Can Cannabinoids Treat Kidney Diseases?
Kidney disease affects 800 million people globally and it’s one of the first causes of death. Physicians prescribe opioids to help patients manage their pain, but cannabis might become a safer alternative. Research is still ongoing, and THC and CBD may be able to help with some renal conditions.
We usually don’t think too much about our kidneys, despite the hard job they do for us, cleaning our blood by removing toxins and waste materials. Genetic issues, injuries, some medicines or other factors can lead to kidney diseases that prevent these organs from functioning correctly. Common kidney problems are chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury, but also infections, cysts, stones, and cancer. When kidneys fail completely, a dialysis or a kidney transplant are required. In the United States, kidney diseases are the ninth cause of death, which certainly puts them in the spotlight and makes the kidneys and their functioning subjects to various studies.
Research shows that cannabis might become a safer alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids prescribed to relieve pain in chronic kidney disease. A better understanding of the impact of cannabinoids on the renal system may lead to the development of new drugs that could treat the symptoms of kidney diseases with very little side effects compared to drugs available today.
KIDNEYS AND THE URINARY SYSTEM
The main components of the urinary system are kidneys, ureters, bladder, and the urethra. This system eliminates waste from the body, it contributes to regulating blood volume and blood pressure, controls electrolytes and metabolites, and regulates blood acidity. Kidneys have an intense blood circulation and inside them there are many tiny structures called nephrons, filtering our blood at the pace of half a cup every minute. Urine is formed as a result of this healthy filtration, and is passed to the bladder for a temporary storage. Only a small percentage of filtered blood becomes urine, while the purified water is returned to the blood flow, together with other useful substances. Kidneys constantly clean our blood of toxins, and they also maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals, such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Finally, they produce hormones which control blood pressure, develop red blood cells and play a role in vitamin D absorption.
Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons. The acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden loss of kidney function that is observed over a course of a few days. This disease leads to complications like acidosis, excess of potassium, uremia, and may have dangerous effects on other organs. Mortality after a severe kidney injury remains high.
In chronic kidney disease (CKD) the damage usually happens slowly, over a long period of time, without making the patient feel sick until the condition becomes serious. The most common causes include diabetes and high blood pressure, while complications include heart disease, bone disease, and anaemia. Common symptoms are: leg swelling, vomiting, loss of appetite and energy, or even mental confusion.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM AND KIDNEYS
Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are found in various tissues and organs, including the kidneys. Endocannabinoid system regulates cell signalling targets that are vital for energy homeostasis. Experimental studies suggest that cannabinoids could have both beneficial and undesirable effects on the kidneys, depending on the type of renal disease, dosage and other factors. Research hasn’t fully explained how the endocannabinoid system might be involved in the development of renal conditions, or in the healing process. However, unbalanced endocannabinoid production—overactivation on CB1 and inhibition of CB2—appears to play a role in chronic kidney disease. This kind of imbalance is similar to the one happening in obesity and type II diabetes.
VARIABLE RESEARCH RESULTS
A study published in The American Journal of Medicine collected data from 14.000 adults who took part in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers checked levels of albumin in urine, which is a marker for kidney diseases, and they found no association between past or current marijuana use and worsened kidney function or disease. That’s good news for sure, yet a research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York studying kidney disease in cannabis users found that chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients had kidney functions declining faster compared to those who did not use cannabis. However, this result could possibly be more related to the smoke inhalation than to the effects of THC or other cannabinoids.
SEARCHING FOR THERAPEUTIC ALTERNATIVES
Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease experience various symptoms, such as nausea, anorexia, chronic pain, insomnia. The adverse effects of often prescribed opioids are particularly strong in chronic kidney disease patients since they can increase the severity of those symptoms. The limited treatment options actually increase the demand for therapeutic alternatives, but many patients choose not to wait for the development of an approved cannabis therapy and start experimenting with medical cannabis for symptom management  . Nevertheless, even if medical cannabis has been used in many therapeutic applications, the evidence of its efficacy with chronic kidney disease has not been well reviewed, and not enough literature has been accumulated in order to advise properly on assumption forms and dosage.
REDUCING SYMPTOMS WITH CBD
Even if little research is available to-date, not only patients but also the scientific community started to seriously consider cannabinoids  as agents against symptoms of chronic kidney disease. The combination of therapeutic value and virtually no side effects put CBD under the nephrology research lens, particularly after CBD has been reported helpful in improving the symptoms of severe kidney condition in many self-medicating patients.
A study found that CBD reduces the toxic burden on kidneys  caused by chemotherapy. Nephrotoxicity is a common adverse effect of the potent chemotherapy agent cisplatin, thus the oxidative and nitrosative stress limits its clinical use. Treatment of mice with cannabidiol attenuated the cellular stress, the inflammation, and cell death in the kidney caused by cisplatin, greatly improving the renal function. The results of this study suggest that CBD may act against cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity. And of course that CBD deserves more research in this area.
EXPERIMENTING WITH CAUTION
Cannabis has very few side effects on our organs and there is no risk of a cannabinoid overdose damaging our kidneys, yet patients with kidney diseases should be particularly careful in starting alternative therapeutic regimes, and they should discuss all the supplements they take with an informed healthcare specialist. Improvements in kidney disease symptoms with the assumption of CBD and/or THC might be real and should be clinically considered, as long as these or other supplements don’t interact with prescribed drugs, and remembering that vaporization or edibles eliminate the harms related to smoking.
