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CBD and the immune system are connected. CBD (cannabidiol) is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, alongside its popular sibling, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Cannabinoids interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system which directly affects your immune system, and in turn, your overall health and sense of wellness.
To fully grasp why CBD oil and the immune system are directly related, you’ll need to first understand the roles of the immune and endocannabinoid systems within your body. From there, it should become abundantly clear that CBD is much more than just a potential treatment for anxiety. First things first: the immune system.
What is an Immune System?
To put it simply, your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against potentially harmful toxins that are invisible to the naked eye. At this very moment, you’re surrounded by microscopic particles that could cause serious health issues if they entered your body and remained unchecked. Fortunately, your immune system is fighting them off 24/7.
The immune system is a vast network throughout your body that’s composed of organs, tissues, and cells, with white blood cells — lymphocytes and phagocytes — being the true heroes that put in the most work.
Lymphocytes are on the frontlines, actively destroying harmful toxins before they can hurt you. Amazingly, lymphocytes can “remember” specific toxins so they know how to combat them should they return. Ever wonder why most people only get chickenpox once? It’s because your immune system “learns” how to fight the virus the first time, so you never (hopefully!) have to go through the same illness again.
Phagocytes help to neutralize toxins, and they also absorb harmful particles so they can’t continue spreading throughout your body.
You’re probably still wondering how CBD and the immune system are related. Now that you have a basic understanding of what the immune system is and what it does, it’s time to move on to the endocannabinoid system.
What Is an Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in 1992, so research is still ongoing. You might be surprised to learn that the endocannabinoid system was discovered by scientists who were testing the effects of cannabis on humans; however, that doesn’t mean that you need to be a cannabis user to have an active endocannabinoid system. Just like the immune system, it’s a human function within everyone. In fact, pets have endocannabinoid systems, too!
The endocannabinoid system is made up of endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. There are two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mainly located throughout the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors are situated throughout the peripheral nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
In short, various endocannabinoids bind with receptors, causing a myriad of different effects, including effects that boost the immune system. Say you’re experiencing chronic physical pain. An endocannabinoid could bind to a spinal nerve receptor to signal your body to release pain-relieving endorphins. These endocannabinoids stimulate receptors, causing important reactions that keep your body functioning optimally. It’s a regulatory mechanism that maintains your body’s delicate homeostasis (balance).
The endocannabinoid system plays a major role in many biological processes, including the following:
- Bone and muscle growth
- Liver function
- Chronic inflammation
- Motor control
- Immune system response
Catch that last one?
The CBD Connection
Now you have a better understanding of the immune system and the endocannabinoid system. But how does it all connect to CBD? Quite simply, CBD is a cannabinoid that also interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, just like the body’s natural endocannabinoids!
For example, if you’re feeling anxious, CBD cannabinoids may bind with a receptor related to negative feelings, signaling the release of endorphins that alleviate anxiety and improve your mood.
Similarly, if you have a weak immune system, CBD cannabinoids may nudge your body’s endocannabinoid system to improve immune response in several ways, including reducing inflammation.
It’s worth noting that the connection between CBD and the immune system’s inflammatory response is still being studied, but research has shown that cannabinoids are crucial components.
“The fact that both CB1 and CB2 receptors have been found on immune cells suggests that cannabinoids play an important role in the regulation of the immune system.”
While it’s true that inflammation can be an important tool in fighting some infections, chronic inflammation can also lead to many serious health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression. CBD can suppress excessive inflammation, helping to restore balance to the immune system.
How Reducing Stress Boosts Your Immune System
It’s clear that CBD oil and the immune system affect your mental and physical health by directly interacting with endocannabinoid receptors, but that’s just the beginning. Don’t overlook the incredible power of a positive mindset to keep your immune system functioning at its peak capacity!
The Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology states:
“The research suggests that the immune system’s proliferative response decreases by about 15% and continues to decrease in chronically stressful situations.”
Connecting the dots, CBD cannabinoids can also target receptors that signal the body and brain to reduce the stressful emotions that can suppress immune system function — Isn’t it amazing how everything is connected?
Besides compromising your immune system, negative emotions can lead to a number of health and behavioral problems:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle pain or tension
- Anger and irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Substance abuse
- Chest pain
Additionally, excessive stress can lead to several serious long-term health issues:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
CBD Is Just One Tool in Your Kit
As you can see, CBD and the immune system can interact to keep you healthy. At the same time, using CBD products shouldn’t be your only method for keeping your immune system in tip-top shape.
Here are some other effective ways to boost your immune system:
- Follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night
- Avoid smoking and drink in moderation
- Take an everyday multivitamin or consider once monthly IV therapy treatments to accommodate any micronutrient deficiencies.
- Take preventative measures to eliminate toxic particles
- Pursue activities that keep stress at bay
The health benefits of cannabis are still being studied, but there’s plenty of concrete proof that shows the undeniable connection between cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.
CBD oil and the immune system work together to keep your immune system functioning properly, but it’s important that you don’t view CBD as a single cure. Instead, take a multifaceted approach to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The simple fact that you’re researching ways to improve your immune health is already a big step forward. Just remember that the best way to boost your immune system and keep it that way is to embrace healthy, long-term lifestyle changes.
Jasmine Khachatrian is a California-licensed Physician Assistant, experienced dermatological healthcare professional and founder of Kanavia Organics. She spends her free time researching and writing about the latest developments in the health and wellness industry.