Lupus refers to a chronic autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing widespread inflammation. While more research is necessary, evidence suggests that CBD may show promise for reducing symptoms of lupus.

Lupus describes a group of chronic autoimmune conditions that causes systemic inflammation. With lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks many different body parts and organs. As a result, the disease can cause various symptoms, including rashes, joint swelling, and headaches. Currently, treatment involves relieving symptoms and delaying the start of complications.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most well-known cannabinoids present in the Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) plant. These substances interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body. This term refers to a biological system that may help regulate and balance vital bodily functions. As research continues, growing evidence suggests that the ECS may be a therapeutic target for immune responses and inflammation.

In this article, we will discuss whether CBD and other cannabinoids may help treat symptoms of lupus.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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Cannabinoids refer to substances present in the C. sativa plant. The two main cannabinoids present in cannabis include CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These substances can interact with the ECS and have various effects. The ECS consists of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are present throughout the body.

CB1 receptors are mainly present in the central nervous system (CNS), while CB2 receptors are primarily present in the immune system. As such, interacting with CB2 receptors may help regulate the immune system and potentially reduce excessive inflammation.

Evidence highlights the potential role of CBD in treating autoimmune conditions such as lupus. For example, a 2020 review found overwhelming support for CBD’s immunosuppressive properties. Similarly, a 2021 review notes the ability of cannabinoids to modulate the immune system in autoimmune conditions. Furthermore, a 2020 review highlights the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD.

Additionally, joint and muscle pain are common symptoms of lupus. A 2022 study on CBD as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain found that CBD improved pain, physical function, and sleep quality among people with arthritis. Therefore, CBD could help relieve painful symptoms of the condition.

As excessive immune and inflammatory responses are the root cause of symptoms and tissue damage in people with lupus, researchers hypothesize that CBD can help with lupus symptoms. However, research into CBD as a treatment is still in its early stages.

Learn more about CBD and inflammation.

A statement from the Lupus Foundation of America supports further scientific research on the use of cannabis for treating lupus. It notes that cannabinoids may be effective for related conditions but highlights the need for further studies to prove their efficacy and safety for people with lupus.

Currently, there is an ongoing trial investigating the use of cannabinoids to treat joint pain and swelling in people with lupus. The trial is using a synthetic version of THC known as JBT-101, or lenabasum. This drug binds to CB2 receptors, and researchers believe it could help ease pain and inflammation in those with lupus.

Research into the effectiveness of CBD and other cannabinoids for treating lupus is still in its early stages. Therefore, scientists do not know much about how effective CBD could be for treating lupus. However, growing evidence indicates that cannabinoids and the ECS could be possible targets for treating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

While initial research is promising, CBD does not yet have approval as a treatment option for lupus. As such, people should continue with traditional treatments, such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. However, a person can consider discussing alternative options, including CBD, with their doctor or nurse.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people generally tolerate CBD well, and the compound features a good safety profile. However, adverse effects from CBD may result from interactions with a person’s existing medications.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that possible side effects could include:

  • liver injury
  • interactions with other drugs
  • sleepiness
  • gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
  • mood changes, most commonly agitation and irritability

Paradoxically, a 2018 animal study notes that CBD accelerated disease progression in mice with lupus. The study highlights how further research in humans is necessary to understand the potential benefits versus risks of CBD for lupus.

Following the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill, authorities removed hemp from the legal definition of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act. As such, products that contain less than 0.3% THC are federally legal.

Furthermore, many states in North America have approved the use of medical cannabis. However, each state varies slightly on how they define and regulate the legal use, prescription, or sale of cannabis. As there is no federal law enabling the legal use of medical cannabis, it is illegal to use or prescribe medical cannabis in any state that does not have a law allowing people to do so.

As laws surrounding the use of cannabis are changing rapidly, it is advisable for a person to check their local laws regularly.

People looking for alternative treatment options for lupus may consider complementary and alternative treatments. These can include:

However, it is essential for a person to consult their doctor before starting CBD or any alternative treatment for lupus. Additionally, they should not stop or change any current treatment without consulting a healthcare professional first.

While research is still in its early stages, evidence suggests that cannabinoids, such as CBD, could help manage and treat lupus symptoms. Similar research into other autoimmune conditions notes that CBD may help reduce immune and inflammatory responses.

However, further human research is still necessary. Additionally, it is advisable for a person to continue with traditional treatment options for lupus, such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. If a person is considering CBD to help treat their symptoms, they should first consult with their doctor.