Does CBD Have an Affect Your Immune System?

Understanding the science

In the medical world, the term “immune health” is incredibly broad, and it can invoke a number of different clinical interpretations. Several scientific publications have described the “immunomodulating” properties of active cannabinoids (like CBD) – but what does this mean, exactly?

We know that cannabis is frequently used as a therapy for patients that suffer from autoimmune conditions like HIV/AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis, but can it be used in healthy individuals as well to prevent diseases and boost overall immune health?

In this article, we explore some of the most relevant research publications on CBD’s far-reaching influence on the immune system. While a greater clinical foundation is needed in order to come to any definitive conclusions with regard to its specific physiological effects, it’s clear that the endocannabinoid system and the immune system are very interrelated.

CBD and the Immune System: Bridged by the Endocannabinoid System

To even scratch the surface in terms of describing CBD’s potential effects on the body’s immune system, we have to understand at least on a basic level how the endocannabinoid system works.

As you may remember, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a network of cannabinoids and receptors that works to regulate most functions in the human body. One of these functions, as researchers have described it, is its role as an “immuno-cannabinoid” modulator.

Basically what this means is that “communicative” neurotransmitters in the ECS can work as a signaling mechanism and provide instructions for the functional machinery involved in the immune response.

Among other things, these “instructions” provide information for the body’s immune system that tells it when to engage its line of defense, where to engage it, and how strongly to engage it.

Additionally, some researchers have even speculated that it may work to “notify” the body of an “incorrect” autoimmune response, wherein the defense cells attack otherwise healthy organs and tissues. (This may be why cannabinoids seem to function so well in treating autoimmune conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc).

Bear in mind, however, that as of right now all of this research is still speculative in nature – as we’ve said, much more in-depth studies need to be carried out in order to have a more thorough understanding of the exact molecular pathways that are at work.

That being said, it’s known that when taken at certain levels, cannabinoids such as CBD can reduce painful, inflammatory responses in humans – particularly among those who suffer from one of the aforementioned autoimmune conditions.

Moreover, it’s known that CBD – in conjunction with the endocannabinoid system – has the ability to promote new cell generation (neurogenesis) and also reduce autoimmune-induced cell degeneration.

What does this mean? Well, when an individual suffers a serious traumatic event (i.e. has a severe head injury, stroke, heart attack, etc), nerve cells are severely damaged as a result of the inflammation-induced immune response.

It’s believed that CBD, when administered in therapeutic doses, may be able to reverse the damage of this inflammatory response, and either protect the nerve cells from further damage, or perhaps even reverse the damage altogether via the processes of neurogenesis.

Few people know, in fact, that the U.S. government actually holds a patent on cannabinoids for this exact purpose.

CBD and the Immune System: Has the Surface Even Been Scratched?

Let’s make one thing very clear: there is much about the functioning of the immune system and the body’s immune response that is unknown. And there is even less known about the body’s endocannabinoid system.

As such, no one – not even the world’s leading medical cannabis experts – can yet outwardly claim that CBD has “such-and-such” effect on the immune system. While it’s clear (according to several studies) that cannabinoids have some sort of influence on the overall immune response, it’s unclear as to how we might manipulate it or administer treatments in order to achieve the most beneficial results possible.

One thing that is certainly worth researching more, however, is CBD’s potential ability to “balance” the two major arms of the immune system.

Generally speaking, there are two different ways in which the body’s adaptive immune cells can seek out and “eliminate” dangerous pathogens (foreign agents that can result in disease, infection, cancerous tumors, etc):

  1. Cell-mediated immunity. This involves the use of T-cells which seek out and destroy foreign antigens on their own by inducing apoptosis, or “programmed cell suicide,” in the foreign antigen.
  2. Humoral immunity. This occurs when the body’s B-cells produce specific antibodies to seek out and destroy the dangerous pathogens.

It is imperative that these two adaptive immune responses complement each other and work in relative balance and coordination. If they don’t (i.e. if one becomes dominant over the other), serious autoimmune diseases can occur in which T-cells will begin to attack and destroy healthy cells and tissues.

It’s believed (according to several studies – see below for references), that one of the major roles of the endocannabinoid system is regulating and maintaining proper communication between the humoral response and the cell-mediated response.

In this way, it may be speculated that consistent administration of active cannabinoids such as CBD (which indirectly stimulates the ECS), would result in the improved health, responsivity, and overall balance of the body’s immune system.

Again, this will remain speculation until more thorough research can conducted, but as for now, it appears that CBD and the endocannabinoid system are both very much involved in the maintenance of a healthy, properly-functioning immune response.

Final Thoughts on CBD and the Immune System

If you have been considering taking CBD for immune system health or an autoimmune condition that you already have, be advised that there are dozens of high-quality CBD oils and tinctures available for sale online that can legally ship to all 50 U.S. states as a result of their manufacturing guidelines under the 2014 Farm Bill.

Whenever possible, however, try and make it a point to speak with a physician or other clinical professional regarding the use of CBD oil for immune health. We have recently published an article relating to specific CBD dosing guidelines, but we reiterate the fact that we are not health professionals, and thus none of the information on this site should be interpreted as clinical advice.

Moreover, since CBD is not as of yet recognized by the FDA as a medicine, many of the above-mentioned companies are legally obliged to market their CBD tinctures as “nutritional supplements” rather than actual medicinal drugs.

And finally, make sure to always do thorough research on your own and use CBD under your own judgment – we make no outward claims or guarantees that it will be effective or therapeutic for you and your condition, regardless of data that’s available in scientific studies.

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