Yo, what’s up? My name’s Dan and today we’re gonna talk about how weed affects the immune system. You feel me? Like, we all know that our immune system is what keeps us from getting sick from all the nasty germs out there. And like, some people try to boost their immune system by eating healthy and working out, but what about weed? Can that help too? Let’s find out.
First, let’s talk about how the immune system works. Basically, we got two types of immune systems: innate and adaptive. Innate is like our first line of defense, with barriers like our skin and mucous membranes that stop germs from entering our body. Then we got phagocytes which eat up those nasty pathogens. Adaptive is a more specific system that helps identify pathogens and creates antibodies to kill them.
Now, let’s talk about weed and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps keep our body in balance (homeostasis) and is found throughout the body including the immune system. The ECS features two receptors (CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids that act as signaling molecules (anandamide and 2-AG), and enzymes that build and break down endocannabinoids. A wide array of immune cells feature CB1 and CB2 receptors, including B cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, and CD8 and CD4 lymphocytes. Endocannabinoids bind to these sites and help to regulate processes such as the inflammatory response.
Early research suggests that cannabis could dampen immune system activity instead of boosting it. This could be helpful for autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis where the immune system starts attacking your own bodily tissues. Animal and cell studies also suggest that cannabis could exert an immunosuppressive effect. However, heavy weed use could lead to an increased risk of acquiring and transmitting infections, and impaired immune function in general. Long-term cannabis use could also trigger myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), which suppress the immune system and may increase the odds of cancer.
Research efforts continue to explore the potential of cannabis compounds in addressing autoimmune issues. However, as cannabis is thought to “dial down” immune system activity, does this mean smoking weed can weaken the immune system under normal circumstances? A review on the topic states the need for more research in this area. Based on current data, the paper argues that cannabis use likely impairs immune function to some degree, and may predispose users to an increased risk of certain viral infections. Adding to this, smoking introduces carcinogens and toxins into the body that can throw the immune system out of balance and increase the odds of several immune disorders.
CBD is a different story though. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have much affinity for the primary receptors of the endocannabinoid system. However, preliminary research shows that the molecule might elevate endocannabinoid levels. Little evidence claims that CBD works to boost the immune system, but ongoing studies are looking to determine the immunosuppressive properties of the cannabinoid.
So, is weed good or bad for the immune system? We don’t have enough data to provide a confident answer to that question. Some evidence suggests that it could be beneficial for autoimmune conditions, but it could also potentially cause problems in those with compromised immune systems, as well as healthy individuals that use weed often. The bottom line: we need more human trials to ascertain a clear-cut answer.