At least five million people in the world—including more than one million Americans—suffer from some form of lupus. Lupus is a complex autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs throughout the body.
Doctors usually prescribe several different classes of prescription medications to try to treat the various types of lupus. But as these drugs can have serious side effects, a growing number of lupus patients are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) for relief of symptoms including:
Not much research has been conducted specifically on the applications of CBD for lupus. But studies reveal that CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and neuroprotectant.
This abundant cannabis compound works on many different systems in the body to promote healing and maintain homeostasis, or balance, among the body’s many interconnected functions. For these reasons, CBD may be able to help relieve lupus symptoms and prevent flare-ups of the disease.
Disorders like lupus aren’t caused by an external source like a virus or bacteria; they’re a result of the immune system swinging into hyperdrive. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system treats healthy organs and tissues as if they were foreign invaders.
Lupus occurs in several different forms. But in all of them, the immune system attacks and breaks down tissue, causing pain, inflammation and fever, among other symptoms. Lupus can affect just about anyone, even very young children, but most lupus sufferers are women of childbearing age. Of that group, about two-thirds are non-white women.
The different types of lupus include:
The exact mechanisms that trigger lupus aren’t clearly understood, but several known factors besides prescription medications are associated with developing the condition, including:
Lupus has a variety of symptoms, depending on the parts of the body that the immune system attacks. The most typical symptoms for all types of lupus are:
Other symptoms can include:
If lupus affects the central nervous system, it can cause depression, seizures, and memory and vision problems. Lupus can also cause serious outcomes such as heart attack, kidney failure and stroke.
Lupus is a chronic condition that, at this point, has no real cure. Treatments for lupus are intended to manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups, and they include a variety of prescription drugs from several different classes, including:
These and other medications prescribed to treat the various types of lupus can have severe side effects that can include lung, kidney and liver damage. But because CBD affects the underlying systems that drive immune response, pain signaling and inflammation, it may be able to relieve a variety of lupus symptoms without these risks.
Many of the health benefits of cannabis derive from CBD, one of the most abundant compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike another famous cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t cause people to feel high. But it does support the functioning of numerous systems and subsystems in the body.
Relatively recent research has revealed the existence of a bodywide system of receptors called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that responds to cannabinoids. Cannabinoids produced by the body, called endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, including CBD, activate the ECS receptors.
Researchers are still studying the scope and functions of the ECS, but this system appears to play a major role in maintaining homeostasis, or keeping many of the body’s subsystems in balance.
CBD can activate receptors in the ECS, but it does much more. At least some parts of the ECS are present in almost every type of cell in the body, and CBD can moderate the activity of processes that affect the functioning of many different types of cells. One of these is T-cells, a kind of cell that’s responsible for immune system responses. This means CBD may be able to help regulate immune system functioning and reduce the hyperactivity that causes lupus symptoms.
Because the ECS is connected to nearly all cell types throughout the body, a number of studies show that CBD can have effects that may also help ease other kinds of lupus symptoms like:
In a recent survey by the Lupus Foundation, 65% of lupus sufferers cited pain as their most debilitating symptom. A number of studies have documented CBD’s ability to relieve pain by moderating pain signaling to the brain. CBD also has anti-inflammatory properties, so that it can relieve the swelling and other inflammation symptoms that go along with lupus.
CBD has far-reaching effects on cells and processes throughout the body, including those that can trigger the symptoms of lupus. This can explain why some lupus patients are finding more relief for their symptoms from CBD than from prescription medications, with fewer risks and side effects.
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