Despite a scarcity of specific human based studies, patients with autoimmune disorders have been able to improve their situation by integrating cannabis medicine into their lifestyle. Dr. Bonni Goldstein has seen a number of patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis wean off pharmaceuticals and control their symptoms with cannabis, dietary changes, exercise, and stress reduction. Goldstein gave the example of a young patient with ankylosing spondylitis. Goldstein reported that after two months on cannabis the patient discontinued three of the pharmaceuticals, experienced a significant improvement in her pain symptoms, and was “able to participate in her life again”. Dr. Goldstein encourages patients to try various CBD/THC ratios, and to experiment with raw cannabinoids such as THCA and CBDA. Trial and error is required to find what works best for an individual’s unique situation.
Steroids are a commonly prescribed medication for autoimmunity to lower inflammation and suppress the immune system. They are meant to be taken on the short term. Julie Holland, a pro-cannabis psychiatrist based in New York, says that the goal shouldn’t be to be globally immunosuppressed, “With steroids, you are sweeping the dirt under the carpet. You’re not getting to the root cause at all. It’s as if you’re hitting mute on the alarm, but the alarm is going off for a reason.” Steroids may decrease blood supply to various parts of the body, and create fat deposits in the face or other areas. If someone has autoimmunity and chronic pain, steroids may not help address the root of the discomfort.
Kozela, E, et all. “Pathways and gene networks mediating the regulatory effects of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, in autoimmune T cells” J Neuroinflammation. 2016
While autoimmunity may be a complex and challenging situation in need of deeper investigation, there are holistic approaches one can take to manage their condition. Coping with an autoimmune disease may feel burdensome, but it can also be an opportunity to get back in touch with your body. Aim to treat it in the best way possible. Nature can be your guide.
Jacob, Aglaée. “Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease — Research Suggests Digestive Abnormalities May Be the Underlying Cause”. Today’s Dietitian. 2013
Cannabis is a unique biphasic botanical remedy that can bring the system back into balance in numerous regards. Based on current research, cannabis therapies may provide benefit for autoimmune disease in three basic ways: modulation of the immune system, decreasing general inflammation, and helping to assist the digestive system. Cannabis medicine may also treat symptoms of specific autoimmune diseases like ALS, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, Huntington disease, multiple sclerosis, and others. The plant may decrease chronic pain, inflammation, and spasms associated with some of these conditions. There have been few specific investigations on cannabinoid treatment for AI, due to federal prohibition on human clinical trials. However, extensive studies in test-tubes and in animals have reported the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabinoids for specific AI conditions like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Conventional treatments for autoimmune disorders
There has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of autoimmune diseases since World War 2. Autoimmune conditions more commonly affect women than men. The National Institute of Health estimates that 23.5 million people in the USA have an autoimmune disease, while cancer affects 13 million in the country. The true number of those affected by autoimmunity is likely higher, due to misdiagnosis and general lack of understanding about the complexity of AI related conditions.
Inflammation is the root cause of many illnesses, and autoimmunity is no exception. Extensive research has been performed on the anti-inflammatory properties of THC, CBD, and other cannabis components. If inflammation response is regulated, there will be less likelihood of an autoimmune attack. More investigation is needed to examine the particular role of cannabinoids for autoimmune disorders.
Nowadays Cannabis tends to be considered as a “buzz word”, with global recognition of the potential embodied in medical Cannabis, more and more countries legalize the use of medical cannabis, leaving many physicians overwhelmed due to the rapid changes. In this article we aimed to review the laboratory and clinical evidence regarding Medical Cannabis and neurological autoimmunity diseases.
The beneficial effect of cannabinoid also extends to human brain endothelial cells (BMVEC). Using human cells from HIV-1 CNS infected patients and from seronegative controls, a group of researches demonstrated enhanced CB2 receptor expression in HIV infected cells compared to controls. Further investigation of naive human BMVEC revealed that the increased expression of CB2 receptor can also be accomplished separately by IL-1β, TNF-α and LPS. Once induced and activated, CB2 receptor decreased leukocyte adhesion, prevented up regulation of adhesion molecules, promoted 2.2-2.7 increase in tight junction proteins (occludin and claudin-5) and significantly reduced BBB resistance drop induced by LPS 21 .
CBD treatment of TMEV infected mice induces a wide range of immunomodulatory outcomes. CBD reduce the infiltrate of immune cell to the brain parenchyma and decreased microglial activation. Moreover, CBD treatment has a long lasting effect, an 80 days follow up of the treatment group revealed restoration of both horizontal and vertical motor activities to that of the healthy mice and a correlating reduction in the expression of TNF-α and IL-β1 27 .
A role for CB2 receptor was also exemplified by in vivo murine model. Ex vivo CB2-activted leukocytes were injected to LPS treated mice resulting in adhesion reduction of up to 96% using GP1a (CB2 receptor agonist) in comparison with to non GP1a treated mice 20 .