Researchers explore the role of the endocannabinoid system in kidney functioning and findings confirm positive results of cannabis in pain management.
Hemp protein is extracted from the shelled seeds (hearts) of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L., and is used in some protein supplements and protein-enriched foods. Hemp and marijuana plants are closely related; however, hemp generally refers to varieties that are grown for food and industrial uses. Hemp plants are very low in the chemicals that give marijuana its intoxicating and psychoactive properties. 1
Hemp protein usually refers to a dry hemp seed meal made by removing the outer shell of the hemp seed, expelling most of the oil through cold-pressing, and removing some of the fiber through milling and sifting. Hemp protein is usually lower in protein (35–50%) and higher in fat (about 10%, mostly essential fatty acids) and carbohydrate (20–35%, mostly fiber) than other protein supplements. 2 , 3
Hemp protein is lactose-free and safe for people with allergies or sensitivities to dairy and eggs, as well as those with allergies to peanuts, soybeans, and other legumes. Vegetarians and vegans may prefer supplements with hemp protein to supplements with protein derived from dairy (such as casein and whey proteins ), eggs, or meat. Like proteins from other seeds and nuts, hemp protein is low in the essential amino acid, lysine, and is therefore not considered a complete protein. 4
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Researchers have found that the amino acids in hydrolyzed protein supplements are highly available for muscle repair after muscle fiber damaging exercise and other causes of muscle injury. Some, but not all, studies show that protein supplements may help athletes by reducing soreness and speeding recovery after exercise, and increasing muscle mass gains. Hemp protein has lower levels than soy and egg proteins of branched-chain amino acids, which are especially important for muscle growth and repair.
In one study, mice fed hemp protein had more stamina and reduced lactic acid levels after exertion than mice fed other sources of protein. Muscle soreness and fatigue tend to increase in the conditions that produce high levels of lactic acid. The effect of hemp protein on stamina and muscle function in athletes, however, has not been studied.
Researchers have found that small amino acid chains found in hydrolyzed hemp protein can act as antioxidants, and suggested that these same amino acid fragments are likely formed during normal digestion of hemp protein. These antioxidants could protect blood vessels and cell membranes from the free radical damage linked to cardiovascular disease progression.
In animal research, hemp seed meal was found to increase antioxidant activity and reduce cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract. Whether hemp protein has antioxidant and cholesterol lowering effects in humans is not yet known.
Hemp protein is high in arginine, an amino acid that keeps blood vessels healthy and can reduce high blood pressure. There is also evidence that peptides (short chains of amino acids) produced through hemp protein digestion could contribute to lowering blood pressure. In one study, the blood pressure of hypertensive rats came down after four weeks of treatment with hydrolyzed hemp protein but not after casein protein. The same study found that hydrolyzed hemp protein prevented high blood pressure from developing in young rats bred to be hypertensive. Whether hemp protein can prevent or reduce high blood pressure in humans is not known.
In an animal study, kidney health improved in kidney-diseased rats fed hemp protein or soy protein diets, but not pea protein. In addition, the soy and hemp protein-fed rats had less heart damage due to kidney disease. It is not known whether these effects would be seen in people with kidney disease.
Researchers have found that a high-protein diet might help reduce appetite and improve blood glucose control, help people lose weight and keep it off, and help preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Although most hemp protein supplements have less protein than other protein supplements, they are higher in fiber, which has also been shown to reduce appetite, improve glucose metabolism, and contribute to weight management. Whether hemp protein has real benefits or drawbacks compared to other sources of protein for people trying to lose weight is not known.
How It Works
How to Use It
Where to Find It
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Many people experience digestive upset after taking protein supplements. Hemp protein appears to break down more easily than some other types of protein, 6 but whether this translates into fewer digestive side effects is unknown. Typical hemp protein supplements are relatively high in fiber, 7 which may add health benefits but can also cause digestive symptoms in some people.
Some people are concerned that taking hemp protein regularly could cause urine drug tests to be positive due to the presence of low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. One study showed that people given the same amount of THC as would be found in 300 grams of shelled hemp seeds per day for 10 days did not have high enough urine THC levels to cause a positive drug test result. 8 Since THC is found in the oil of the hemp seed , hemp protein supplements have even lower amounts than shelled hemp seeds and should not cause positive drug test results.
Although rare, allergies to hemp seeds have been reported. 9
- Hemp Protein for Sports & Fitness
- Hemp Protein for Weight Control
1. Lachenmeier D, Kroener L, Musshoff F, Madea B. Determination of cannabinoids in hemp food products by use of headspace solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 2004;378:183-9. Epub 2003 Nov 4.
2. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.
3. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
4. Tang C, Ten Z, Wang X, Yang X. Physicochemical and functional properties of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) protein isolate. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54:8945-50.
5. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
6. House J, Neufeld J, Leson G. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem 2010;58:11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26.
7. Callaway J. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica2004;140:65–72.
8. Leson G, Pless P, Grotenhermen F, et al. Evaluating the impact of hemp food consumption on workplace drug tests. J Anal Toxicol 2001;25:691-8.
9. Vidal C, Fuente R, Iglesias A, Saez A. Bronchial asthma due to Cannabis sativa seed. Allergy 1991;46:647-9.
How to Use It The ideal intake of hemp protein has not been determined, but a typical serving of hemp protein powder is 30 grams and provides about 15 grams of protein. Where to Find It Hulled hemp seeds are about 37% protein, which is high compared to other plant sources of protein. 5 The dry seed meal that is commonly…