How do cannabinoids affect the immune system in our body ?

Let’s look at how cannabinoids affect the immune system in our body and what is the connection between them.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CBR), and cannabinoid receptor proteins found in the central nervous system (including the brain) and the peripheral nervous system. The endocannabinoid system is still the subject of preliminary research, but may be involved in the regulation of various immune system activities. The ECS plays an important role in many aspects of neuronal function.

cannabinoids affect the immune system

The ECS is a remarkably complex signalling network that has far-reaching effects in the body. In fact, numerous studies have been published examining the effects of various components of the ECS on appetite, metabolism, blood sugar regulation, obesity, pain perception, oxidative stress, thermoregulation, eye health, mood, memory and much more.

However, one particularly interesting therapeutic application of ECS is its effect on the immune system, or what some scientists call “immuno-cannabinoid” modulation. Simply put, ECS can help regulate or alter the properties, tone and overall function of the immune system.

Although the immunomodulatory effects of ECS are not yet fully understood, we do know the following. First, at optimal concentrations, certain cannabinoids can reduce inflammatory responses in patients with autoimmune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, encephalomyelitis, Parkinson’s disease). Cannabidiol is particularly effective in this regard.

Secondly, cannabinoids have been shown to play a role in modulating neurogenesis and neurodegeneration. For example, numerous studies demonstrate the beneficial effects of cannabinoids in animal models of stroke, head injury, cerebral ischaemia and beta-amyloid-induced tau protein phosphorylation (tauopathy). The immune system has been shown to play a crucial role in many of these neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.

It is important to realise that these immunomodulatory effects are the result of a coordinated cascade of responses from the so-called “innate immune system” and the “adaptive immune system”. The immune system is a vast network of different types of immune cells that express many different receptors (think of them as locks) and release and respond to many cytokines/hormones (think of them as keys that help open these locks).

Cell-mediated immunity is one of the key components of the adaptive immune system, which uses specialised T cells and natural killer (NK) cells to search for and neutralise pathogens, virus-infected cells and tumour cells that are recognised as foreign. Humoral immunity complements the cell-mediated system by using B cells and developing antibodies to neutralise antigens or pathogens that are recognised as foreign.

If there is an imbalance between cell-mediated and humoral immunity, this leads to disease and dysfunction. Multiple sclerosis is an example of an autoimmune disease in which the cell-mediated immune system is hyperactivated against its own brain and nervous system – as if it were foreign. Interestingly, the ECS and cannabinoids have been shown to play a key role in “balancing” the different arms and components of the immune system.

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Few would dispute that heavy, chronic use of unregulated marijuana can have detrimental effects on various aspects of health. However, scientists studying the effects of ECS on the immune system, neuroinflammation, inflammatory arthritis, joint health and even systemic inflammation have uncovered remarkable benefits from naturally occurring and endogenously produced cannabinoids.

cannabis leaf human body - How do cannabinoids affect the immune system in our body

Various phytocannabinoids from cannabis, even from commercial hemp, show tremendous potential to optimise and restore immune system balance. Ultimately, understanding the intricate plasticity of cannabinoid compounds, cannabinoid receptors and the enzymes that synthesise, hydrolyse and metabolise them, as well as the complex interactions with other organ systems in the body, will undoubtedly rewrite medical textbooks worldwide.

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Published by Sakul