Cannabis and Immunity: What You Need to Know

A healthy immune system is essential for survival. Humans have been using the Cannabis sativa plant for its health-boosting properties for thousands of years. Hemp benefits were first recorded around 3000 B.C., but the use of cannabis and hemp products dates back even earlier. 

The exact effects that cannabis has on the body aren’t fully understood yet. Let’s explore how cannabis, THC, and CBD could help support health and immunity. 

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The Importance of Immunity 

Throughout our lives, we encounter billions of organisms that can cause disease. The immune system is our first line of defense against infections. It consists of a complex network of white blood cells, proteins, tissues, and organs. 

Phagocytes and lymphocytes are white blood cells that destroy other infected cells. The immune system remembers toxic bacteria, viral, or other invaders for a speedy response if the pathogen returns. 

The immune system also finds and kills cells that don’t function correctly. This process is called apoptosis, and it ensures that the faulty cells don’t replicate and form tumors.

There is a delicate balance between self-defense and self-harm. The immune system has to defend the body without an excessive inflammatory response that attacks healthy tissue. An overactive immune response can trigger autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Many factors can affect immune system function, such as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. Leading a healthy lifestylehelps optimal immune system function.

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Health and the Endocannabinoid System 

Everyone has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) whether they use cannabis or not.

Internal forces such as pain, illness, or fever can impact homeostasis or balance within the body. When this happens, the ECS jumps into action to help your body return to normal. 

The ECS plays a role in various processes, including:

  • appetite and metabolism
  • immunity
  • inflammation
  • pain
  • reproduction and fertility
  • sleep

The ECS consists of chemical messengers called endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells. When endocannabinoids bind to a CB2 receptor, they cause immunomodulation or changes to the immune system.

Cannabis, CBD and the Immune System

Plant cannabinoids like CBD and THC can interact with the ECS and balance immune responses by preventing inappropriate immune reactions.

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THC Controls Inflammation

Inflammation is an essential immune system response to injury and infection. Without inflammation, wounds wouldn’t heal, and infections could be deadly.  

However, unnecessary inflammation causes problems. It’s been linked to heart disease, stroke, and numerous other autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. 

THC binds to CB2 receptors, leading to an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant effect

CBD and Cytokines

Cytokines are signaling proteins that regulate immunity, inflammation, and WBC production. CBD affects how these proteins work.  

Chemokine is a cytokine that attracts immune cells to sites of infection. CBD suppresses its production, so the immune system is not overly stimulated.

Other ways cannabis could affect the immune response

Research in monkeys found that THC reduced the viral load of SIV, the form of HIV that monkeys can have.

A study using CBD together with various antibiotics found that it increased the anti-bacterial effects of the drugs.

Cannabis shows great potential for cancer treatment. THC and CBD combined with radiotherapy significantly reduced brain tumors in one study.

Don’t forget that anxiety, stress and lack of quality sleep affect how well your immune system functions. Numerous studies show that CBD helps reduce stress and can improve sleep, which indirectly can help boost your immune system.

The Bottom Line

There is still a great deal to learn about cannabis and the immune system.  We do know that inflammation and auto-immune responses cause many health problems. Using a high-quality CBD oil could safeguard your health by balancing immunity and preventing excessive immune reactions.

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About the Author

Dr. Carlie Bell-Biggins, ND
CEO and Founder of Monaco Natural Health Solutions LLC
[email protected]

As a medicinal cannabis and endocannabinoid system expert, Dr. Carlie is passionate about cannabis education, believing both sellers and consumers should be knowledgeable about the plant and the phytochemicals within it.  Dr. Carlie travels the country presenting on topics around the health benefits of hemp and other natural health solutions.  Her most recent speaking engagements include the Texas Hemp Convention, The Lucky Leaf Expo, and the upcoming 2020 Georgia World Cannabis Conference.  She is also a guest lecturer for the Houston Academy of Cannabis Science.  Dr. Carlie’s Monaco brand CBD line features botanical infused hemp extracts specially formulated for maximum health benefit.

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