Today, we will explore cytokines, and explain what is a cytokine and what creates a cytokine storm. We have been studying the effects of cannabidiol-acid (CBDA) and cannabidiol (CBD) on cytokine storms since 2016. There have recently been many news articles written about cytokine storms, and we thought we would take this time to explain more about cytokines and the studies of the effects of CBD on cytokine storms.
The immune system is a complex network of cells, effector proteins, and compounds that defend the body against invading agents. Usually the immune system responds to foreign antigens, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, or to tissue damage caused by contusions or abrasions. These responses are typically referred to as inflammatory since they induce or turn on the immune system. Unfortunately, the immune system can also respond to antigens produced by the body as well, the result of which is the development of autoimmune diseases. The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is rapidly increasing with Addison’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Grave’s disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, multiple sclerosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, psoriatic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, type I diabetes and ulcerative colitis all being recognized as autoimmune diseases.
What Are Cytokines?
There are a number of cellular indicators that can be used to identify elevated immune responses. These include increased amounts of histamine, nitric oxide (NO), reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as H2O2, and secreted cytokine proteins. The cytokine proteins are receiving more and more attention as it has become clear that they are one of the major regulators of the immune response. There are over 100 cytokines that are involved in regulating the immune system and they are becoming increasingly important as a key indicator of elevated immune responses.
What Is a Cytokine Storm?
The immune system is stringently regulated via a counterbalance between inflammatory (proinflammatory) and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines induce the immune system while anti-inflammatory cytokines repress the immune system. Normally this counterbalance keeps the immune system in check and ready to act when necessary. When an inflammatory response occurs due to inflammation or autoimmune diseases, the levels of inflammatory cytokines drastically increase. The term “cytokine storm” is generally used to describe the increase in inflammatory cytokine levels that occur in people suffering from inflammatory conditions or autoimmune diseases. The repression of inflammatory cytokines that are involved in cytokine storms by pharmaceutical agents is gaining attention as a treatment regimen for severe inflammatory conditions. There is no universal agreement as to which inflammatory cytokines are the most important, but cytokines such as interleukin-1𝛽, interleukin -6, interleukin -17 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF or TNF) appear to be figure prominently in regulating the immune response and being the key causative agents of cytokine storms.
Therapeutics used to treat inflammatory conditions or autoimmune diseases include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine and leflunomide, corticosteroid or steroid drugs, such as cortisone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and prednisone, and TNF cytokine inhibitors, which include the xanthine derivatives pentoxiylline and bupropion, and monoclonal antibodies, such as adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab. Typically people try NSAIDs first to alleviate inflammatory conditions or autoimmune diseases before progressing to DMARDs, then corticosteroid drugs and ultimately TNF inhibitors. While both corticosteroid and TNF inhibitors are problematic and cause significant side effects in patients, the corticosteroid drugs have generally proven to be much safer and pose less risk than the TNF inhibitor drugs, which should only be used as a last resort when no other treatment provides relief for people suffering from inflammatory conditions.
The Endocannabinoid System
Recently it has become clear that the endocannabinoid system, which functions due to the interaction of endocannabinoid compounds with G protein-coupled endocannabinoid receptors and is a key regulator of the brain and central nervous system, is also involved in the regulation of the immune system. The psychotropic 9-tetrahydrocannibinol ( 9–THC or THC) plant phytocannabinoid produced by Cannabis varieties mimics the endocannabinoid anandamide and interacts with the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, and is well documented for its use as a psychotropic agent in relieving pain and anxiety due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Recently the non-psychotropic plant phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), also produced by Cannabis varieties, has gained attention as a potential anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressant therapeutic and several studies have documented its potential. While it is unclear how CBD affects the endocannabinoid system, a number of studies have postulated potential mechanisms by which this might occur.
What are the Effects of CBD on Cytokine Storms?
GreenWay Herbal Products (parent company of Tanasi) recently filed a patent application, “Cannabinoid compositions and methods of using,” on its research which shows that a number of non-psychotropic cannabinoids isolated from industrial hemp plants have potential as anti-inflammatory agents. Of particular note was that a 1:1 mixture of CBD and its precursor cannabinoid cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) was more effective at suppressing a cytokine storm than the well-known corticosteroid dexamethasone and thus could hold great promise as an anti-inflammatory agent. Given that CBD has proven to be well tolerated in people with very little toxicological issues, the use of CBD as an anti-inflammatory agent could be a safer alternative than the use of corticosteroids.
The many companies, like Tanasi, that are in the business of processing and manufacturing hemp extract products continue to explore and study the molecules that make up the products offered. We always ask our customers for reviews of Tanasi products used that continue to be helpful for others who may have similar situations and reasons for using CBD products.
We continue to believe that our Tanasi hemp extract CBDA/CBD products to be superior to CBD alone and having input from our customers is helpful as we focus on bringing the best of what we develop to market.
If you have not tried our Tanasi products yet, we encourage you to do so, but also encourage that you are consistent in your use. As always, we encourage you to consult your doctor if you are under doctor’s care and especially if you are on any medication — even over the counter medications.