Science & tech

Can Cannabis Curb Parasites in Your Gut?

Published on June 16, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Cannabis has been used for various medical applications for thousands of years, from treating breast cancer to battling epilepsy, but there may be another health benefit of using cannabis, and you'll probably find it especially interesting if you've ever had the misfortune of uttering the following words:

Researchers at Washington State University have found that hunter-gatherer tribes that smoke cannabis are less likely to be infected by intestinal worms. The tribe, a pygmy group called the Aka, reside in the Congo basin and are among the world's last groups of hunter-gatherers. Of the nearly 400 adult Aka surveyed, 70% of males and 6% of females used cannabis regularly (apparently female tribe members refrain from regular cannabis use because they believe it will harm their fetuses if they're pregnant). While 95% of the group were found to be infected with hookworms and roundworms, regular cannabis users had far fewer parasites than non-users.

To quote the researchers:

"Worm burden was significantly negatively correlated with THCA, which is consistent with the chemotherapeutic hypothesis of drug use."

Also interesting is the fact that high cannabis users were less prone to reinfection after they had been treated with an anti-parasitic worm drug a year later. The tribe members don't seem to be consciously "self-medicating" in order to stave off parasites, but researchers believe that their "cravings" for cannabis could be biologically driven nonetheless. Ed Hagen, one of the study's co-authors, said, "In the same way we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites."

What does this mean for all you cannabis consumers out there? It's simple: the next time someone asks why you use cannabis, simply respond that you're biologically compelled to take preventative gut worm measures. Nobody likes gut worms.

Shop highly rated stores near you

Showing you stores near
See all stores
Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca is the Content Director at Leafly, where she oversees Leafly News production and other content projects.
View Rebecca Kelley's articles
Get good reads, local deals, and strain spotlights delivered right to your inbox.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.