Rectal Suppositories Could Be the Future of Medicinal Cannabis
Many people can’t help but laugh the first time they hear the phrase “cannabis suppository.” But don’t be mistaken: This method of accessing the active ingredients in the cannabis is no joke. And the benefits are convincing a growing number Europe’s medical patients to make the switch from more traditional methods of consumption.
Until about five years ago, the vast majority of Europeans who treated their ailments with cannabis either smoked or vaporized the plant. But thanks largely to Rick Simpson, a Canadian who treated his cancer with cannabis oil and lived in exile in Eastern Europe between 2009 and 2013, more and more people started to discover the amazing properties of extracts. There was one big problem: Consuming extracts that had a high THC percentage—up to 90 percent in some cases—was overwhelming for many patients, especially those without previous experience with cannabis.
The benefits of suppositories—combined with how easy it is to make them at home—has made them quite popular.
“Some six years ago, after meeting with Rick Simpson, I started to produce extracts and provide them to many sick people. Illegally, of course,” said a producer in the Czech Republic who asked to go by Martin T. “But lots of them could not bear the psychoactive effects of THC.”
This prompted some patients and their caregivers to look for another way of ingesting the medicine. “I tried to infuse cocoa butter—with a little bit of shea butter and coconut oil—with the extract and made rectal suppositories,” Martin said. “Patients immediately loved them, especially those with digestive and urinary issues.”
Rectal suppositories seemed promising for at least two reasons. First, they go to work quickly. Suppositories exert systemic effects when they enter the rectal mucosa, spreading healing compounds quickly through nearby organs and into the bloodstream. Second, it’s an effective way of diminishing the “head-high” psychoactive effects of THC.
The benefits of suppositories—combined with how easy it is to make them at home—has made them quite popular, especially in Central Europe.
Despite the emergence of vaginal suppositories in the U.S., the suppositories Martin makes are for rectal use only. “A vagina has a very sensitive and specific environment, requiring a special gel carrier, which is pretty hard to get,” he explained. About 90 percent of his patients are now using only suppositories, he said, and the results have been amazing.
One notable case is that of Václav Novák, 67, who suffers from prostate issues. In 2013, doctors found signs of cancer, measuring a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of more than 10. They scheduled him to begin chemotherapy three months later.
Immediately after the diagnosis, Novák began using 1-gram suppositories, each containing one-tenth of a gram of cannabis extract with more than 70 percent THC and around 5 percent CBD. “I did not feel any high, which was a big difference from oral consumption, when 0.1 gram would get me couch-locked for half a day,” he said.
“I just felt pretty relaxed and slept much better. And the best thing was, when I went to the hospital after three months, there was no need for chemotherapy or any other treatment. Much to my doctor’s surprise, my PSA was back to zero.”
Product Feature: THC Suppositories
THC Suppositories can offer a variety of unique benefits for medical cannabis patients, but are generally underused due to a lack of familiarity (and sometimes comfort) with the application method. Suppositories have been used medicinally for centuries, and herbalists and naturopaths often recommend them due to the high level of bioavailability of the active ingredients. The term “suppository” generally refers to a medicine that is inserted rectally, but may refer to vaginal medicines as well. Suppositories are usually well-tolerated with minimal side effects.
Why are THC Suppositories Effective?
Suppositories can be effective for systemic pain and inflammation relief. There are numerous cannabinoid receptors in the GI tract to which cannabinoids can bind, rapidly absorbing through the GI lining into soft tissues and the bloodstream. In general, suppositories have a faster onset, higher bioavailability, shorter peak and shorter duration than oral administration. It is estimated that suppositories result in about 80% bioavailability, compared with 35% for oral administration. This is largely due to the fact that suppositories bypass roughly two thirds of first-pass metabolism that occurs during digestion.
Benefits of THC Suppositories
Suppositories can be ideal for patients that don’t want to experience the intoxicating effects of THC. The cannabis contained within are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and distributed through the vascular system, bypassing the liver altogether. The liver converts THC to the more potent and sedative compound 11-hydroxy-THC. When cannabis is smoked or digested, the THC passes through the liver before it reaches the brain.
While THC suppositories can be therapeutic for a wide variety of different health concerns, patients report that they are particularly effective for symptoms related to Crohn’s disease, IBS, prostate cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS). Suppositories are also commonly used by patients who experience nausea as a result of chemotherapy or underlying illnesses, and are unable to consume cannabis edibles. They can be an excellent alternative to edibles as a sleep aid, as they contain no sugar and are ideally used just before bedtime.
Vaginal suppositories that contain THC are typically lower potency because of the extreme sensitivity of vaginal membranes. They are reported to reduce menstrual cramps within 20 minutes (they can be used with tampons), and may also be effective for managing the symptoms of cervical cancer, endometriosis, adenomyosis and pelvic floor dysfunctions. Vaginal suppositories should be made with the correct pH to avoid negative side effects like yeast infections. The suppositories we carry are made with either coconut oil or cocoa butter. Coconut oil is naturally slightly acidic with a pH of 5-6, and cocoa butter has a pH of 5-5.6. A healthy vaginal pH is also slightly acidic, between 3.8 and 4.5 – caution should be used for those who are highly sensitive to changes in pH.
Tips for Taking Advantage of the Benefits of Suppositories
While suppositories are simple to use, there are a few key things to know about them:
• Suppositories must be kept refrigerated or frozen until immediately before use because they soften rapidly at room temperature.
• Ensure good hygiene by washing hands before and after use.
• To get the full benefits, suppositories should remain within the body until they have fully absorbed.
• To ensure they remain within the body, suppositories should be used just before bedtime.
• When applied rectally, insert past the sphincter muscle and wait 15-20 minutes before a bowel movement to allow the CBD to take effect.
• Vaginal insertion is best done in a reclining position to allow the suppository to be easily placed high in the vagina.
The following options are available at CVD/SVW and Ceres Natural Remedies.
- 2:1 CBD to THC (Available at CVD/SVW) Made with Indica-dominant cannabis extract, 22mg CBD + 10mg THC, cocoa butter, and coconut oil.
- THC (Available at CVD/SVW) Made with 17.5mg Hybrid cannabis extract, cocoa butter, and coconut oil.
- CBD (Available at Ceres Natural Remedies – no medical card needed for purchase) 50mg and 100mg CBD options.
“Women with adenomyosis, endometriosis, and heavy, painful periods often use hormonal birth control, ibuprofen, and opioids to manage pain. The side effects from these treatments can be harmful to your system. CBD and cannabis vaginal suppositories offer a safe, holistic alternative and have given both myself and my clients immediate relief from pelvic pain and menstrual cramps.” – Sara Lopez.