CBD oilsShare on Pinterest
Caitlin Riley / Stocksy

Research suggests that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects about 12% of people in the United States. The digestive symptoms can vary from person to person, but they can be seriously uncomfortable regardless of the individual.

There are a number of home remedies and medications that can help manage IBS symptoms like cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. Some research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may also help.

CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its close cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t produce a “high” feeling. It also has fewer potential unpleasant side effects than THC.

Keep reading to learn about the basics of CBD and how it may help treat the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS.

While an IBS-friendly diet and stress relief can help reduce IBS symptoms, some people may want to try additional treatments — especially during flare-ups.

Doctors sometimes prescribe medications for IBS, but some of these only target specific symptoms and may have undesirable side effects. If you’re looking for something natural that might help with IBS, you may wonder about CBD.

Because there are cannabinoid receptors all over our body, including our stomachs, it’s possible that ingesting cannabis-derived products, like CBD, may help with digestive symptoms.

Studies have also shown that cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory qualities, something that might make them good at treating gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. However, studies from 2011 and 2012 on cannabinoids and IBS have specifically looked at the effect of dronabinol, a synthetic cannabis product that mainly contains THC.

One review from 2020 suggests that CBD may also have potential therapeutic benefits for conditions like IBS. However, more research is needed to confirm the link. Right now, there’s just not enough evidence to firmly declare that CBD can help with IBS.

There are three different types of CBD:

There’s no specific research about which type of CBD is best for IBS. That said, research suggests that taking THC and CBD together might be more effective than taking either alone — this is called the entourage effect.

Because of this, full-spectrum CBD products might be better at easing symptoms than broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate.

As for product type, topicals won’t be particularly helpful for IBS symptoms. Ingesting edibles like gummies and oils might be a better bet.

THC in CBD products

Even though broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate have had the THC removed, there’s a chance that any CBD product you take may have trace amounts of THC.

If you want to avoid THC altogether, or if you get drug tested, it may be best to avoid using CBD products.

Was this helpful?

When shopping for CBD, whether for IBS or another concern, consider the following:

CBD source

Buy from a company that’s open and honest about where they source their hemp.

Third-party testing

A quality product should come with an up-to-date, detailed certificate of analysis (COA) from a reputable third-party lab.

A COA lets you know whether the product’s potency actually matches what’s on the label. It’s also best to look for a COA that contains information about contaminant testing. That way, you can be sure the product has been tested for potentially harmful substances like heavy metals and mold.

Wild claims

Avoid companies that promise you the moon. It’s NOT OK for companies to make claims that their CBD products cure ailments — not only because there isn’t enough research to support this, but it’s also against Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules.

In fact, the FDA sends warning letters to companies that make false health claims. Checking the warning letter database can be a good way to steer clear of brands that have a poor reputation.

CBD type

Full-spectrum products are thought to be more effective than other types, but they do contain small amounts of THC (no more than 0.3%).

If you prefer to avoid THC, opt for a product made with CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD. But keep in mind that any CBD product may contain trace amounts of THC.


Dosing varies a lot across CBD products, so always check the label to learn more about the potency. A higher potency might be the reason for a higher price tag — but not always.

CBD dosing differs for everyone. Don’t assume that what worked for a friend will solve your symptoms. You may need a higher or lower dose.

If you’re just starting out, err on the side of caution and start with the smallest dose. Keep in mind that when ingesting CBD edibles, the effects may take a few hours to kick in. Only take more when a full 2 hours have gone by.

If you need more help with figuring out how to dose CBD, check out our CBD dosing guide.

CBD won’t get you “high” and is generally considered pretty safe. Still, there’s a possibility that you’ll experience side effects, such as:

  • fatigue
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • diarrhea

Since CBD can cause diarrhea in some people, it may make IBS symptoms worse for some.

The risk or severity of side effects may increase if you take CBD with a high fat meal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that CBD may interact with some medications. Be sure to talk with your doctor before trying CBD. This can help you avoid unpleasant side effects or drug interactions.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, don’t take CBD.

Is CBD good for IBS?

It’s possible that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may help curb IBS symptoms, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll work for you. Right now, the research on whether CBD can help relieve IBS symptoms is limited.

Can CBD make IBS worse?

It’s often thought that consuming CBD may increase diarrhea. However, current studies suggest that taking CBD may decrease gut motility, or movement in the digestive system, in people with IBS.

There’s growing research that suggests taking CBD may have health benefits, including anxiety and pain relief. However, the jury is still out on whether CBD can help with IBS symptoms.

Until we know for sure whether CBD helps with IBS, there’s likely not much harm in trying it out. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before giving it a whirl. Some people may experience IBS-like symptoms, such as diarrhea, when taking CBD.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.