Cannabis for the Immune System
Cannabis sativa has been utilized for medicinal purposes for centuries. Our culture is only recently realizing the tremendous benefits associated with cannabis, and as such, research projects are continuously being conducted to better understand the mechanisms behind it. Scientists have made many incredible discoveries, but have only touched the surface of what this plant can do.
The Immune System
Bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens surround us, and our pets, on a constant basis. The immune system is responsible for protection against disease and overall well-being. White blood cells within the immune system are responsible for searching for invasions within the body and eliminating them as quickly as possible. White blood cells, or leukocytes, are divided into the following groups:
- Lymphocytes (B cells and T cells): Destroy foreign bodies and develop memory cells to remember how to combat previous attacks
- Phagocytes: They essentially ‘consume’ the foreign bodies
The immune system is also important for attacking our own ‘bad’ cells. They are responsible for a process known as apoptosis, or cell suicide, to prevent tumors. When the apoptosis ‘switch’ is turned OFF, that’s when cancer begins to develop. It’s the responsibility of the immune system to keep that switch in the ‘ON position’ to maintain homeostasis. If there is an excessive amount of cell death, that’s when autoimmune diseases occur. If there’s not enough, the body becomes the perfect host for cancer.
ECS and the Immune System
The immune system is a delicate system with the goal of maintaining balance, or homeostasis, in our bodies. Constant communication among our immune system, tissues, and organs is critical. The ECS, or endocannabinoid system, is also responsible for homeostasis and encourages communication among various parts of the body.
Homeostasis is a balance within the body. If your body strays away from its normal, healthy self, it will be brought back through a series of mechanisms by the immune system and the endocannabinoid system. Homeostasis keeps everything in the body stable and working as effectively and efficiently as possible.
The ECS is responsible for maintaining physiological homeostasis using various mechanisms including, but not limited to, managing inflammation and maintaining balance within the immune system. CB1 and CB2 receptors from the endocannabinoid system are abundantly found in immune cells.
Cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, react with the ECS to aid in the immune system’s goal of balance. Cannabis does not only contain CBD and THC, but also contains over 120 other cannabinoids (that are maintained as possible in a full-spectrum product), terpenes, and flavonoids, which all contribute to the body’s state of well-being.
According to research, THC binds to the CB2 receptor activating it (turning it on) resulting in an anti-inflammatory effect. That’s why THC is known to be an immunosuppressant and is utilized in patients with autoimmune conditions including Crohn’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. CBD reduces cytokine production and inhibits T-cells which also results in CBD being a well-known immunosuppressant.
Related: What is the Endocannabinoid System and Why is it Important?
Cannabis and Cancer
As stated previously, the immune system is ‘trained’ to detect foreign bodies, massive increases in cell production, and the reduction of apoptosis. Unfortunately, the immune system can’t always keep up on its own; that’s where cancer comes in. Cancer tricks the body into thinking it’s doing what it’s supposed to.
Cancer cells don’t die on their own and, therefore, grow at an exponential rate (some faster than others). Anticancer therapies like radiation and chemotherapy are relatively recent, and the use of cannabis to aid in anticancer activity is even more recent. Scientists at Complutense University, Manuel Guzman and Cristina Sanchez, are responsible for discovering the anti-cancer effects of cannabis.
Related: CBD Oil for Dogs with Cancer
Immunotherapy and Cannabis
There is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to cannabis since scientists have only touched the surface when it comes to research. Immunotherapy with cannabis still remains a viable option for future use in medicine. Immunotherapy is used to detect and kill cancer in the body by retraining white blood cells. Immunotherapy essentially lets the white blood cells know the cancer is not meant to be there. So far, there has only been one study published regarding cannabis with immunotherapy.
Outside of research, there are cancer patients in California who have been found to benefit from cannabis implementation in immunotherapy cases. They were provided low-dose, CBD-rich CBD oil under doctor supervision. Preclinical results have also shown promising results when combining cannabis with western therapies like chemotherapy.
Despite the lack of available research, there is substantial evidence indicating cannabis can have a massive influence on the immune system. We await the publishing of further research to explore this topic in further depth. Generally speaking, if you or your dog have been diagnosed with cancer, this could be a valuable topic for discussion even simply for educational purposes.