How CBD Affects the Immune System

Posted on September 1st, 2020

Studies on the effects and potential benefits of CBD have drastically increased over the past couple of years. Even though more research is still needed to fully understand how CBD works, early studies show that the compound’s naturally occurring immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory properties may be used to help boost the immune system functions and responses. In this post, we are going to take a more in-depth look at the immune system and how CBD affects its operations. 

The Immune System

The immune system is one of the most complex fields in medicine, and there’s a lot that’s still unknown about it. It consists of a network of specialized cells, organs, and tissues that all work in tandem to defend and protect the body against diseases or infections. When the immune system is functioning optimally, it is able to fight viruses harmful to the body and also prevent infections. 

In this process, white blood cells are vital. White blood cells come in two forms: lymphocytes and phagocytes. The latter ascertain that harmful viruses, bacteria, and infections are neutralized and prevented from spreading and causing further damage. On the other hand, lymphocytes, also known as T-cells and B-cells, help the body remember what the harmful substances were, thus allowing the immune system to instantly go on defense mode the next time it’s attacked. 

Another vital role of the immune system is to make sure that cells that are not functioning correctly are detected and killed and disposed of. This is an especially important process as, if left unaddressed, the defective cells could multiply and form tumors. 

woman in green shirt holding cbd capsulesWhat Is CBD?

Also referred to as cannabidiol, CBD is one of the many compounds present in the cannabis Sativa plant. The primary difference between cannabidiol and other cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is that it does not have psychoactive effects and so, you can’t get ‘high’ by consuming it. 

Cannabidiol might be the second most-prominent cannabinoid, but nowadays, it is, without a doubt, the most talked about. Although it is historically less sought after and less dominant than its counterpart (THC), CBD has become a huge trend not only in the cannabis realm but also in the food, health, and wellness as well as the cosmetic industry. The growing interest in cannabidiol, in addition to the mounting research showcasing its value and potential therapeutic benefits, has made everyone curious about it and what it can do. 

We may have a long way in mastering the science behind cannabidiol and unlocking its full potential, but we have a working comprehension of how the compound’s molecules interact with the endocannabinoid system to provide an array of potential benefits. That being said, here’s a closer look at the endocannabinoid system (ECS), how it interacts with cannabidiol, and the many benefits you may reap from this interaction in relation to the immune system. 

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a sophisticated cell-signaling system found on every cell in the brain, immune cells in the bloodstream, throughout the cardiovascular system as well as the skin. The ECS is a relatively new area of study as it was just identified in the early ’90s

Although more research is needed to wholly understand the mechanics of this system, doctors have identified its presence throughout the body, regulating an array of processes and functions including:

  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Fertility and reproduction
  • Memory

The ECS consists of three primary components: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that are native to the body or endogenous cannabinoids) receptors (where the endocannabinoids bind to) and enzymes tasked with breaking them down to evoke a bodily response. CB1 and CB2 receptors are the two most research cannabinoids in this regard. CB1 receptors are usually found in the central nervous system (CNS), where they handle brain function. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are often found in immune cells throughout the body. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant or phytocannabinoids may evoke therapeutic responses by binding to or indirectly working with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

How CBD Works With the ECS

The ECS allows cannabidiol to potentially help a wide array of symptoms. As mentioned above, it is thought to work with both the CB1 and CB2 to elicit various bodily responses. It ideally interacts with the body via other biological pathways and is known to produce potentially therapeutic effects by activating several pathways simultaneously. 

Cannabidiol has a complex relationship with THC, tied to the manner in which both cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system. On the molecular level, cannabidiol does the complete opposite of THC. It’s an inverse agonist to the CB1 receptors, while THC acts as an agonist. When combined with THC, CBD has the ability to curb the negative effects of THC. 

CBD and the Immune System

There’s an array of ways in which this cannabinoid might help boost the immune system. For starters, CBD has the potential to help regulate the body’s inflammatory responses because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a vital aspect when it comes to defense, as it helps prevent harmful substances from spreading to other parts of the body. But when it runs rampant, it can also trigger illness. 

Cannabidiol might act as an immunosuppressor. This means it may be able to slow down your immune response. This property means the compound may offer some relief and support to individuals suffering from autoimmune conditions like Lupus, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS. 

CBD’s properties may help alleviate pain and discomfort in people suffering from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, and even cancer. Due to the cannabinoid’s potential immunosuppressant properties, it’s more likely to be advantageous as a form of relief for existing conditions rather than been used as preventative medicine. 

The cannabinoid may promote cellular death, suppress the production and operation of T-cells, and hamper rapid cell growth. While these are not effects that a healthy individual might need, for an individual with a hyperactive immune system, this could help with the healing process. 

woman in white sweater holding tanasi cbd tinctureCBD Effects on the Immune System: Is There Proper Research?

Let us make one thing clear – there is a lot about how the immune system functions and response that we do not know. There is even less information and studies on the body’s ECS. 

Therefore, nobody, even the leading experts, can outwardly claim that cannabidiol has specific effects on the immune system. Yes, it is pretty evident that cannabinoids have some effect on the overall immune response, however, it is still not exactly clear as to how we can administer it to get the most beneficial results. 

However, the potential ability of CBD to ‘balance’ the two primary arms of the immune system is certainly worth researching more. Generally, there are two ways in which adaptive immune cells seek out and get rid of foreign substances that lead to infections, diseases, etc.:

Cell-Mediated Immunity

This is a process that entails using T-cells that seek out and eliminate pathogens on their own by inducing programmed cell suicide, also known as apoptosis. 

Humoral Immunity

This is a process that happens when B-cells produce antibodies that are meant to seek out and eliminate unwanted foreign agents. 

In autoimmune conditions, one of these forms of immunity goes overboard and starts to attack and kill healthy cells and tissues. 

Using CBD for Boosting the Immune System

There are many studies that show the potential benefits of this cannabinoid in boosting the immune system and helping manage symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Other than this, CBD is known to have numerous potential benefits, including boosting appetite, mood, alleviating pain, helping symptoms of anxiety and depression, and other mental disorders. There are various ways to consume CBD, including vaping, drops, edibles, and even topical applications. However, the right dose is a tricky subject, as it depends on an array of factors. To find the best one, it’s best to start with low doses and gradually increase until you reach a point where you can feel the desired effects. 


If you have decided to try CBD for immune system health, keep in mind that there are numerous types of CBD oil products out there, all with varying concentrations and additional ingredients. As such, it is important to consult your physician or a clinical professional on the use of CBD for immune health. CBD does not have severe adverse effects, but it is still important to ensure you are making the right decision. 

Lastly, always ensure you do your homework and use the substance under your own judgment. When buying a CBD product, ensure that you’re purchasing from a reputable manufacturer. The quality of the product may depend on where the plant is grown, which is another aspect to consider. Look for a company who provide a certificate analysis on their products provided from a third-party lab. 

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