Cannabis and the immune system – helpful or not?
Cannabis and the immune system can work together. So can cannabinoids like THC and CBD help us or not?
Nowadays, cannabis is considered a universal medicine. Many people are already aware of this fact, which is why there are more growers and those who want to try a cannabis medicine.
As part of the medicinal benefits, speculation has begun to surround exactly how this awesome plant affects us. And it didn’t take long for a few individuals to ask how cannabis affects our immune system.
So is there a chance that cannabis users have a boosted immune system?
Know your immune system
The immune system is one of the most sophisticated networks in the human body. It is a combination of specific cells, endogenous chemicals and organs, which in perfect harmony repels pathogens, infections and through this activity protects the human organism, which then maintains homeostasis.
IS has many parts. The most well-known ones are mainly the white blood cells, the antibody set, complement, lymphatic system, pancreas, thymus and bone marrow.
White blood cells have a unique property and that is a form of memory of enemies. Basically, it is that the white blood cell remembers what microbe, disease or virus it has fought and stores this information. If our body is attacked by a previously recognized enemy, the white blood cell can recognize it more quickly and thus neutralize it more easily. Then, when the cell is no longer able to perform this function, the IS shuts it down and eliminates it.
So far, we have limited knowledge of the effects of cannabis on the human immune system. Several studies are currently underway that focus primarily on the interactions of cannabinoids with white blood cells and the lymphatic system. Here, the research is quite promising, but little is known about the effects on the thymus and complement system.
Cannabis and the immune system + endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) forms a very elegant bond with the immune system (IS). The ECS serves as a kind of gatekeeper for the IS, ensuring that accumulated substances do not get further and trigger reactions that could result in disease. According to a 2015 study, the ECS can even directly affect the function of cells that provide immunity.
The effects of cannabis in the immune system are controlled by CB1 and CB2 receptors (the primary receptors of the ECS). The well-known cannabinoids THC and CBD play a very important role. Each of them seems to have different effects on the immune system, due to the response to their receptors.
A report from 2020 provides substantial evidence that CBD suppresses certain inflammatory reactions in the immune system and can cause immune cells to break down. This is basically not a bad thing, as cell death is part of the cell’s life cycle and thus protects the human body (mitigating inflammatory reactions).
THC operates on a similar principle, which can also alter the function of immune cells that are responsible for antimicrobial activity.
How does cannabis affect the immune system?
Scientists distinguish two types of effects of cannabis on the immune system: immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive. Immunomodulatory refers to an activity where the immune system’s responses are somehow altered (modified). When cannabis suppresses the immune system’s reactions in some way, it is immunosuppressive.
If the immune system is unregulated and needs to suppress or modify certain reactions, this is where the properties of cannabis come in handy.
A 2017 study suggests that both THC and CBD have immunomodulatory effects towards the lymphatic system, where most immune cells are found. The lymphatic system also contains more than half of the lymphocytes – white blood cells that play a vital role in finding and destroying foreign cells and substances that have entered our bodies.
The author of the study also demonstrates that consuming CBD and THC along with fats resulted in a rapid increase of cannabinoids in the lymphatic system. The concentration of CBD in lymphatic cells was 250 times greater than in plasma, while the concentration of THC in lymphatic cells was 100 times greater than in plasma.
What does this imply? Individuals with an autoimmune disease will have a greater concentration of cannabinoids in their body, which will make the inflammatory response much better mitigated.
Cannabis as an immunosuppressant
The immunosuppressive effects of cannabis may be useful for patients suffering from an autoimmune disease. For recreational users, it may be a little worse.
According to a 2003 study, healthy individuals showed some complications in immune system function after consuming cannabis.
While cannabis itself is anti-inflammatory, which is a win, it slows down white blood cell function in healthy individuals. When they are slowed down, their defenses against pathogens are limited.
It all depends on the health of the person in question. It also depends on the frequency of cannabis use and the dosage.
What about people whose immunity is critically compromised? For example, patients who regularly undergo chemotherapy. For them, we may encounter conflicting expert opinions. Some argue that the effects of THC help them with their pain, while others believe that the immune system, which is so compromised, will be further weakened by cannabis, making the human body more susceptible to the disease in question.
For HIV+ and AIDS sufferers, some believe that cannabis boosts immune function and increases CD4 cell counts. Their abundance proves the robustness of the immune system and reduces the viral load.
According to reports from NASEM (National Academies of Science, Engineering over Medicine),there is insufficient research so far to determine 100% whether cannabis has fixed effects on IS or whether these are just individual cases.
Thus, we can confirm that in some cases cannabis affects the immune system in a positive way. But to what extent? We will have to wait for some time for that answer. If you want to get to the bottom of it, you can try our cannabis seeds.
Published by Jan Veselý01/09/2021