You’ve probably heard the term “immune health” tossed around in the health and wellness world. Typically, people use this term to describe products and habits that are supposed to help your immune system stay strong and you stay healthy. One of the newer products that people claim can boost your immune system is CBD oil.
CBD oil is still a fairly new product, and we still don’t know very much about its benefits and exactly how it works. However, even with just a handful of studies on CBD, we have found out that CBD and other cannabinoids can influence the immune system to help improve your health.
A Brief Overview of The Immune System
Every minute of every day, we are exposed to an endless stream of diseases, infections, viruses, and bacteria — all of which would ultimately kill us if it weren’t for our built-in immune system that keeps all of these invaders at bay. The immune system is a network of cells, organs, and tissues that work together to destroy foreign cells or particles, thus keeping you healthy and alive. The key players who make this happen: white blood cells.
There are two types of white blood cells: lymphocytes and phagocytes. Lymphocytes are more commonly known as B-cells and T-cells, and they destroy antigens (toxins or harmful foreign substances). They also help your body remember these foreign substances so that your immune system can respond quickly and appropriately when it detects another invasion. Phagocytes help absorb and neutralize the invaders, preventing them from spreading and causing more damage.
In addition to protecting your body against toxic invaders, your immune system is responsible for detecting and eliminating cells that aren’t working properly. Once found, the immune system initiates apoptosis, or cell death, so that the defective cells do not multiply and form tumors.
The Endocannabinoid System and Immune System
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is still fairly recent, and we are still learning how it works with and inside the body. With the things we have learned, however, we know that the ECS helps establish and maintain homeostasis, or balance, between the various systems in the body. Your body produces endocannabinoids as needed to help modulate or regulate cell function, including the cells in your immune system.
How CBD Affects The Immune System
As we mentioned earlier, studies have found that CBD can influence your immune system. More specifically, studies have found that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and it functions as an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator. A large amount of studies discuss CBD’s immunosuppressant effects, but these studies are full of unfamiliar scientific terms. Here’s a quick breakdown of how CBD works as an immunosuppressant:
- CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce the immune system’s inflammatory response. Inflammation is a vital response that isolates infected areas and prevents toxins from spreading.
- CBD can promote apoptosis, or cellular death.
- CBD can prevent proliferation, or rapid cellular growth.
- CBD can modulate or suppress the function and secretion of cytokines. Cytokines are large groups of proteins, secreted by specific cells in your immune system. Their function is to signal molecules that regulate your body’s immunity, inflammation, and white blood cell production.
- CBD can also suppress the production of chemokine, which is a group of cytokines that act as chemoattractants. They lead immune cells to an infection site so that the white blood cells can attack and destroy invading microbes.
- CBD can suppress T-cell production and function, ultimately suppressing the immune system’s ability to remember foreign invaders.
That’s a pretty impressive list, but for a healthy person, this list looks more like the things you want to avoid. Ideally, you don’t want to suppress your body’s inflammatory response, as toxins could then spread throughout the body. You don’t want to promote unnecessary cell death, nor do you want to stop healthy cell growth. You surely don’t want to suppress the proteins that signal your immune response and lead white blood cells to where they need to be. And you definitely don’t want to hinder your T-cell function and thus hinder your body’s ability to destroy antigens and remember those attackers.
So, is CBD really good for your immune health?
CBD and Autoimmune Diseases
Because CBD works as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant, it may not be a necessary immune supplement choice for a healthy person. But for those who have an autoimmune disease, CBD can be an excellent choice for therapy or treatment.
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is when your immune system does not work properly. Instead of attacking foreign microbes and antigens, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissue, and/or organs. These self-attacks can occur anywhere throughout the body, and they often lead to a weakening of proper body function. In some cases, autoimmune diseases can be life-threatening.
Today, scientists and doctors are aware of more than 80 autoimmune diseases. Some examples of autoimmune diseases include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and more.
How CBD can help with autoimmune diseases
As we just discussed, studies have discovered that CBD is an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can cause or contribute to many autoimmune diseases, and taking CBD can help reduce that inflammation. Not only that, but those who have hyperactive immune systems that end up attacking themselves can benefit from the immunosuppressant properties that CBD offers.
We as a society still need to perform several more studies about the relationship between CBD and the immune system, but the initial findings look promising. With the information we do know, however, CBD has great potential for being an effective natural form of therapy for those who have autoimmune diseases.