One of the most complicated things to understand about cannabidiol (CBD) oil is its impact on the immune system. Is it positive or negative? Will CBD oil strengthen or weaken your immune system?
There really is no simple answer to this because technically it can do both, depending on the autoimmune condition in question.
Here’s what you need to know to understand whether CBD oil could help or hurt your immune system.
To understand whether or not CBD oil can strengthen or weaken the immune system, it is important to understand the basics.
Cannabinoids like CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a significant role in regulating a wide range of bodily functions and systems, including the immune system.
The immune system, when functioning properly, is what keeps humans healthy and enables the body to fight disease and infection. In healthy immune systems, inflammation is a normal and effective response to bodily threats. In individuals with poorly functioning immune systems, an inflammatory response is triggered far too readily and strongly, which can result in persistent inflammation that often leads to chronic pain in some conditions. Current research points to chronic inflammation as being a common factor in many diseases.
CBD oil may be able to alleviate inflammation, allowing your immune system to function better for you to feel better.
Within the ECS, the cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor plays a key role in regulating inflammatory immune responses. CBD oil inhibits CB2, which helps regulate inflammation in the body. Additionally, CBD has several indirect anti-inflammatory impacts on the central nervous system, which amplify its therapeutic effects.
For example, cytokines are proteins released by immune cells when the body experiences stress or trauma. These proteins play a role in the initiation and continuation of inflammation in the body. Research has shown that cannabinoids like CBD can disrupt the release of cytokines so effectively that CBD oil may even prevent inflammation before it starts.
CBD oil can also affect the immune system by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter adenosine. Through this action, the amount of adenosine in the brain is increased, acting on the A2A adenosine receptors to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
So at this point, it may seem like all the benefits of CBD oil are the result of CBD’s ability to suppress the immune system. However, it isn’t quite that simple: there is evidence that CBD oil can, in some instances, do the opposite and strengthen the immune system to produce other benefits.
Whether CBD oil will strengthen or weaken your immune system will depend heavily on your personal health. Let’s break it down.
CBD oil may play an integral role in managing autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases include conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, HIV/AIDS, and even Parkinson’s disease. While these diseases are varied in their effects and symptoms, they all have one thing in common: a hyperactive immune system.
Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the immune system overreacting to non-threatening internal events, leading to an attack on perfectly healthy cells within the body. The inflammation that results can cause stiffness, pain, and in some cases, internal organ and tissue damage.
In MS for example, the immune system erroneously targets the central nervous system, causing the body to attack the material that coats nerve fibers, which then creates layers of scar tissue. Eventually, the scar tissue disrupts the ability of these nerves to send and receive signals, resulting in loss of motor function and ultimately paralysis. CBD oil has been shown to improve the experience of MS sufferers, reducing inflammation, stiffness, muscle spasticity, and pain.
Anecdotally, individuals with MS have been using the cannabis plant to manage symptoms. Moreover, recently, Sativex, an oral spray pharmaceutical consisting of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, has been approved in Canada, the United Kingdom, and a handful of European nations, to treat nerve pain and spasticity in MS patients.
Traditionally, medications used to treat autoimmune conditions are immunosuppressive and synthetically created; essentially they work to shut down the immune system. Unfortunately, shutting off the immune system can create additional problems because it leaves individuals more susceptible to infection and illness.
CBD oil, on the other hand, could be a great middle-of-the-road option for those with autoimmune conditions, because it suppresses very specific parts of the immune system without completely turning it off. Also, CBD is naturally occurring and similar to the endocannabinoids produced in the body, making it a gentler treatment option than certain prescription pharmaceuticals. With little to no proven side effects, CBD oil could be something to try if you’re looking to manage the symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Just remember to consult your doctor before trying it out.
In contrast to a hyperactive immune system, a weakened immune system is not able to adequately defend the body and fend off infection as it should.
As mentioned above, CBD oil has been found to work as an effective immune suppressor, which is why it’s used to treat inflammation. So how exactly can CBD oil both suppress and strengthen the immune system? While the answer to this question is still being researched, promising progress has been made.
In studies examining CBD’s effect in cancer patients, for whom the immune system is greatly weakened due to the disease as well as treatments for it, results have shown that individuals are better able to fight infection when taking CBD.
In one study, it was found that cannabinoids taken in high doses prompted the body to kill cancer cells through a process known as apoptosis. In a healthy immune system, apoptosis is naturally triggered when infectious cells are detected in the body. The study’s findings are huge considering cancer cells are defined by their ability to avoid apoptosis, which allows them to multiply and spread throughout the body. While the specifics of how cannabinoids elicit this reaction are still being researched, it’s encouraging to know CBD oil may be able to deter cancerous cells when the immune system cannot.
According to the research so far, CBD can address autoimmune disorders by calming a hyperactive immune system, and strengthening a compromised one. Ultimately, CBD oil may help your body find the balance it needs to function optimally.
What you determine to be the best CBD oil for your immune system will depend on a handful of factors like where you live, the condition you are hoping to treat, and your personal preferences.
Before you make any type of cannabis-related purchase, it’s important to know what is legal in your state. If you live in a state where medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal, you may be able to get a full-spectrum CBD oil that contains THC. THC has its own range of potential health benefits that may be able to help with specific autoimmune diseases, but can also cause mind-altering, intoxicating effects. If you live in a more cannabis-restrictive state, you may still be able to use a hemp-derived product without THC, or a CBD isolate.
How you choose to take CBD oil will depend on your preferences and needs. For an autoimmune disease that causes localized chronic pain, like arthritis, a CBD oil topical or transdermal patch will provide targeted, long-lasting relief. If you’re prone to sudden stiffness, cramping, or spasticity, vaping CBD oil will offer the quickest relief.
CBD oil capsules or tinctures/drops are the most common ways to take CBD oil. These products are easy to work into a daily routine, and allow you to feel the benefits of CBD on a consistent, daily basis.
When looking to find the best quality CBD oil, consider brands that test their products in a third-party lab and post the resulting Certificate of Analysis (COA) on their website. If a brand does not post certificates, you should reach out and ask to see them before spending any money. COAs will allow you to understand exactly what is in your CBD oil, giving you a better understanding of the product’s potency and safety.
It is also a good idea to look for an organic product. CBD oil derived from organically grown hemp plants will reduce the likelihood that harmful chemicals or pesticides will end up in the final product. If you’re living with an autoimmune disease, choosing the cleanest CBD products is a must.
And finally, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you start supplementing with CBD oil. While CBD oil has little to no known side effects, it can interact with some commonly prescribed medications. You may wish to consult a specialist cannabis doctor who has an in-depth understanding of CBD oil for medicinal use.
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