What Are Cannabis Suppositories? Benefits, Effects, and More

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Feb 22, 2024
Last updated:
Apr 11, 2024

You might not have heard of medical cannabis suppositories. But they do exist, and they offer a valuable alternative for patients who can’t consume medicine orally, as well as potentially providing stronger relief for certain gastrointestinal conditions. 

If you experience difficulty swallowing, or have any kind of disability or condition that makes oral consumption difficult, you might consider speaking with your doctor about medical cannabis suppositories. But first, it’s important to understand exactly how suppositories work, who might benefit from them and how to access them. 

What Are Cannabis Suppositories?

Cannabis suppositories are small cone-shaped capsules that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) or a combination of both dissolved in fat like coconut oil, avocado oil or cocoa butter. Since cannabinoids are fat-soluble molecules, the addition of an oil or butter aids in absorption.

THC or CBD suppositories are designed to be inserted into the vagina or rectum, where the medication is quickly absorbed into the body. Some products are only designed to be inserted vaginally, others are only intended for rectal use and some can be used either way.

There are several circumstances for which suppositories may be appropriate. Doctors might prescribe cannabis suppositories to:

Suppositories may also be prescribed for the following conditions: 

How Do Cannabis Suppositories Work?

Once the cannabis suppository is inserted into the vagina or rectum, the body's warmth helps to dissolve the medication. Blood vessels located in the mucous membranes of the rectum & vagina can then absorb the cannabinoids, which then make their way into the bloodstream. This distributes the effects throughout the body and may also lead to fast-acting, localised pain relief

THC suppositories may also cause less intoxication compared to other consumption methods such as vaping or ingestion. Rectal or vaginal administration typically results in a longer, slower release time, making the onset of effects smoother. This is especially beneficial for patients in palliative care or with chronic conditions who require high doses but desire a gentler experience. 

What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Suppositories?

While the literature around cannabis suppositories is not as rich as that of oral delivery methods like cannabis capsules, existing studies suggest some potential benefits.

A study from 2018 used a model to test the differences between THC delivered orally, and a prodrug called tetrahydrocannabinol hemisuccinate (THC-HS) delivered rectally. Essentially THC-HS is an inactive medication that is activated into THC once ingested.

The study's authors concluded that delivery of THC through suppository ‘could have several practical advantages,’ especially for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and patients with difficulty swallowing. In addition, they noted benefits from longer and higher exposure compared with the oral version and theorised a reduction in psychoactive effects.

Suppositories may also be a good option if you have gastrointestinal issues. This is because the cannabinoids in a suppository don’t need to pass through the gastrointestinal tract like they would if delivered via an edible form such as a capsule. 

Speaking With Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis Suppositories

Bear in mind that to be eligible for a medical cannabis prescription, you’ll need to have tried some conventional treatments first and found them to be ineffective or that they caused unmanageable side effects. 

If you think medical cannabis suppositories might benefit you, book an appointment with a doctor at a cannabis clinic or your local GP. While they aren’t a common method of delivery and will likely need to be compounded,  suppositories have shown great promise for some patients, getting the relief they need when oral consumption methods prove challenging.

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