Cannabis has a known effect on the functioning of the immune system, which raises questions about its ability to be used as a therapy for autoimmune disorders and other conditions that affect immune functions. This is believed to be a result of cannabinoids and how they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Learn more about the current research on cannabinoids and the immune system, as well as the potential applications for cannabis to regulate and influence the immune system to treat different health conditions.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. These chemicals have an effect on the central nervous system and immune system, leading to altered moods and pain relief, among other changes.
The human brain and nerve cells have naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors, or molecules that attract cannabinoids. When a cannabinoid comes in contact with a receptor, it causes a reaction within the cell. Cannabinoids may be found in areas of the brain that control pain perception, rewards, psychomotor skills, memory, and more.
The existence of these receptors suggests that cannabinoids play a natural role in the immune system, which is supported by the existence of the endocannabinoid system, which has naturally occurring chemicals that stimulate cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabinoids and the Immune System
Though the exact mechanism of how cannabinoids act on the immune system remains to be seen, it is accepted that they do influence the function of the immune system. Preliminary studies have shown that cannabinoids can suppress immune function by decreasing inflammation. In some cases, inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to a threat, such as injury or infection, but in other cases, suppressing the immune response can improve the symptoms of debilitating autoimmune disorders.
Cannabinoids and Autoimmune Conditions
Certain autoimmune disorders are the result of an overactive immune system, which results in chronic inflammation and chronic health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. With these conditions, the ability of cannabinoids to modulate the immune system could help to reduce the inflammation and alleviate the symptoms.
Cannabinoids and Weakened Immune Systems
Some health conditions result in a weakened or declined immune system, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS. Though weakening the immune system further with the use of cannabinoids may seem counterintuitive, research suggests that cannabinoids can actually improve the immune response in individuals with compromised immune systems.
The immune system can trigger the cellular death of diseased cells, known as apoptosis. With cancer, this cellular death response is ignored, allowing these cells to replicate out of control. Research suggests that cannabis may be able to trigger this response in cancer cells, making it a potential early treatment option for cancer patients.
In patients with HIV/AIDS, the immune system has been compromised by the disease, so the body can no longer fight off infection. Several studies have suggested that cannabis can lower the viral load and raise the T-cell count in HIV patients, allowing them to fight off infection and avoid serious complications.
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Though more research is needed to determine the relationship of cannabinoids to the immune system, it is understood that cannabis has the ability to modulate the immune system and may be beneficial for treating immune disorders.
If you’re interested in learning more about medical uses for cannabis, Euphoria Wellness can help. Just stop by with your Maryland medical cannabis card to speak with one of our friendly staff members or browse our menu!