Researchers from the University of Connecticut were recently trying to find out how to decrease inflammation in the intestines and found that when they fed lab mice capsaicin – the stuff that makes chili peppers taste hot – they would have less inflammation. It turns out that the anandamide found in capsaicin is in marijuana, affecting the same receptors in the brain, lowering immune response and limiting inflammation.

Capsaicin binds to a receptor in the brain called TRPV1. This interaction produces a chemical called anandamide (an endogenous cannabinoid) which are lipids that engage cannabinoid receptors. The chemicals found in marijuana engage the same receptors, but that the endogenous variety is produced by our own bodies.

These findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor of Immunology and Medicine at UConn School of Medicine, Pramod Srivastava, explains why the findings are important, “This allows you to imagine ways the immune system and the brain might talk to each other. They share a common language.” This is the first study that showed a link between cannabinoid receptors and immune functions, Srivastava further states, “I’m hoping to work with the public health authority in Colorado to see if there has been an effect on the severity of colitis among regular users of edible weed.”

Because marijuana is still a schedule I drug, it’s difficult to get a federal license to study marijuana; as such it’s hard to know if ingesting marijuana can create similar results as hot peppers.

If the Federal restrictions were lifted, this research could lead to new therapies for diabetes and colitis. As it stands now, Srivastava and his colleagues don’t know how or why anandamide might relay messages between the immune system and the brain. But they have found out the details of how it heals the gut (get ready for some nerd speak):

The macrophage population and activity level increases when anandamide levels increase. The effects pervade the entire upper gut, including the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. They are still working with mice to see whether it also affects disorders in the bowels, such as colitis.

Who knew a brownie may be the best thing for an upset stomach?