on the trematode Fasciolopsis buski. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology Vol. 35, January 1997 pp.80-82.
2 Roulette CJ, Kazanji M, Breurec S, Hagen EH. Prevalence of cannabis use among Aka foragers of the Congo Basin and its possible relationship to helminthiasis. Am J Hum Biol. 2016 Jan 2;28(1):5-15.

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