As inflammatory diseases continue to increase globally, could cannabis be the cure?
Inflammation is the body's natural security guard, designed to protect itself from foreign viruses, bacteria, and infections.
One of the most common examples of inflammation occurs during a fever.
When a fever sets in, the body activates its natural inflammation process, which causes chemicals known as pyrogens to be released into the bloodstream, in order to elevate body temperature. This increase in temperature enhances the body's innate immune defenses, helping to fight off the foreign virus.
Our natural inflammatory response serves an invaluable purpose, as without it our bodies would be unable to eliminate viruses or heal properly. Unfortunately, inflammation can also have its own host of issues, particularly if the body fails to cease its inflammatory response.
This phenomenon is called Chronic Inflammation, and results in the body effectively attacking itself, causing discomfort, pain, rashes, fevers and a host of other issues.
In such diseases, the immune system mistakes friend for foe and begins to attack the very tissues it was designed to protect. The soldiers guarding the castle turn and attack it.Donna Jackson Nakazawa, researcher, writer and public speaker
Chronic inflammation can occur if your body cannot expel or eliminate any foreign irritants, which can lead to a prolonged inflammatory response.
Alternatively, individuals who suffer from autoimmune disorders like Crohn's Disease, Diabetes, Hashimoto's, Multiple Sclerosis or Arthritis are often experiencing chronic inflammation, as these disorders are also the result of the body being unable to distinguish between itself and a foreign invader.
The symptoms of chronic inflammation or autoimmune disease can be extremely painful, and sometimes even fatal if the body attacks a vital organ.
In order to avoid these symptoms, many people are turning to cannabis, in the hopes that they can achieve some relief.
The Autoimmune Crisis
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are an estimated 50 million Americans suffering from an autoimmune disorder.
This number is on the rise too, specifically in cases of multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and type 1 diabetes (T1D).
The prevalence of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes is on the rise. In some cases, autoimmune diseases are three times more common now than they were several decades ago. These changes are not due to increased recognition of these disorders or altered diagnostic criteria. Rather, more people are getting autoimmune disorders than ever before.Donna Jackson Nakazawa, researcher, writer and public speaker
Autoimmune diseases are among the top 10 causes of death in female children and women, and are estimated to cost $100 billion a year in medical care in the U.S. alone.
It's unknown why autoimmune diseases are increasing, with some attributing the rise to vitamin D deficiency, and others arguing that it's down to diet.
This lack of a consensus around the causes of inflammatory or autoimmune disease also means that there isn't a consensus on the solution to these issues either. As a result, millions of people are left to suffer, with no clear way to alleviate their symptoms.
This is why more people are turning to cannabis.
Cannabis Fighting Inflammation
As cannabis continues to grow in popularity, new uses for the plant are being discovered daily. From epilepsy to insomnia, cannabis is showing promise in a lot of different fields.
And another area where cannabis has proven beneficial is none other than the treatment of autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.
One such disease is multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a condition of the central nervous system, interfering with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms of MS can include memory loss, muscle spasms, a decrease in motor control and chronic pain.
Cannabis has been found to alleviate some symptoms of MS, and as a result, a drug called Sativex was released. Sativex contains THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio, delivered via mouth spray.
In some trials, Sativex spray significantly reduced neuropathic pain, spasticity, muscle spasms and sleep disturbances in patients suffering from MS.
Other studies have shown that CBD has anti-oxidant effects, which can reduce the symptoms of oxidative stress, inflammation and autoimmune disorders. The study was conducted by George W. Booz, a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who concluded:
Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress "feed off" each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells.George W. Booz, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
Even terpenes, the fragrant oils found within cannabis, have shown anti-inflammatory effects and temporary immunosuppressive qualities, which suggests that they may be beneficial for acute cases of inflammation.
The reason cannabis is proving to be so effective in treating many autoimmune and inflammatory disorders is because humans have an endocannabinoid system (ECS,) which helps to regulate both inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes.
When cannabinoids are consumed, they can interact with the cannabinoid receptors found in the brain and immune system, reducing the impacts of inflammation.
So while the rise in autoimmune-related issues remains a mystery, it's becoming increasingly clear that cannabis can play a powerful role in helping alleviate the symptoms of these issues. And as more research pours forth, it may even prove that cannabis is the best cure for inflammation.