Cannabis and Immunity
Cannabis and Immunity – Does Medical Marijuana Affect Your Immune System?
Scientific research is proving more and more medical uses for cannabis and medical marijuana. Many experts believe medical marijuana to be an effective treatment that often decreases side effects for many ailments. People with epilepsy, cancer, and HIV frequently use cannabis to help with their symptoms. But does cannabis affect your immune system? Here is what we know about cannabis and immunity.
Some Studies Show That Cannabis and Immunity Interaction Can Be Positive
There’s a deficit of marijuana research due to government agencies hesitancy or downright opposition to cannabis research. However, a few studies conducted without federal backing show promising results when it comes to medical marijuana and your immune system.
To date, there is little conclusive data on the impact of consuming cannabis on a healthy person’s immune system. The bulk of immune system-related research looks at cannabis’ effect on HIV/AIDS patients.
HIV/AIDS is an immunodeficiency virus, meaning that it targets the immune system. For this reason, people with HIV/AIDS’ response to cannabis suggests how everyone’s body interacts with cannabis. The logic is that if people with less healthy immune systems—or severely impaired immune systems as is the case with AIDS patients—can safely consume cannabis, perhaps everyone can.
Studies Confirm That Marijuana Helps People With HIV/AIDS
It had been reported that twenty-seven percent of people with HIV/AIDS used marijuana to cope with their symptoms in 2005. Considering today’s greater access to medical marijuana and increased knowledge of its benefits, this percentage would logically be higher if the same study were conducted now in 2020.
Cannabis can help to calm many common HIV/AIDS symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, pain, depression, and anxiety. It also has a well-deserved reputation for increasing appetite.
In addition to abundant circumstantial evidence that medical marijuana can help treat HIV/AIDS symptoms, the Annals of Internal Medicine published an article on the “Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection.” The findings presented in the article were overwhelmingly positive. They found that cannabis had no effect on patients’ CD4 and CD8 cell counts (immune system cells targeted by the HIV/AIDS virus).
The study also found that people who smoked or ingested marijuana were healthier than those who didn’t. The article states, “Patients receiving cannabinoids had improved immune function compared with those receiving placebo. They also gained about 4 pounds more on average than those patients receiving placebo.”
Not only did medical marijuana help HIV/AIDS patients gain weight, but it also had a positive effect on their immune systems over the course of 21 days.
Cannabis and Immunity – Potentially Improved Function
Cannabis and Immunity
New research goes even further in answering the question surrounding cannabis and immunity. Two recent studies support the findings that cannabis could improve immune function for people with HIV/AIDS.
The first study, dating from 2014, was published in the scientific journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses. It links THC to higher production of CD4 and CD8 cells in monkeys. These two cells are primarily responsible for fighting disease.
A second study conducted by New York City’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine discovered that cannabinoids prevented the HIV virus from infecting immune system cells. Ultimately, the study found that the cannabinoids reduced the number of infected cells from 30 to 60 percent.
Due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, cannabis may have a profound impact on the immune system. On the cellular level, it could significantly strengthen the immune system. Findings are still limited, but at the very least, we may be learning that cannabis does not negatively affect the immune system.
Not all Cannabis Research Is Promising
Most of the concerns regarding cannabis use revolves around smoking. In an article from 2001 published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Dr. Donald P. Tashkin worries about the effects of smoking. “Effects of Smoked Marijuana on the Lung and Its Immune Defenses: Implications for Medicinal Use in HIV-Infected Patients” reads: “Frequent marijuana use can cause airway injury, lung inflammation and impaired pulmonary defense against infection.”
Not surprisingly, the DEA does not support cannabis use for people with HIV/AIDS. When asked to clarify its stance on the subject, the DEA wrote, “[M]arijuana can affect the immune system by impairing the ability of T-cells to fight off infections, demonstrating that marijuana can do more harm than good in people with already compromised immune systems.”
However, some people believe that the DEA, and the National Institute of Health, are often subject to politics. In that thinking, it is against many money interests that the federal government support medical marijuana.
Conclusion on Cannabis and Immunity
As with all health-related questions with medical marijuana, it’s impossible to guarantee that cannabis will have a positive effect. For today, we know that most research shows that marijuana has no effect, or has a positive effect, on immune system cells.
Have more questions about cannabis and immunity? Feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to walk you through the process of getting your medical marijuana card in the United States.
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