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Although scientific studies surrounding CBD are still new and many more are needed to solidify results, the naturally derived compound has been shown to work as an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator. This means CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the immune system’s inflammatory response, which can have both positive and negative impacts. When it comes to a virus, such as COVID-19, for a generally healthy person, inflammation is a vital response needed to isolate infected areas and block spread.
-Capsules: CBD capsules are another great option for anyone not looking to have a
“hempy” aftertaste, but receive the benefits of CBD through fast activation.
Given there is a global pandemic, ways to boost the immune system are even more sought after than usual. Having a strong immune system is the base for staying healthy, and though there are a lot of products people use to aid in immune wellness, CBD is on the rise as a top choice in boosting immune health. So how can this ever-growing in popularity compound help you with health and wellness, specifically boosting your immune system? Here is a breakdown of what you need to know.
CBD Effects On The Immune System
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis or hemp plants. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is the cousin to its well-known intoxicating counterpart, THC. CBD has been shown to work directly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body, eliminating free-radicals, regulate cell functions and create a balance in the body and mind. The ECS helps establish homeostasis, regulating cell function, including the cells in your immune system. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties which can directly correlate it’s ability to aid in immune support.
Our bodies have a built-in system that keeps invaders at bay. On a daily basis we are exposed to streams of diseases, infections, viruses and bacteria. Our immune systems, a network of cells, organs and tissues that work together to destroy these foreign cells or particles, keeping us healthy and alive. The heroes of our immune system are the white blood cells, which fall into two categories. There are the lymphocytes and phagocytes. Lymphocytes are also known as B or T-cells, and are responsible for destroying toxins and identifying foreign substances within the body. Phagocytes help to absorb these invaders, neutralizing and preventing further spread of toxins. Out immune system also works to eliminate dead or non-functioning cells, preventing multiplication and tumor growth.
-Vaping: CBD can be found in the form of a vape pen that is inhaled. This method is an ideal alternative for smoking that provides quick relief.
What Is The Immune System?
That being said, CBD has been shown to strengthen the immune system when it weakens, becomes hyperactive or is impacted by an autoimmune disease caused by inflammation. There are studies showing cannabis compounds and CBD can suppress the immune system in healthy people, and likewise studies that suggest the opposite, when the immune system is weakened, cannabinoids can strengthen it. Cancer and HIV/AIDS are one example in this area. CBD is widely known to treat pain, nausea and fatigue – all of which are common symptoms of HIV and AIDS. The compounds within cannabis and CBD have also been found to alter immune responses, stimulating CB1 and CB2 receptors to normalize bodily reactions. Because of this interaction, CBD can aid in immune response generally and especially when centered on autoimmune disorders and diseases.
-Edibles: edibles, drinks and gummies are a great option for someone not looking to taste anything CBD. Typically edibles are perfectly dosed for the consumer, meaning you can determine how much you want for your needs and ailments.
THC is notably active in response to immune function. THC actively binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC plays a major role as a psychoactive chemical when binding to CB1 receptors that control the mind’s function. CB1 receptors tell the body whether it is experiencing pain which can be negated by THC. The main impact upon the immune system is through the binding process in CB2 receptors. In a patient study performed in 1994, researchers confirmed THC activated immunosuppressing proteins after binding to CB2 receptors and influencing T-cells. This is great news for people battling autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, because it will help with inflammation of the body. In 2011, the University of Louisiana conducted a study on the effects of THC on monkeys with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). The results were astonishing. 28 days before the monkeys contracted SIV, they were given doses of THC. This reduced the viral load and extended the life of the primate. In 2014, the same team gave the monkeys THC 17 months before the SIV infection stage. This not only increased T cell numbers, as well as decrease the viral load, but protected the apes against viral intestinal damage SIV patients usually suffer. Through theses tests, researchers are realizing the potential of THC as an immunostimulant.
Our central nervous system, i.e. the endocannabinoid system, maintains the body’s daily function and wellness. The endocannabinoid system achieves homeostasis through endocannabinoid production and endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The endocannabinoids and receptors communicate through a process called binding and work together to control our immune system. Sometimes, in the case of autoimmune disorders, the endocannabinoids our body produces fail to function properly. When this happens, our body will accept cannabinoids (from marijuana) in place of the failed endocannabinoids.
CBD, cannabidiol, interacts with both receptors indirectly. CBD wills the body to create more endocannabinoids instead of replacing them. CBD can suppress and boost immune system activity. How so? CBD’s effect on you is completely dependent on your body’s function. Past studies show that CBD encourages white blood cell production in immunodeficient patients, helping boost the immune response in persons with HIV. Other trials have shown CBD to suppress immune response, such as inflammation, in patients with autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis. Think of CBD in terms of a modulator, rather than a boosting or suppressing agent.
As we discussed in our last article, marijuana effects healthy and compromised immune systems differently. While healthy folks using marijuana experience a suppressed immunity, those with autoimmune diseases can receive benefits from marijuana intervention. Today, we will look closely at how the individual compounds, THC and CBD, affect the immune system and what you can expect from different strains.
THC and CBD affect both CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are important because they are our prime neurotransmitters. CB1 receptors regulate pain, coordination, and brain function such as mood, appetite, and thoughts, while CB2 receptors influence immune response such as inflammation.