Table 3: Perfusion analysis from 1H-NMR in 12-month-old female mdx mice. Reperfusion mean has been calculated during the first 25 minutes after release of ischemia. Wild-type mice, n=6; mdx mice, n=7. **p < 0.01. (a)The set-up of the tourniquet was sufficient to induce an absence of perfusion in both groups. After release of tourniquet, a rapid and important increase of perfusion was detected and the reperfusion of mdx mice was greater than wild-type mice. A single peak of reperfusion was however observed in mdxmice, when a first rapid and strong peak followed by a second attenuated peak of reperfusion was observed in wild-type animals.
Because the release of ischemia induced movements of the leg, images affected by these movement artifacts, at the moment of ischemia release, were removed from analysis of muscle perfusion. (b) In the first 5 minutes after ischemic stress release, below a threshold of 250 mL/100 g reperfusion (concerning mostly wt mice), PCr resynthesis rate was dependent on perfusion, an increase in reperfusion leading to a decrease of τPCr. In contrast, above the threshold of 250 mL/100 g reperfusion (concerning mostly mdx mice), PCr resynthesis rate was poorly affected by the increase of post-ischemia reperfusion. a: Perfusion analysis was performed through from 1H-NMR as described in the Material and Methods section; b: Correlation between reperfusion and PCr resynthesis rate (from 31P-spectroscopy analysis) during the first 300 seconds (5 minutes) after ischemia; n = 6 (wt, a, b); n = 7 (mdx, a, b); τPCr: time of creatine rephosphorylation.
There is scarce evidence regarding clinical use of Cannabis in MS patients. A recent Meta-analysis concluded that cannabinoids (nabilone and nabiximols) were associated with a greater average improvement in spasticity assessed by using numerical rating scale (mean difference, -0.76 [95% CI, -1.38 to -0.14]). Also, the average number of patients who reported an improvement on a global impression of change score was greater using nabiximols rather placebo (OR, 1.44 [95% CI, 1.07-1.94]) 32 . Notably, a new large multi centered blinded study was recently published, in which 489 MS patients participated and received either oral dronabinol (THC) or placebo. The study failed to prove the beneficial outcome of dronabinol use in two main outcomes (time to confirmed EDSS [Extended Disability Status Scale] score progression and change in MSIS-29 [Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale-29] score). However, while taking into consideration the results of this trail, it is worth mentioning a possible weakness in the trail inclusion criteria. The disease progression in MS as measured by the EDSS scale is not linear, and progression through EDSS 4-5.5 is faster the in EDSS 6-6.6. hus making the EDSS 6+ patient’s population insensitive to treatment during the study period of time, leaving the question of Cannabis medical use in MS patients in need of further research 33,34 . Currently, evidenced based recommendation published in 2014 by the American academy of neurology are: oral cannabis extracts (CBD/THC or CBD alone) are the only products with an A – effective rating, next in line is THC (dronabinol/nabilone) with B rating- probably effective 35 .
It is well established that murine microglial cells express both CB1 and CB2 receptors, yet the pattern of receptors expression differs in location as well as in levels of expression. While CB1 receptor is consistently expressed in microglial cells in low levels, CB2 receptor is indetectable in resting state cells and highly expressed in activated microglia 8,9 . The pattern of expression and distribution of CB2 receptor in microglial cell suggest a role in microglial migration, CB2 receptor was found to be expressed heterogeneously throughout murine microglial cells with particularly high density at the leading edges of lamellipodia and microspkies (cellular protrusions that mediate cell migration). Moreover, 2-AG, AEA and abnormal-cannabidiol increase microglial cell migration 10 .
Cannabis and the Brain Immune System
A different mechanism of action is suggested by the inhibition of the IL-1 signaling pathway following administration of the synthetic cannabinoid R(+)WIN 55,212-2. Appling R(+)WIN 55,212-2 to astrocytoma cells priori stimulated by IL-1 resulted in dose dependent inhibition of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 adhesion molecules induction, as well as IL-8 and NFκB. The effect aforementioned is independent from the cannabinoids receptors CB1 and CB2 as suggested by the lack of regulation of CB1 and CB2 antagonist on the immunomodulating effects mentioned above, implying that there is still much to learn in the field of Cannabis and immunomodulation 12 .
Cannabis sativa, also known as Marijuana has been called many names, yet the variety of names given to Cannabis does not encompass the vast medical opportunities that lie within the cannabis. As of now, 545 ingredients have been identified, of which over 100 classified as unique to Cannabis 3 . The two main and most researched active ingredients are – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which holds a psychoactive properties and on the other hand, Cannabidiol (CBD) which is considered non psychoactive. The components are joined by the two main known endocannabinoids – Ananamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) (also discovered by prof. Mechoulam and colleagues) 4,5 . The other half of the cannabinoid system (as we know thus far) comprises of CB1 and CB2 receptors, G-protein coupled receptors. The two receptors differ in distribution and function. While the major psychoactive effect of cannabis is attributed to the CB1 receptor and accordingly widely distributed in neurons, while the CB2 receptor has been linked to maintaining homeostasis and commonly appears in cells of the immune system 6,7 .