Treating Lupus With Cannabis: What Makes It Effective For Patients?

The human immune system is very complex system, with many chemicals interacting with one another to protect the body from foreign infection-causing diseases, but it can also be very essential to understand how the body interacts with other systems within itself. Treating lupus with cannabis is proving to be very effective for patients.

Some conditions can cause healthy cells of the body to attack itself in the guise of attacking a foreign disease. These conditions are called autoimmune diseases and they can be multi-systemic with no cause.

One of the most notorious autoimmune disease is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or just lupus. It exhibits characteristics from other autoimmune diseases in that it is multi-systemic, affecting the kidneys, skin, joints, brain, among others.

Currently, cannabis is is being used as a medical treatment for lupus, with many patients finding the relief they need by using cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in therapeutic doses. It is important to note, however, that neither Health Canada or the Food and Drug Administration have approved cannabis as a viable treatment option for lupus.

What is lupus?

Lupus, as mentioned earlier, is an autoimmune disease which targets many bodily systems, with symptoms varying from mild to severe. It generally affects more women of childbearing age but can affect anyone of any gender, including a wide range of ages between 15 and 45.

It is idiopathic, meaning physicians and researchers do not know why it occurs, though they suspect environmental and genetic factor associations. Due to its vast multi-systemic approach to invasion, the disease can mimic other diseases, and therefore, can be hard to diagnose.

Common symptoms include joint pain, fever, chest pain, hair loss, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a red rash, known as a malar rash due to its butterfly shape, which is most commonly found on the face. The illness can present itself in flares, followed by time of remission with few symptoms.

In lupus, the body creates antibodies against itself, mainly proteins in the cell nucleus. Normally, during an invasion of the body by foreign objects or viruses, the body deactivates immune cells that may cause it to attack its own cells. However, in autoimmune reactions, the body is unable to do this and, instead, the body activates its immune cells.

SLE is a chronic inflammatory disease believed to be a type III hypersensitivity response. No one single test is diagnostic for SLE, but screenings that can help the doctor come to an informed diagnosis include blood tests, such as antibody tests and a complete blood count, a urinalysis to check if there is damage to the kidneys, and a chest X-ray.

The family doctor might refer the patient to a rheumatologist, who is a doctor who specializes in treating joint and soft tissue disorders and autoimmune diseases.

There is currently no cure for lupus so treatment involves preventing flares and reducing their severity and duration when they occur. Treatment can include corticosteroids for skin rashes, anti-inflammatory drugs for joint pains, and antimalarial drugs for both skin and joint problems.

Treating lupus with cannabis

Cannabis is primarily known to be an anti-inflammatory and this alternative remedy can successfully suppress certain parts of the immune system.

It treats lupus by successfully lowering the levels of the body’s inflammation-promoting protein interleukin-2 (IL-2), and raising levels of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-10 (IL-10).

Since lupus is caused by an overactive immune system that attacks healthy tissue, suppressing the immune system may help relieve symptoms. Cannabis helps to achieve this through the activation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Once activated, the MDSCs may help combat the hyperactivity of the immune system.

While there still needs to be more research done on cannabis and lupus, it is undeniable that it has helped many people suffering from the illness in managing their symptoms in a less harmful manner than other drugs indicated for the disease.

Patients should be counselled on proper dosage, method of ingestion, and different types of strain that can help them. Due to the vast differences in the symptoms of SLE, one strain cannot and will not be effective for everyone across the board. Therefore patients should be patient when starting this treatment – not only for lupus – but for any disease that cannabis can help with.