Medical Marijuana and Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral infectious disease that affects the liver and associated organs and tissues. Once an individual is infected with the virus, it spreads throughout their bodily fluids and blood. Around 3.9 million people in the United States have one of the many forms of Hep C. Type 1 is the most common and all respond differently to treatments. Hep C occurs in stages. The incubation period lasts 14-80 days, followed by the acute stage lasting approximately six months. During this time, some of those infected are able to clear the virus from their body. If they cannot, the virus progresses to chronic Hep C and it can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral infection transmitted through infected bodily fluids or blood. It is often contracted through sharing needles, but can also be contracted through the birthing process, sexual contact, and blood transfusions.
It’s possible to live with the Hep C virus for months, years, or decades without displaying any symptoms. During the incubation and acute stages, it’s common to have few or no symptoms. They start appearing in the chronic phase and include easy bruising, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, diarrhea, dark-colored urine, fever, itching, and swelling of the abdominal cavity.
How Medical Marijuana Treats Hepatitis C
Medical cannabis does not treat the actual Hep C infection, but it can treat many of the symptoms – especially those caused by the medications used to treat the virus. Antiviral medications are the most commonly used drugs to treat the virus and a typical course of the medication lasts from 24 to 72 weeks. The therapy often causes flu-like symptoms as well as anemia and loss of appetite. The symptoms can lead to patients discontinuing treatment.
Medical marijuana can significantly lessen the symptoms caused by the antiviral medications and has been proven to increase adherence to the treatment protocols. High CBD strains can also lessen the stress of undergoing treatment and the uncertainty of the disease, increase appetite, and help patients sleep better.
There is also evidence that when CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors in the body it has an anti-inflammatory effect. This can help reduce the negative consequences of Hep C on the liver and could delay or prevent the onset of cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Research on CBD and Hepatitis C
There is not as much research on cannabis treatment for Hepatitis C as there is with many other conditions such as glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and HIV/AIDS. However, the body of research is growing. A 2017 study by the Maryland School of Medicine, for example, showed that CBD has many significant properties that can be effective against the Hep C virus. CBD was able to inhibit the Hep C virus from reproducing by 86.4% and reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory proteins that attacked liver cells.
Another study showed the CBD effectiveness in combating autoimmune and viral hepatitis caused by activated T cells and macrophages as well as reducing the amount of inflammation.