CBD and the Immune System

  • Blog
  • 10 September , 2018
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According to project CBD, “CBD or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid compound produced by varieties of C. Sativa L along with over 100 other phytocannabinoids.” THC is the most well-known component of cannabis plants thanks to its psychotropic effects, but CBD has gained much notoriety over the past quarter century for its therapeutic effects, which lack psychotropic activity. Research on phytocannabinoids and the cannabis species has spurred tons of research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which mediates (most of) the effects of cannabis-derived products.


Specifically, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is integral to the way that our immune system regulates itself and maintains a healthy balance of self-defense without causing self-harm. The immune system exists to sense any damage or threat and to respond to it in a way that removes the threat and repairs the damage. However, sometimes the immune response is disproportionate to the degree of damage. This results in an immune attack on healthy tissue, a condition known as autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is the harmful component of numerous common conditions, from arthritis to Crohn’s disease to Alzheimer’s.

How does the immune system work?

The National Library of Medicine has done tons of research on how our immune system works and has simplified it to this, “Many pathological (disease-related) conditions of the immune system are a result of dysregulation of how our immune system should respond to a given stimulus. In people who are allergic to cats or peanuts, certain molecules unique to cat dander and peanut oil set off the biological equivalent of a fire alarm inside the body. This is an example of an immune system response which is disproportionate to the danger posed by the threat to which it is responding: peanuts won’t kill you, but if you have a peanut allergy, then your immune system might kill you while “protecting” you from peanuts.

So what causes the immune system to act in a way that threatens the life of the organism which it exists to protect? The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem. The immune system is a complicated, well-oiled machine, with countless hormones and compounds called cytokines that it uses to mediate its activities. They are intricately balanced thanks to a few robust regulators including the endocannabinoid system. The machine that is the immune system has thousands of moving parts, and if any single one fails, it can disrupt the entire system.”

There are three basic steps to our immune system’s functionality.

First, the immune system senses the presence of injury (damage) or a threat (infection).

Second, the immune cells that sensed the threat or damage tell the rest of the immune system how to respond.

Third, effector cells act on the response of the helper cells, carrying out an immune reaction.

How does CBD improve immune system sensitivity and signalling?

While CB2 cannabinoid receptors are vital to the normal function of immune cells, many of the therapeutic effects of CBD on immune system function quote differently differently than the classical cannabinoid receptors. In fact, much of the therapeutic effect of cannabidiol is due to CBD’s rare ability to alter which genes get expressed by cells. In the immune system, this affects both sensitivity and signalling. CBD limits the combinations of genes that get expressed, which limits the combinations of cytokines that cells are able to produce (proinflammatory vs. anti-inflammatory) and also the combination that they are able to respond to (the cytokines for which they have receptors).


What does all this mean for you!?

It all boils down to this, your immune system functions properly (or not) based on the other systems in your body working with it. When CBD enters your ECS it naturally helps regulate that system through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This in turn causes the relationship between the ECS and immune system to function at a higher level as a whole. This means that having a healthier, better functioning ECS will in turn create a healthier better function immune system! Never forget that CBD gets you healthy, not high!

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