Oral Ulcers

Can medical cannabis help patients relieve symptoms of oral ulcers? Find out below. 

What are ulcers?

Ulcers are open sores that can occur on internal and external parts of the body. They can be mild or severe. An ulcer is a type of crater-like wound and can develop outside or inside the body. Ulcers develop when tissue erodes, which has a variety of causes, but luckily there are successful treatment options. Ulcer symptoms can include pain, nausea, heartburn, or itching, depending on the affected area. Treatment may consist of acid reducers, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, lifestyle changes, and in extreme cases, surgery. 

What are oral ulcers?

Oral or Mouth ulcers are small lesions that develop in your Mouth. The sores may be painful and swollen. 

Treatment for mouth ulcers may include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • antibiotic mouthwash
  • avoiding certain foods
  • pain relievers

The causes of mouth ulcers include:

  • trauma to the Mouth
  • cuts or burns from eating
  • a food allergy
  • hormonal changes
  • an iron or vitamin B12 deficiency
  • a weakened immune system
  • Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • oral cancer

Other Types of Ulcers

There are seven primary types of ulcers: arterial, diabetic foot, esophageal, genital, Mouth, peptic, and venous. Let’s learn about their causes, symptoms, and treatments. 


The causes of arterial ulcers include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • high blood pressure
  • Minor injuries that heal slowly
  • diabetes
  • kidney failure
  • Vasculitis

Arterial ulcers develop on the lower legs, feet, or toes and are generally brown, black, yellow, or gray. These ulcers don’t bleed but are very painful.

If high blood pressure causes an arterial ulcer, you may need to make lifestyle and diet changes. Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics if the wound shows signs of an infection, such as swelling or discharge.

The leading causes of diabetic foot ulcers include:

  • inadequate foot care
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Neuropathy
  • high or low blood sugar levels

Diabetic Foot

A diabetic foot ulcer will appear as an open wound, commonly on the bottom of your foot. The injury may look like this:

  • odor filled drainage
  • tissue discoloration
  • calluses
  • swelling
  • blisters
  • continuous pain

Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to treat diabetic foot ulcers. They may also need surgery to address restricted blood flow to the area or remove any calluses and dead or infected tissue.


The most common cause of esophageal ulcers is acid reflux. This condition occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and wears away the lining of the esophagus.

The symptoms of esophageal ulcers include:

  • heartburn
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • excessive saliva

If you have an ulcer caused by GERD, your doctor will prescribe PPIs or H2 blockers that reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces.

If an infection causes your ulcer, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications.

Making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and drinking fewer acid-rich liquids, may benefit esophageal ulcers.


The leading cause of genital ulcers are sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including: 

  • herpes simplex virus
  • syphilis
  • Chlamydia

Another rare cause of genital ulcers is Behçet’s inflammatory syndrome. The symptoms of genital ulcers will vary depending on which STI caused them, but they can cause illness, fever, and itching. Doctors may prescribe antiviral medications, antibiotics, or pain relievers.


There are two main types of peptic ulcers.

  • Gastric ulcers-stomach
  • Duodenal ulcers-upper part of the small intestine

There are two leading causes of peptic ulcers.

  • Bacterial infection: Infection that can cause inflammation and damage your stomach linings.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, are typically used to treat pain. 

Some common symptoms of peptic ulcers include:

  • stomach pain
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Peptic ulcers can bleed, which can be severe. 

If an ulcer is bleeding rapidly, symptoms can include the following:

  • black, sticky stool
  • bloody stool
  • bloody vomit
  • fainting

Treatments for peptic ulcers include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): PPIs block acid production in your stomach, allowing the ulcers to heal.
  • Antibiotics: If H. pylori caused your ulcer, you need antibiotics to eliminate the infection.
  • NSAID cessation: If NSAID causes the ulcer, talk with your doctor about alternative pain medications.


Two conditions that affect your veins cause venous ulcers.

  • Chronic venous insufficiency: The leg veins are not effectively sending blood to the heart
  • Venous hypertension: There is increased pressure in the veins

Venous ulcers are irregular, shallow open wounds on the legs that form over the ankle and lower leg bones. 

Symptoms of venous ulcers include:

  • brown discharge
  • rash
  • pain
  • itchy skin
  • varicose veins
  • spider veins
  • inflammation

Treatment for venous ulcers includes:

  • Compression therapy involves using hosiery or bandages to apply gentle pressure to the leg, promoting better blood flow.
  • Wound care: Keeping the wound clean and avoiding infection is essential to promote healing

Can Medical Marijuana Help? 

The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can activate the endocannabinoid system in the human body and may help many chronic issues, including oral ulcers. Cannabis activates CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in organs, muscles, and tissues. Cannabinoids can directly influence our ability to maintain homeostasis.

A recent study followed thirty patients with Crohn’s and recorded their disease severity before and after cannabis use. Crohn’s is a known cause of oral ulcers. Researchers found that many users could decrease inflammation medications, including steroids. Approximately three-fourths of participants said they experienced reduced symptoms.

Another study discusses the cannabis plant’s potential for helping to relieve digestive inflammation by activating the endocannabinoid system, a fat-based system of self-made neurotransmitters. When CB2 receptors line the intestinal tissue, a P-glycoprotein transmitter will help decrease the body’s inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

Recent studies on the endocannabinoid system suggest that many patients with oral ulcers may have clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED). An ongoing theory is that these deficiencies could come from genetics, injuries, and diseases. 

Research on obese mice has proven a connection between the microbiome, gut, and brain. The microbiome of the small intestine, large intestine, and brain health are crucial for oral ulcer patients. The obese mice given doses of THC had improved microflora in the gut compared to mice who received the placebo, which could help with the autoimmune responses within the body. 

MMJ Patients with Oral Ulcers may see the following benefits:

  • Pain management improvement 
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Appetite Increase and regulation
  • Reduced need for regular steroid use 

Medical marijuana is commonly found to possess significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help with chronic pain management reasonably quickly. Cannabinoid receptors bind to the brain and peripheral nerve cells and help regulate how you see and feel the pain to reduce symptoms. Medical cannabis, therefore, as opposed to other drugs, appears to be an excellent alternative to treat and manage pain due to inflammation. 

Recent studies from medicine and health sciences professionals suggest that certain cannabis products may effectively treat an overactive immune system. It can connect with the cannabinoid receptors of the body to combat the proinflammatory t-cell responses needed. It has been used to treat rare skin conditions, Crohn’s disease, neuropathic pain, particularly autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, acute psychosocial stress, and many other conditions. Maintaining homeostasis in the body will make you less likely to develop future oral ulcers. We recommend discussing MMJ options for oral ulcers with your doctor if you are looking for a new treatment plan. 

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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