The therapeutic and medical benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD) are being acknowledged by health professionals and scientists across the globe. Because of this new awareness, the US legalized industrial cultivation of the hemp plant for medical and research purposes with the Farm Act of 2018. Health and wellness products made using it are popular for their analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. More research is conducted to better understand cannabidiol’s scope of biological effects on the human body. The purpose of this article is to investigate how CBD affects the immune system and its usefulness in treating autoimmune diseases.
The Reasons For CBD’s Popularity
Cannabidiol (CBD) along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two major cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis family of plants like hemp and marijuana. CBD is especially popular because of its health benefits, lack of side effects, absence of psychotropic effect, and the general safety profile that is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Cannabidiol produces its effects because of its positive influence on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Due to these reasons, it is useful for treating the symptoms of a wide variety of ailments. Besides, it is a better option than opioid painkillers as it does not pose the risk of developing an addiction.
The Immune System
The immune system protects our bodies from disease causing pathogens, harmful toxins, and other potential threats. In a nutshell, it is the biological defense mechanism that helps us to survive in the natural world. When it functions normally, it identifies and attacks pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and other parasites. Also, keep in mind that inflammatory response is a mechanism of this system when there is tissue damage or other such threats.
The immune system accomplishes its task of protecting the body with the help of lymphocytes, i.e. B cells and T cells. They fight against antigens that make you sick, and you recover from sickness, as well as remember them. When these substances enter the body subsequently, antibodies are produced that exactly target and attack them.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) And The Immune System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of chemical messengers like hormones, neurotransmitters, etc., that are spread throughout our body, and because of this, it regulates homeostasis. For example, it influences the immune system, metabolism, body temperature, mood, behavior, cardiovascular function, and so on. Its two main receptors are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, while CB2 receptors are associated with the immune system. Cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) produce their effects by interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS.
Effects Of CBD On The Immune System
Cannabidiol (CBD) produces its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects mainly by its interaction with CB2 receptors of the ECS. Research has shown that it reduces the inflammatory response of the immune system, inhibits rapid cellular growth, and promotes apoptosis or cellular death. As a result, in-vitro studies have found that these properties make CBD useful in cancer treatment. However, scientists speculate that this may also harm the immune system because it might suppress the function of the chemokines, cytokines, and T cells. This is because they play an important role in immunity.
Using CBD As An Immunosuppressant
One of the CBD benefits is its potential for treating autoimmune diseases. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the healthy cells and tissues of the body and damages them, and this is known as autoimmunity. This can affect any part of the body, including vital organs, and results in fatality if not taken care of in time. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a well-known autoimmune disease where the immune cells attack the synovium, i.e. soft tissues lining the joints. There are more than a hundred diseases that are caused due to autoimmunity, and their severity depends on various physiological factors.
The most common symptoms of autoimmune diseases are inflammation and the pain due to it. Cannabidiol (CBD) is useful for reducing their severity, as well as managing them because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Above all, CBD helps to tone down the hyperactive nature of the immune system in autoimmune diseases because of its immunosuppressant effects.
Reasons For Autoimmunity
Autoimmunity happens because the immune system mistakes the healthy tissues of the body as invaders. Here, T-cells attack the cells of our bodies as if they were foreign cells to restore homeostasis, and this phenomenon is known as “molecular mimicry”. If this happens in joints it causes rheumatoid arthritis, in the thyroid gland it causes Hashimoto’s disease; this can affect the skin, brain, and digestive system in lupus, and so on. The exact cause of this self-attack of the immune system is unknown, and it is a common consensus that genetic predisposition is a major contributor. Other potential triggers for autoimmunity includes infections, leaky gut syndrome, parasite infection, or stress-inducing traumatic experience.
More research is being conducted to better understand CBD’s potential uses for treating autoimmune diseases.