Cannabis is slowly and steadily being acknowledged for its therapeutic benefits. It offers management for a wide range of medical conditions. For instance pain, inflammation, PTSD, and anxiety. With its growing popularity for managing medical conditions, consumers are also questioning the safety of cannabis use. After all, marijuana still falls under the list of scheduled controlled substances and this means that cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.
However, the big question still remains – how does cannabis affect your immune system? If you consume cannabis regularly, you are most likely to weigh the pros and cons based on personal experience. As it turns out, besides personal experience we also have research that helps us understand the relationship between cannabis and the immune system. So, let’s dive into it and broaden our knowledge of how beneficial or bad cannabis is bad for our immune system.
Your Immune System
The immune system is one of the integral networks made up of a collection of cells and endogenous chemicals. It works in tandem with the organs to ward off bad bacteria, infections, pathogens, and viruses. All in all, the immune system protects the health and well-being of the human body.
The immune system is multifaceted and it helps maintain the homeostasis of the body while combating infections in the most effective way. The active compounds such as the white blood cells, thymus, spleen, antibodies, bone marrow, and the lymphatic system fight pathogens collectively. However, here we will largely focus on the white blood cells.
Did you know that memories are logged inside the white blood cells? Memories in the form of previously defeated microbes enable the immune system to eliminate infection easily and quickly. That’s why we always associate the removal of malfunctioned cells with the immune system.
So, what is the role of cannabis? Can it really help enhance the productivity of a weakened immune system? While there is research exploring the effects of marijuana on the white blood cells, we have few pieces of evidence showing how cannabis works in the case of the thymus, spleen, and other systems. Perhaps why so many people get a medical marijuana card online to alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of medical conditions.
The Relationship Between Cannabis, Endocannabinoid System, and the Immune System
If you ever come across a cannabis study, you will fall upon this term quite often – the endocannabinoid system (ECS). So far, the scientists have established that there is a connection between the immune and the ECS. The ECS protects the immune system at the onset of an infection or a viral disease. It acts as a gatekeeper and prevents inflammation from turning into a disease. Not only this but the ECS also relates some of the functions of the specialized immune cells.
The two main receptors namely CB1 and CB2 mediate the interaction between marijuana and the immune system. This interaction leads to distinctive reactions. The reason why both THC and CBD appear to affect the body uniquely. Besides, we have literature suggesting that cannabis interacts with the ECS and hence the immune system to affect the functions of the body.
A 2020 literature study found out that CBD is capable of suppressing an inflammatory response. The study also suggested that CBD may destroy cells that deteriorate the functioning of the immune system. Death of the immune cells means that new cells can emerge and help the immune system fight pathogens efficiently.
Like CBD, THC also provided therapeutic benefits. Studies suggest that it suppresses immune activity and decreases inflammatory responses. THC is also effective in cases where the patient’s immune system starts attacking its own organs. It alters the functions of cells responsible for any sort of antimicrobial activity. Overall, this means that both THC and CBD can help the immune system in some or the other way but let’s delve deeper and find out more.
Cannabis Impact on the Immune System
When we study about cannabis and the immune system, ideally, two things come up frequently. Immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive effect of cannabis. The effect of cannabis leads to the modification of immune response. When cannabis suppresses the immune to perform a certain action or to cause a reaction, the term we use is called immunosuppression.
In addition to this, it is vital to note that the ability of cannabis to suppress or regulate the immune system is beneficial in certain cases. For instance, the dysregulation of the immune system. In that case, cannabis can suppress the cells causing problems for a specific organ or the body. If not, cannabis might not be the best option for your immune system.
To prove the immunomodulatory effects here is a study published in 2017 that indicates both CBD and THC act as hosts for the immune cells. The study goes on to say that the lymphatic system contains lymphocytes (white blood cells). The white blood cells fight foreign substances and keep them away from entering the human organs. When an individual orally consumes THC or CBD the concentration of lymph cells increases three-fold. This means that the more the no. of lymphocytes the better it can fight for people who have autoimmune diseases.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Cannabis as an Immunosuppressant
So far, we have learned that cannabis can suppress the cells inside the immune system. However, immunosuppressive properties are good for patients with an autoimmune disease. People who consume cannabis otherwise may face problems in the near future.
According to research conducted in 2003 on healthy subjects regular cannabis, the administration led to discrepancies in the immune system. For example, regular cannabis users had less pro-inflammatory cells and more anti-inflammatory cells. While an anti-inflammatory response is good for the proper functioning of an organ, in this case, it causes the reduction of lymphocytes. Impaired white cells mean the overall ability of the immune system to fight diseases also reduces gradually.
Regular cannabis use also decreases the count of natural cell killers. In particular, cells that fight serious diseases such as tumors and microbial infections. The study also suggested that dose is an important factor here. You see, regular users are more susceptible to infections and diseases. In contrast, people who consume cannabis less frequently may have a better functioning immune system than regular users.
The Effects of Cannabis on Immunocompromised Patients
Unfortunately, cannabis decreases the ability of immune cells to fight certain infections. The only problem here is that studies suggest that cannabis might actually help patients suffering from cancer and HIV. So, how does this mechanism work in cancer patients?
After all, the suppressive response may further cause the immune system to deteriorate. According to research, patients with HIV or cancer are vulnerable to infections. Cannabis may enhance the immune system by decreasing the virus and increasing the capacity of CD4 cells. CD4 cells boost immune response and function. While existing research leans a little towards cannabis use in the case of cancer and HIV patients. We require more concrete proof in this case. We do not have sufficient research to clearly say that cannabis works efficiently alongside the immune system.
The current cannabis system allows the use of medical marijuana cards to avail of high-quality cannabis products. In fact, nowadays more and more people get a medical marijuana card online to alleviate the symptoms of certain medical conditions. The use of CBD and THC has broadened in the past few years.
What remains is the effectiveness of cannabis and its impact on the immune system. Some researchers are challenging the therapeutic potential of cannabis while others approve of cannabis use. Until we have concrete proof make sure that you consult a doctor and use cannabis under medical supervision.