Nausea is a terrible sensation, and people will avoid it at all costs. This poses a problem for the medical world, because nausea is the most common side effect of all medications.[ref]http://www.drugwatch.com/side-effects/[/ref] A patient who suffers from nausea might throw up their medicine or decide to skip a dose, both of which can compromise treatment.
The physiological intent of nausea is to induce vomiting, or emesis. This occurs when a specific neuron circuit in the brainstem detects toxic agents in the blood, and the brain initiates vomiting in an effort to rid the body of the toxin. Many pharmaceutical chemicals used in prescription medications are detected by this neuron system and are registered as toxins, and this is why these drugs can cause nausea as a side effect.[ref]http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2008/2008-08/2008-08-8642[/ref]
Pharmaceutical chemists have succeeded in synthesizing anti-emetic drugs that inhibit the body’s nausea response. However, the drugs are very limited in their effectiveness and some patients do not experience any relief at all.[ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597850/[/ref] Furthermore, over a thousand publications have failed to clearly establish the superiority of any particular anti-emetic drug.[ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3006663/[/ref]
There is need for a wider array of options. Recently, research on cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical present in the cannabis plant, has revealed that it has anti-emetic properties. Preclinical research in mice has produced significant evidence to suggest that the endocannabinoid system regulates nausea and vomiting across a range of species, humans included. [ref]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21175589[/ref]
CBD appears to halt the psychological sensation of nausea by binding to receptors that tell the brain to “turn off” the neuronal signals that cause a person to feel sick5. Release of serotonin in specific forebrain regions signals the vomiting response to commence; CBD tells brain cells to quit releasing serotonin in these regions.
Like all medications, we cannot say that CBD is going to be a cure-all that suppresses nausea for everyone; however, it has the potential to provide relief to those who are not a good genetic fit for other anti-emetics. Doctors can only help their patients with the medical tools they have at their disposal; why not add one more tool to the belt?