How Does CBD Affect the Immune System and Autoimmune Disease?
By Roland Sebestyén
While more countries around the world continue to acknowledge the potential of CBD, the full biological effects of the cannabinoid are yet to be fully understood. However, some research demonstrates that CBD has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.
But what does this mean for those that use CBD products, and who could potentially benefit from it?
CBD is one of the most common chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. It is classed as a cannabinoid, along with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabinol (CBN), and over a hundred other compounds in the plant. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemicals that have become known for their medicinal and wellness potential.
It is also clear that, in some cases, CBD might be used to treat particular diseases for which other available treatments have failed to be effective. Although we know that it produces effects in the central nervous system, in contrast to THC, which is psychoactive, CBD doesn’t create the so-called ‘high’ feeling.
Everything you should know about our immune system
In a nutshell, the immune system is the main defense our bodies have against diseases and other potentially damaging threats. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies and attacks intruders, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites – distinguishing them from our body’s healthy tissue.
Lymphocytes, or B cells and T cells, fight against antigens and they help the body to remember the once-beaten substances so that the next time the immune system can act quickly and effectively.
Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and the Immune System
Despite the existence of the Endocannabinoid System only being confirmed by researchers in the 1990s, we already know that this system can play an important role in many bodily functions, including brain functions. Endocannabinoid receptors are expressed throughout the central nervous system, as well as in the human immune system.
Interactions between endocannabinoids and receptors are thought to influence mood, emotions, appetite, pain-sensation and memory, among other important physiological and cognitive processes. Phytocannabinoids (the most well-known are CBD and THC) interact with this system in similar ways to endocannabinoids.
So, what are the effects of CBD on our immune system?
According to research by James M. Nichols and Barbara L.F. Kaplan, it would appear that “considering all the studies conducted on immune responses and inflammation, the data overwhelmingly demonstrate that CBD is immune suppressive and anti-inflammatory.”
While the definition of something being anti-inflammatory should be clear, CBD functioning as an immunosuppressant might require clarification.
As a potential immunosuppressant, CBD may reduce the immune system’s inflammatory responses, promote apoptosis (cellular death), and prevent rapid cellular growth. In certain cases, these features may have a negative effect on a healthy human’s immune system.
In addition, CBD exposure may also suppress the functions of cytokines, chemokines, and T cells – all of which play an important role in immunodefense.
Using Immunosuppressants as a Treatment
It has been suggested that CBD may have potential as an adjunct treatment for some autoimmune diseases.
An autoimmune disease is when the immune system begins to attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs. This can occur basically anywhere in the body, and it can result in particular body functions weakening and, in some cases, life-threatening conditions. The most common autoimmune diseases include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Psoriasis.
Inflammation plays an important role in autoimmune diseases. As an anti-inflammatory, CBD might help the body to tackle the disease. In addition, CBD’s immunosuppressive nature might be able to help it to deal with hyperactive immune systems that attack themselves.
Research has shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties but how can it affect the immune system and autoimmune diseases?