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by Ree Stewart
Dr. Raw Organics recently posted this video on their IGTV, which got me thinking: How exactly can cannabis help your immune system in this time of uncertainty?
Our Endocannabinoid System
The effects of cannabis are regulated by our endocannabinoid system, which is believed to interact with all biological systems in our body, including the immune system. Scientists are extensively researching the interaction between CBD, THC and our immune system.
“Consistency is super important with CBD. It helps balance out your endocannabinoid system, which controls your immune system”Meghan M, see video
Studies show that the cannabinoids CBD and THC definitely interact with our immune system, but researchers are still trying to figure out how.
The two types of cannabinoid receptors found in the immune system are CB1 and CB2. CB2 activation has an anti-inflammatory effect, which makes it a therapeutic target for autoimmune disorders and neurodegenerative disease.2 This effect however is only temporary and may be overridden by the immune system in the case of infection.3
THC binds with the CB2 receptor, so it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, supporting the idea that THC can be beneficial to those with autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis. But lots of research suggests THC and CBD have an adaptive, immunomodulating effect, which means they can suppress or support immune function depending on the situation.
Cannabis & HIV
Cannabis has been widely used as a palliative treatment for HIV because of its ability to reduce anxiety, stimulate appetite, and relieve pain. Recent research suggests that THC can actually stimulate the immune system as well.
Two studies conducted by Louisiana State University scientists in 2011 and 2014 gave monkeys THC prior to SIV infection to see how this would affect the simian version of HIV. After 28 days of treatment, THC appeared to have a protective effect upon exposure to the virus, increasing T-cell count and reducing viral load.4 In the 2014 study, the monkeys were treated for seventeen months, and THC also appeared to prevent intestinal damage which is commonly caused by the virus.5
Similar results have also been reported in humans. Researchers compared the CD4 and CD8 white blood cell counts of 95 HIV patients, some of whom used cannabis.6 They found that both counts were higher in those who used cannabis, which suggests their immune systems were boosted by the use of cannabis.
What does this mean?
There is a lot more research to be done before scientists will have a clear definite answer, but it appears that the cannabinoids found in cannabis do have a positive effect on our immune system. In some cases, such as inflammation or autoimmune diseases, it helps the user by suppressing immune activity. While in other situations, it can actually boost the user’s immune response.
These are confusing and stressful times we are in, but one thing can be said for sure: cannabis won’t make the situation worse. Evidence suggests THC can boost your immune system and protect you against infection, but even if it doesn’t, it can at least relieve stress and boredom from being stuck at home.
Stay well everyone(:
- Mary Biles. “Cannabis & The Immune System: A Complex Balancing Act” Project CBD, 08 May 2019, https://www.projectcbd.org/science/cannabis-and-immune-system
- Caroline Turcotte, Marie-Renée Blanchet, Michel Laviolette, and Nicolas Flamand. The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 2016; 73(23): 4449–4470. doi: 10.1007/s00018-016- 2300-4
- Rupal Pandey, Khalida Mousawy, Mitzi Nagarkatti, and Prakash Nagarkatti. Endocannabinoids and immune regulation. Pharmacol Res. 2009 Aug; 60(2): 85–92, doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2009.03.019
- Patricia E. Molina Peter Winsauer Ping Zhang Edith Walker Leslie Birke Angela Amedee Curtis Vande Stouwe Dana Troxclair Robin McGoey Kurt Varner Lauri Byerley Lynn LaMotte. Cannabinoid Administration Attenuates the Progression of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses Vol. 27, No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1089/aid.2010.0218
- 7. Patricia E. Molina,Angela M. Amedee, Nicole J. LeCapitaine, Jovanny Zabaleta, Mahesh Mohan, Peter J. Winsauer, Curtis Vande Stouwe, Robin R. McGoey, Matthew W. Auten, Lynn LaMotte, Lawrance C. Chandra, and Leslie L. Birke. Modulation of Gut-Specific Mechanisms by Chronic Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Administration in Male Rhesus Macaques Infected with Simian Immunodeficiency Virus: A Systems Biology Analysis. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2014 Jun 1; 30(6): 567–578. doi: 10.1089/aid.2013.0182
- 8. Keen L, Abbate A, Blanden G, Priddie C, Moeller FG, Rathore M. Confirmed marijuana use and lymphocyte count in black people living with HIV. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Nov 1;180:22-25. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.07.026.