For thousands of years, people have been consuming cannabis Sativa for health and nutritional purposes. From the Greeks to the Chinese, many ancient civilizations have included CBD in traditional medicines. People still consume CBD for the immune system and relief from pain. Scientists are trying to understand how CBD products interact with biological systems in the human body by studying the molecular makeup of cannabis. Though many studies have revealed a connection between CBD oil products and the immune system, the evidence is not sufficient.
A lot of studies suggest that CBD for the immune system is immunosuppressant. This is how it provides relief from chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Some studies also suggest that the best CBD products can also increase white blood cell counts. This may be very helpful in HIV and other immunodeficiency disorders. Studying the effects of cannabis on the endocannabinoid system is a little complicated. Scientists believe that CBD interacts with the immune system and other biological activities.
Our Immune System
Our immune system is a complex system of cells, tissues, and organs that provides protection against bacteria, viruses, and infectious diseases. Leukocytes or white blood cells are key players in the immune system. They are divided into the following two groups:
- Leukocytes (destroy antigens and remember the previous attackers)
- Phagocytes (absorbs and neutralizes foreign elements)
The immune system also detects malfunctioning cells and stops their growth. The growth of these cells can lead to tumors.
The Immune System and The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system consists of CB1 and CB2 receptors. This system also consists of endocannabinoids (2-AG and anandamide). The human body produces endocannabinoids on-demand to modulate cell activity. This system regulates inflammation, immune function, and many other physiological processes. Immune cells contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors. When activated, CB2 receptors create an anti-inflammatory effect.
THC, CBD, and other plant cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in different ways. So, consuming CBD for the immune system has a direct effect on the human immune system.
Cannabis and the Immune System
CBD and THC are the most studied cannabinoids. CB2 receptors have an anti-inflammatory effect. THC binds to these receptors and activates them. As a result, THC is very effective for multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, and other autoimmune diseases. CBD is also an immunosuppressant.
Cannabis and HIV
This plant has the ability to ease pain, improve appetite, and reduce anxiety. This makes medical cannabis a palliative treatment for HIV. Medical CBD products can also improve patient outcomes by actually unregulating the immune system. Recent studies have highlighted the immune-stimulating effects of cannabis.
In 2011, Louisiana State University scientists examined the effects of THC on monkeys. The animals were given THC over 28 days prior to SIV infection. THC provided protection and also reduced the viral load. In 2014, the same team gave THC to monkeys for 17 months prior to SIV infection. Here is what they found:
- Reduced viral load
- Increased T-cells
- Protection against the intestinal damage
Researchers at universities in Florida and Virginia found similar results in humans. They compared CD4 and CD8 WBC counts in 95 HIV patients. Researchers discovered that CD4 and CD8 were present in higher amounts in those who were chronic cannabis users. This shows that the plant bolstered their immune systems.
Cancer, Immune System, and Cannabis
Our immune system eliminates the cells that might become tumors. However, cancer cells trick the immune system and get it to work in their favor. The tumor reverses the signal when it interacts with immune cells. The immune system stops attacking the tumor. This supports the uncontrollable growth of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is an approved treatment for the disease. However, the treatment also destroys healthy cells. Though THC and CBD have antitumoral properties, scientists still do not have sufficient evidence to establish a strong link between cannabinoids and the immune system.
Immunotherapy for Cancer
As the interaction between the immune system and CBD for the immune system is still uncertain, the role of medical cannabis during immunotherapy is doubtful. Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses the immune system to prevent, control, and kill cancer. So far, only one study has examined the role of cannabinoids in this process. The results of the study are problematic. This study was conducted at the Rambam Medical center, Israel. One group of patients was given cannabis alongside Nivolumab, an immunotherapy cancer drug. Another group was on the drug only. The former group responded 50% less to the treatment as compared to the group on immunotherapy alone. However, subjects taking high THC content medical cannabis responded better to the treatment as compared to two patients taking low THC content medical cannabis. This did not change the overall survival rates.
There is a lack of clarity about the relationship between cannabinoids and immunotherapy. A lot of cancer patients claim that CBD for the immune system has helped in reducing pain and several other cancer-related symptoms. Scientific literature available so far also supports their claims. Still, it is recommended to consult a physician before taking CBD for the immune system for cancer.