Endocannabinoid system and cannabis hyperemesis syndrome: a narrative update

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022 Jan 1;34(1):1-8. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000001992.


Cannabis use has been increasing in the United States and throughout the world. It is derived from one of the earliest plants cultivated by humans - Cannabis sativa. Cannabis (also called marijuana) is the most commonly used psychoactive substance worldwide. The cannabis plant has more than 400 chemicals, of which more than 100 cannabinoids (such as cannabigerol, cannabidiol, and cannabinol) have been identified. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an essential role in the effects of cannabis on end organs. Although cannabis use has been reported for many decades, some of its unique adverse effects of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, termed as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), were noted recently. The legal status of cannabis in the United States has been rapidly changing from state to state. The incidence of CHS is expected to rise with rising access to cannabis in the United States. Furthermore, CHS is frequently underdiagnosed due to a lack of uniform criteria, subjective nature of symptoms, and overlap with cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS). Understanding the ECS and its role in biphasic response (proemetic and antiemetic) of CHS is critical to explain its pathophysiology. As the use of cannabis increases globally, awareness of CHS is warranted for early recognition and prompt treatment to avoid complications. We describe the putative mechanism of CHS with an overview of the clinical features in these patients. Furthermore, we highlight the differences between CHS and CVS with important differentials to consider. We provide a narrative update on the current evidence on CHS pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, and identifying research gaps.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Cannabis* / adverse effects
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse* / complications
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Syndrome
  • Vomiting / chemically induced
  • Vomiting / drug therapy


  • Analgesics
  • Endocannabinoids

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial cyclic vomiting syndrome