While much is yet to be discovered on perfecting the balance of THC and CBD for immunotherapy purposes, we know that marijuana does help with many other symptoms that immunodeficient and autoimmune disease patients face. While cannabis can tackle many problems with serious diseases, it has yet to show benefits during times of flu illness.
04 Nov THC and CBD- Detriment to the Immune System?
The crude and age-sex-adjusted mean WBC count were higher among cannabis users compared to never users (Table 2). After adjusting for potential confounding variables, only heavy users had higher WBC count (β = 189; 95% confidence interval: 74, 304, p = 0.001) when compared to never users. Among the differential subpopulations, modest differences were observed for neutrophil counts (β = 172; 95% CI = 44, 299, p = 0.001). In addition, heavy cannabis users had higher monocyte count, yet the association failed to reach statistical significance at the adjusted p < 0.01. Neither former nor occasional cannabis use was associated with total or differential WBC counts.
Adjustment for tobacco smoking attenuated the estimates appreciably. Exploratory analyses to probe subgroup variation in the estimates disclosed no robust differences by tobacco smoking status. Mean WBC count were higher among heavy cannabis users compared to never users in the tobacco non-smoker subgroup (never and former smokers combined, multivariable adjusted β = 372; 95% CI = 203, 542, p < 0.0001) and the tobacco smoker subgroup (occasional and daily smokers combined, multivariable adjusted β = 257; 95% CI = 70, 443, p = 0.007).
White blood cells (WBCs) are a heterogeneous group of nucleated cells that function mainly as immune cells. WBCs originate in the bone marrow, and can be classified into granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils), and agranulocytes (lymphocytes and monocytes). Cigarette smoking generates several chemicals that are implicated in oxidative stress pathways and systemic inflammation (Lee et al., 2012). Elevated WBC count in tobacco cigarette smokers have been well documented (Higuchi et al., 2016; Jensen et al., 1998), whereas tobacco abstinence is associated with sustained decrease in WBC count (Abel et al., 2005). While the prevalence of tobacco smoking is decreasing (Wang et al., 2018), the use of other combustible products such as cannabis is increasing in the United States (Grucza et al., 2016).
Laboratory studies reported suppression of immune responses with cannabinoid administration (Klein, 2005), and some epidemiological studies found lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers such as fibrinogen, C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in adult cannabis users (Alshaarawy and Anthony, 2015; Keen et al., 2014; Rajavashisth et al., 2012; Alshaarawy et al., 2019). Conversely, studies in adolescence and young adults indicated that cannabis use is not associated lowered immune responses (Ferguson et al., 2019; Costello et al., 2013). The reported anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis were greatly attenuated when body weight is controlled for. This suggests that the inverse cannabis-body weight association might explain the lower levels of circulating inflammatory biomarkers in adult cannabis users (Penner et al., 2013; Le Strat and Le Foll, 2011; Alshaarawy and Anthony, 2019), given the strong association of inflammation and adiposity (Esser et al., 2014). The results of the current study indicate elevated WBC count among heavy cannabis users, and persisted after adjusting for BMI. This increase might be related to the inflammatory effects of combustion by-products as the most common mode of cannabis use is smoking (Grotenhermen, 2003). The association of cannabis and WBCs was evident in heavy users only, which might indicate increased exposure to proinflammatory chemicals generated from smoking (Wei et al., 2016).
Descriptive statistics were used to compare selected characteristics of the study participants by cannabis use status. Linear regression modelling was then used to estimate differences in cell counts by cannabis use status. First unadjusted estimates were obtained. Models were then adjusted for age and sex, followed by adjustment for race/ethnicity, education, survey cycle, body mass index, alcohol drinking, and tobacco cigarette smoking. Sensitivity analyses were then used to investigate if significant associations were still present 1) using different cutoffs for heavy cannabis use, 2) excluding participants with a history of chronic medical conditions, 3) including participants with low (< 4000 cells/uL) or high (> 11,000 cells/uL) WBC count, and 4) adjusting for serum cotinine levels. NHANES examination weights that account for the unequal probabilities of selection, oversampling and non-response were applied to all analyses and standard errors were estimated using the Taylor series linearization method. Statistical significance was established at p = 0.05 for total WBC count analyses whereas a p-value of 0.01 was used for differential WBC analyses to adjust for multiple testing (0.05/5 tests). Analyses were conducted using SAS (V.9.4) software.
A modest association between heavy cannabis use and WBC count was detected. Additional research is needed to understand the immune related effects of different modes of cannabis use and to elucidate the role of proinflammatory chemicals generated from smoking cannabis.
Cannabis mediate its effects through a number of G-protein-coupled receptors, importantly cannabinoid-1 (CB1) and cannabinoid-2 (CB2) receptors. Cannabinoid-2 receptors are expressed in various components of the immune system including bone marrow, thymus, tonsils and spleen, whereas CB1 receptors are highly expressed in the central nervous system, and at lower levels in the immune system (Pertwee et al., 2010).
The aim of the current study is to estimate the association of cannabis use and WBC count, an important component of the immune system and a predictor of mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (Margolis et al., 2005; Twig et al., 2013; Willems et al., 2010). To test the hypothesis that cannabis use is associated with elevated WBC count, data from the United States (US) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey are analyzed.