Many cannabinoids found inside cannabis possess immunosuppressive properties. The body’s immune cells express both CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning our immune system is designed to accept cannabinoids for help. This is clearly evidenced in the fact breast milk contains endo-cannabinoids made by the mother to support healthy growth, development, and neuroprotection. The exact number of these receptors varies in each type of immune cell, and depends on the level of immune stimulation and the activation state of that cell type. The CB2 cannabinoid receptor is responsible for regulating key aspects of the immune response system throughout the body by controlling the release of inflammatory cytokines. 
Autoimmune disorders are essentially chronic health conditions eliciting effects where the immune system incorrectly targets healthy tissues. Think of your immune system like the national guard, with its job being to protect the organism (you) from invaders. Unfortunately, in autoimmunity, the national guard mistakenly believes parts of you are a threat, and attacks. This is essentially the basis of autoimmune diseases. The real question then becomes, how do you locate the source of alarm (the trigger) that is causing the attack (autoimmunity), so we can redirect the immune system back to attacking invaders and not the body?
Introducing the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is a complex molecular system of physiology that is completely responsible for the maintenance and order of every other major bodily system, from the reproductive, to the lymphatic and circulatory. If the ECS becomes dysfunctional and falls into a state of imbalance, other bodily systems follow; this includes the immune system.
As such, the endocannabinoid system plays the main role in many autoimmune disorders, however, utilising plant-based cannabinoids to treat and reverse these conditions is not well understood by science. In part, due to the fact that the ECS was only recently discovered in the mid-1990s, so science is only just beginning to scrape the surface of this all-important system, with the medical profession only starting to teach about this system’s existence (and importance) in the past half-decade or less. For more information, read The Endocannabinoid System Explained.
Both naturally derived and synthetic cannabinoids have proven immuno-suppressive and anti-inflammatory properties that are vital in the treatment of autoimmune disorders and the accompanying common symptoms, including endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, type I diabetes, septic shock, fibromyalgia,  and much more, as the research continues to unravel the mysteries of the great cannabis plant and its cannabinoid compounds. It’s important to understand, that thus far, science has demonstrated that cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN, THCA, THCV, and more, all help to support and nourish the endocannabinoid system back to normal healthy functioning, so it can go to work on doing its job in restoring balance and order to bodily systems that are under attack and/or dysfunctional.
The world renowned author and speaker on chronic diseases and autoimmunity, Dr Gabor Mate', has pieced together how science has now linked why emotional stress is a major cause of physical illness. From cancer to autoimmune conditions and many other chronic diseases. The brain and body systems that process emotions are intimately connected with the hormonal apparatus, the nervous system, and in particular the immune system. Dr. Maté’s insight into the relationship of the mind and the body are presented in: When the Body Says No, a groundbreaking book published in multiple languages on five continents.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Prior to making changes to your lifestyle or treatment plan, consult with a licenced medical professional. Patients must take the time to thoroughly research the side effects of medical marijuana and medical cannabis relating to specific medical conditions whether they're considering how effective it is for pain relief in their life. People who complete this research are more well equipped to navigate their condition alongside the care of their doctor.
Cannabinoids such as CBD possess immunosuppressive properties that can help with autoimmune diseases through four main pathways: induction of cell death (apoptosis); inhibition of cell proliferation (prevent rogue cells from spreading); inhibition of inflammatory cytokines’ production of interferon and interleukin (the same compounds that cause joint damage and pain in arthritis sufferers); and inhibition of chemokine ability to attract white blood cells. They also induce regulatory T cells.  The cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) actually modules T-helper cells, which are crucial to the body’s adaptive immune response.
The exact dosages of THC required to suppress immune responses are generally considered too high to avoid significant adverse levels of psychoactivity side effects. It could be worth exploring a model that gradually increases THC dosage to assess immunosuppression levels, once the patient develops tolerance to the psychoactivity of THC. The issue of psychoactivity can be avoided by exploring non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD).
The non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBG, is another powerful anti-inflammatory compound, as is the CB2 agonist, beta-caryophyllene.  Beta-caryophyllene, which is a terpene found in cannabis and black pepper, holds outstanding promise as an immunomodulator.
Cannabis products consumed orally, such as with sublingual or swallowed tinctures, edibles, or sprays, are of great value for some initial symptomatic relief of pain experienced from autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. As can smoking and vaporizing cannabis, for more immediate symptomatic relief for pain, spasticity, stiffness, and so on.
Both THC and CBD possess powerful pain relieving properties, which is why where possible, products containing both cannabinoids in a ratio of 1:1 CBD:THC can be of great value in bringing relief to symptoms of pain. A High-THC cannabis strain that contains the terpenes myrcene, limonene, or terpinolene can help to provide relief from chronic pain and related symptoms. For more information, read our Ultimate Guide to Terpenes.
For anti-inflammatory effects, high-CBD cannabis strains such as ACDC and deadlights are two worth considering. Other high-CBD strains more suited towards pain are Skunk #1, and Pincher Creek, both high additional CBG.
As you can tell, the research is quite clear on the link between autoimmunity and the endocannabinoid system. A system of the body that is vital in maintaining optimal emotional, mental, and physical health. Without it, our bodies cannot stay alive. When it is dysfunctional, our bodies struggle to maintain a sense of order and balance; homeostasis is a crucial element to healthy physiological functioning, not only as a single organism, but also as an interconnected species. We are all connected in many ways; to our environment, other people, and to what we eat, and how we think and behave. Everything has an impact on us.
Be sure to check out Dr Gabor Mate's work on how emotions impact chronic disease states, and look into dietary changes that help to reduce chronic inflammation (such as wholefood plant-based, AID, and/or the mediterranean diet; because as powerful a plant that cannabis is, using it to assist with autoimmune symptoms is just one part of a larger puzzle. We need to be looking at emotional and mental health (therapy/counciling), diet (mediterranean diet), sleep (7-8 hours night), water (2-3 litres daily), and physical activity (swimming, hiking, lifting, cycling); alongside using medicinal plants such as cannabis and mushrooms (reiki, turkey tail) to help support us in our quest for optimal health.
For more information, see our other article on cannabis and autoimmunity.
For a detailed list of autoimmune conditions and the cannabis evidence, visit the health conditions section inside our blog.
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