Former NFL running back Ricky Williams recommends using weed to help treat your constipation. The ex-Miami Dolphin, who is also a qualified yoga instructor, has been outspoken about his cannabis use throughout his athletic career, and has become something of an expert on herbal medicine since retiring from the field in 2012.
Speaking to The New Yorker, Williams said, “We use [cannabis seeds] for constipation. In the ancient pharmacopoeia text, they mention cannabis flower, too. But then it became illegal and disappeared.”
Fascinated by Eastern medicine, Williams is currently studying Chinese medicine at the Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, California. He’s an advocate of medicinal cannabis among other herbs to improve everyday health and wellbeing, going as far as to set up his own herbal remedies store, Real Wellness.
But can cannabis really be used to treat constipation? Let’s examine the evidence.
Within the medical field, the laxative effect of cannabis has been known anecdotally since ancient Chinese and Indian times, and its use as a digestive aid stretches back millennia. It’s well-known that cannabis increases appetite and relieves nausea. But now, modern science is finally catching up and confirming definitively what has been understood for thousands of years: That for most people, yes, cannabis can help treat their constipation.
The uncomfortable, backed-up feeling is something everyone will encounter at one time or another in their lives. While plenty of over-the-counter treatments exist to tackle that familiar bowel blockage, it’s good to know that there are also natural herbal alternatives available — such as cannabis. Anecdotally, cannabis gives the most constipation relief by smoking or vaping strains high in THC.
How our favorite herb does this is another question entirely. For one, the digestive tract is filled with endocannabinoid receptors, but it’s still unknown exactly how cannabis interacts with them, or whether that’s the source of the beneficial effects at all. The gut itself is very complex and is directly connected to the brain through the gut-brain axis, meaning that the condition of your digestive system can affect your emotional health, and vice versa. It’s telling that, aside from diet and medications, the leading causes of constipation are stress, anxiety and depression — the very same ailments that cannabis has been found to be so effective at treating. It could well be that this is what’s causing the improvement in digestion, but more research is needed.
Of course, if you are suffering from chronic constipation, you should always consult your doctor, but for those occasional times a laxative is required, you might want to think about instead reaching for the weed to lighten your intestinal load. Although, it’s worth mentioning that in very rare cases, cannabis can actually produce the opposite of its expected effects, and may cause vomiting, nausea and constipation, as with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.
Not to mention, you have options when looking into cannabis for constipation. For instance, if you prefer a non-psychoactive approach, you could always do as the ancient Chinese did — and Ricky Williams suggests — and eat some cannabis seeds. About 10 to 15 grams of blitzed seeds or “hemp hearts” in a smoothie (sans bananas!) might just do the trick. Whichever route you choose, cannabis for constipation might be able to provide the all-natural relief you’ve been looking for.