Lupus is a complex autoimmune condition that affects an estimated 5 million people worldwide. According to anecdotal evidence, some lupus patients are turning to medical marijuana for relief of their symptoms.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs. There is no cure for lupus and the medications used to treat the disease often cause a wide variety of side effects.
The idea of using marijuana to battle the symptoms of lupus isn’t that farfetched. Cannabis has been known to have extremely strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it a prime candidate for treating lupus.
While its underlying causes aren’t clear, the disease triggers an alternate response in white blood cells. In addition, it causes them to attack healthy body tissue rather than simply fighting disease and infections. As the body is under constant attack from its own defense system, it ultimately becomes inflamed, giving rise to a variety of symptoms, including:
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Rashes and skin lesions
- Hair loss
- Damage to internal organs like the kidneys, heart, or brain
- Shortness of breath
- Dry eyes
Like many chronic conditions, lupus can affect each patient differently. Symptoms can come on suddenly in some patients, while others might experience a more gradual onset. Most patients, however, tend to suffer from a mild case of lupus, generally characterized by ‘flare-ups’, or periods of strong symptoms. Lastly, it’s followed by periods where symptoms decrease or disappear altogether.
The Benefits of Cannabis
Cannabis has received a lot of attention over the last years, mainly for the newfound medicinal benefits of some of its major compounds, including THC and CBD. Pain relief and anti-inflammation are two of the most well-known benefits associated with cannabis. As a result, the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties are highly regarded for its medicinal power.
Josh Stanley, is a leading medicinal cannabis entrepreneur and one of the creators of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s Web is a renowned CBD tincture and cannabis strain. It is known for having anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
Cannabis’ strong anti-inflammatory properties make the drug appealing for patients dealing with lupus. In fact, there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence from lupus patients turning to cannabis to ease their symptoms. Also, some patients explained that cannabis is their best bet for managing symptoms without the side effects of regular medications. Above all, some patients that have noticed positive outcome. Patients state that medicating using orally ingested CBD on a daily basis give the best results.
But the evidence for cannabis’ anti-inflammatory benefits isn’t just anecdotal. In 2010, a study explored the effectiveness of both THC and CBD in treating intestinal inflammation in rats. The study was published in The British Journal of Pharmacology. It found that THC was effective in treating and managing this inflammation. In fact, it was more effective than sulphasalazine, a long used anti-inflammatory medication. Furthermore, the study also noted that CBD was able to boost the anti-inflammatory response of THC. In addition, it noted lower doses of THC and CBD produced better results than higher doses of THC alone.
More recently, a 2015 paper from researchers at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Meir Medical Center, Israel, found similar results. Using 2 clinical trials involving 30 and 21 patients with Crohn’s disease. The researchers found that medicinal cannabis lowered disease activity and reduced the use of regular medications in patients. In fact, one of their studies produced close to 50% remission in patients using cannabis as a treatment. On the other hand, a placebo produced less than 10% remissions.
A Reliable Treatment
As is the case with many other fields relating to medical cannabis, there is a serious lack of research focusing. Especially, on how medical marijuana may help manage the symptoms of lupus. In fact, lupus is a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in three US states (Hawaii, Illinois, and New Hampshire).
Unfortunately, the lack of clinical trials testing the efficacy of treating lupus with cannabinoids makes it hard to come to clear conclusions. Hopefully, new research will provide more insight into the relationship between lupus and cannabis in the near future.