How Cannabis Can Help Combat Inflammation

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Categories : Medical cannabis

How Cannabis Can Help Combat Inflammation

Evidence is mounting that cannabis helps combat inflammation, which could make it effective for the prevention and treatment of many illnesses from arthritis and diabetes to asthma and heart disease.

When inflammation occurs due to a weakened immune system, this can lead to organ, joint, and tissue damage in various parts of the body. Common illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, ADD, and thyroid problems have inflammation as their underlying cause. With inflammation at the root of so many health issues, treating it effectively is important to prevent serious conditions.

Medical research is now focussing on the role of cannabis in the treatment and prevention of inflammation. Studies are showing that the active compounds in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, help combat inflammation as well as the pain that inflammation often causes.


Cannabinoids THC and CBD are the two predominant active compounds in cannabis. Research has shown that both of these cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of various health conditions, including inflammation and chronic pain.

According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, cannabinoids can control the immune response to help suppress inflammation. This works because cannabinoids can directly bind to and/or interact with our body’s endocannabinoid receptors.


Endocannabinoids and their main receptors CB1 and CB2 are found all throughout the body, including in the brain, organs, tissues, glands, and the immune system. CB1 is located in the central nervous system and is responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. Receptor CB2, which is found in the cells of the immune system, is mainly responsible for inhibiting inflammation. Said differently, cannabis can directly tap into and mediate our immune system.

Aside from the active compounds in cannabis being able to interact with our endocannabinoid system, the herb is also useful in keeping the level of c-reactive protein levels down. These proteins have been found to be responsible for causing heart diseases. As per recent scientific research, there is a link between cannabis consumption and healthy, lower levels of these proteins. Yet another study showed that the cannabinoid CBD is not just able to block the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but moreover, also helps with pain relief.


Both THC and CBD have been found to play a role in treating inflammation, but with some notable differences. Both cannabinoids can lower the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins important for cell signalling, among other anti-inflammatory functions. But CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis has been found to be much more potent at fighting inflammation as compared to THC. This is also the reason that medicinal cannabis strains for treating inflammation are usually high in CBD.

How Cannabis Can Help Combat Inflammation


Some diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) are caused by the body’s immune system getting out of control. In the case of MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers healthy nerve fibres. The ability of cannabinoids to suppress such unwanted immune system responses shows therapeutic promise, not just for multiple sclerosis, but for many other diseases where a compromised immune system is at the root.

When cannabinoids interact with our central nervous system, they can protect cells that are still unaffected by disease from cell death (apoptosis). Since MS is a disease of the central nervous system, cannabinoids offer encouraging medicinal potential for treatment. Via some not-yet-entirely-understood mechanism, cannabinoids can likewise initiate the cell death of already-affected cells that are responsible for the symptoms of MS. Moreover, cannabinoids have been found to be beneficial for repairing already-damaged myelin sheaths of nerve fibres.


Inflammation of the colon is the underlying cause for diseases such as Crohn’s or colitis. Research shows that an activation of CB1 receptors can help in the prevention of colon inflammation. Although studies have to date only been conducted on animals, the encouraging results are showing less damage on the gut and a prevention of colon shrinking. These results strongly suggest that cannabis can be beneficial in preventing symptoms of colitis.


In recent years, scientists have learned a fair amount about the safety and tolerability of cannabis. To date, there is no indication that CBD has any negative effects, including when taken in relatively high doses. The FDA requested public comment on the safety of CBD back in August 2017. As a result of this request, advocates and medical experts alike recommended the rescheduling of cannabis, and therefore, its removal from the Controlled Substances Act. Likewise, it was requested that the FDA take steps to clarify that products such as CBD oil are not marijuana. Yet, At present, CBD is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA in the United States.

While the DEA in the US seems to be stuck in the past, at least when it comes to CBD, the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that it is a medicine with no risk of abuse.

The WHO now officially agrees that naturally occurring cannabidiol (CBD) does not meet the criteria necessary to be listed as a schedule I prohibited drug and does indeed present several medical applications. Cannabis advocates are now hoping that these latest official statements by the WHO will make the FDA listen and learn, for a change.


As is so often the case when it comes to cannabis and medicine, most of the research is still in its infancy. Animal research suggests great potential for the effective use of cannabis for treating inflammation and other health conditions. Nevertheless, what works on mice still has to be tested with human patients, and this is not something that happens from one day to the other. Clearly, more research is still ahead. In the meantime, an increasing number of patients don’t even see it as necessary to wait and follow the latest news about the health benefits of cannabis, especially CBD. They are using cannabis to treat their health conditions right now, and often, with astonishing results. And this puts them quite ahead of the folks studying the herb in the lab.