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Now more than ever, people are taking particular interest in their wellbeing, immunity and prevention of illness. COVID-19, a form of Coronavirus is working its way through our populations. Those most at risk are the elderly (over 70s), people with long term health conditions, pregnant women and people with wakened immune systems. It is a virus that affects the lungs and airways and symptoms include a high temperature and a new, continuous cough.

Communicable vs. non-communicable diseases

Diseases from a public health perspective can be split into 2 categories, communicable and non-communicable. Communicable diseases are those that can be passed on through transmission from one organism to another, person to person or animal to person for example. COVID-19 would fall within this category. Non-communicable diseases are those that are results from behaviours or addiction. Think of obesity from unhealthy eating and lack of exercise or lung cancer from smoking. These diseases are the result of the person’s exposure to substances or behaviours to a significant enough amount to cause harm.

When thinking about exposures in this way, it is important to consider that some exposures might increase harm and some might minimise harm. For instance, regularly eating a certain amount of fresh fruit and vegetables are protective behaviours. Burgers and fries the opposite. Therefore, is there any evidence that CBD is protective for health or the immune system?

Impact of CBD on immune systems

Search term history show us that people want answers to the following questions:

  • Does CBD help immune system?
  • Is CBD safe for the immunity?
  • Does CBD stop coronavirus?
  • Is CBD good to treat coronavirus?

Let’s be clear, there will be no research that shows the effect of CBD and coronavirus. The virus is far too in its infancy for trials to have been conducted just yet. So what about other issues relating to immunity?

In a fairly complex research paper related to cannabinoids and immunity, researchers have identified that the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) is predominantly expressed on immune cells. The authors considered the impact off the immune system with respect to the treatment of complex health conditions and said:

‘The cumulative effect of cannabinoids on all cell populations of the immune system can be beneficial, when there is a need for immune suppression. For example, in patients with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and lupus, or in those with septic shock, where the disease is caused by activated immune cells, targeting the immune cells via CB2 agonists may trigger apoptosis and act as anti-inflammatory therapy.’

So this does show there might be a relationship between immunity cells and cannabinoids. Where immune cells are deemed to be activated or working against the body’s’ own mechanisms of survival, activating these cells in a targeted way might serve the realign the overall functioning of the body. This might be why there are numerous anecdotes associated with cancer treatment, CBD and THC.

What the evidence is telling us about CBD and your immune system

The more we discover published research in medical journals, each answer provides a question for another area of research. Your immune system protects the body from harmful external threats, but it is also responsible for locating and eliminating cells that aren’t working properly.

Whilst the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is fairly new, it seems as though it is fundamental to maintaining balance between the vairous systems in the body. The body produced endocannabinoids to regulate cell function, including those in the immune system.

Endocannabinoids are produced on demand, traveling backward across chemical synapses and modulating cell activity. This partly explains why the ECS has been termed a homeostatic regulator – continually working to maintain a state of biological balance.

A lot of the research into the health effects of CBD has been conducted on patients with severely compromised immune systems. Overall, researchers have found that treatment with medical cannabis and cannabinoids (synthetic cannabis compounds) doesn’t increase the number of virus cells in the body or the number of other infections that patients contract. In fact, they believe that cannabis known anti-inflammatory effects may reduce the damage that so-called opportunistic diseases do to the body.

To conclude

When considering the title of this article and the question ‘does CBD help your immune system?’. Overall, cannabinoids act as immune suppressors, because they minimise inflammation. However, for those suffering from autoimmune diseases, diseases brought on by inflammation may be able to help. A hyperactive immune system tends to overreact when exposed to common allergens or food, and can even begin to attack the body in response.

Although inflammation is often seen in a negative light, it’s a vital immune response to infection. Inflammation helps isolate infected or damaged parts of the body, preventing the problem from spreading. Therefore, preventing inflammation when it is actually needed can lower immune function and make people more susceptible to disease. CBD and other cannabinoids may be able to help balance that function in the body.


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