The Lupus Foundation of America1cites that up to 1.5 million people are living with Lupus and 16,000 new cases are reported every day. Lupus is a condition that affects the immune system and is common in women aged 15-44 years. The condition drew public attention when Selena Gomez, a renowned singer, was diagnosed with it during her late teens. Lupus symptoms make it extremely challenging to diagnose and treat. Most treatments are designed to reduce organ damage and pain, manage flares, balance hormones and regulate the immune system activity; not to cure the disease. Some patients have resorted to using CBD oil given the recent explosion of CBD products for treating a range of ailments. The oil is believed to provide an effective solution for treating inflammation and pain associated with Lupus.
What is Lupus?
It is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack its organs and tissues. The most obvious symptom of this disease is inflammation, often affecting the joints, kidneys, brain, blood cells, lungs and the heart. A facial rash also develops, which resembles the wings of a butterfly. Some people are born with lupus genes, which may be triggered by infections, sunlight and other drugs. There are different kinds of Lupus:
- Systematic lupus erythematosus: It is the most common type and affects the whole body. SLE symptoms can range from mild to severe and causes inflammation of the lungs, joints, kidneys, heart, skin or a combination of these. This type occurs in cycles; during times of remission, the patient does not exhibit any symptoms. However, during a flare-up, all the symptoms are likely to appear.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus: It is also called cutaneous Lupus, and it affects the skin only. A rash appears on the neck, face and scalp. The raised areas become scaly and thick, leading to scarring. The rash lasts from a few days to years and is likely to recur. In some cases, DLE progresses to SLE.
- Drug-induced Lupus: 10% of the patients with SLE are likely to trigger symptoms as a result of a reaction to certain prescription drugs. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, seizures, antifungals, antibiotics and oral contraceptives cause this type of Lupus.
- Neonatal Lupus: 1% of mothers who have autoantibodies associated with Lupus will sire babies with Neonatal Lupus. Kids with the condition develop liver problems, skin rash and low blood counts. Most of them develop anaemia.
Most symptoms occur during flare-ups. They include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling in the muscles and joints
- Swelling around the eyes
- Swollen lymph nodes or glands Symptoms
- Skin rashes due to bleeding
- Pale toes or fingers when it is cold
- Fever, headaches and usual loss of hair
Why CBD can be an Effective Natural Treatment for Lupus
Little research exists to justify CBD treatment for lupus. However, the properties of CBD compounds are believed to minimise some symptoms of the disease. A study conducted in 2009 about the use of CBD as a crucial anti-inflammatory drug found that it contains CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are also found in the immune cells. As such, CBD cannabinoids play a pivotal role in regulating the immune system.
CBD is an acronym for the word cannabidiol and is derived from cannabis sativa. For years, the plant has been used as an alternative medicine for treating anorexia and cachexia in HIV/AIDS patients and, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Advances in cannabinoid pharmacology led to the discovery of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which provide the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids. CB1 is dominant in the central nervous system, while CB2 is expressed in the immune cells. As such, CBD interacts with the receptors in the brains and immune system to reduce pain and inflammation.
The active CBD compounds achieve this by inhibiting the inflammatory protein interleukin-2 while stimulating an increase in interleukin-10 anti-inflammatory proteins. Further research shows that the best hemp products inhibit the production of interleukin-6, a protein associated with autoimmune diseases. The 2009 study on CBD also found that CBD provides an effective way of managing pain without the adverse effects exhibited by prescription drugs 2 . CBD oil activates vanilloid and adenosine receptors, which boost the production of serotonin. Here are more reasons that justify the use of CBD for Lupus:
Lack of Addictive Properties
CBD does not cause addiction when used for treating chronic conditions. Most of the prescription drugs formulated by pharmaceutical companies help manage Lupus symptoms. However, pharmaceutical companies use significant amounts of active compounds to suppress the symptoms, leading to serious side effects. CBD, on the other hand, is not addictive. Thus, patients don’t have to worry about withdrawal symptoms if they opt for CBD for Lupus.
Effective at Reducing Pain
Lupus is known to cause an epidemic of pain, including untreated and undertreated pain. CBD oil in its pure form is a safe and effective remedy for inflammation and pain. It has significant benefits for patients looking to avoid the potential side effects of long-term use of painkillers.
People who have used CBD oil for Lupus find it an effective remedy for the disease. This kind of evidence does not substitute scientific proof, but it is something that should get researchers interested.
How to Use CBD to Treat Lupus
There are different ways to administer CBD oil in patients diagnosed with Lupus, and these include edibles, extracts, topical ointments, vapes, tinctures, honey-infusions, and capsules. Vaping is the best alternative for people who smoke. This is because the vape ensures only enough cannabis gets heated to release the cannabinoids. Patients who develop rashes and joint pain should use CBD tinctures and topical. However, since CBD is not FDA-regulated, patients are advised to consult with doctors familiar with CBD oil before administering any form of treatment. The manufacturer should be ready to provide a third-party analysis for its potency and purity. Once you have worked a treatment plan, the doctor should recommend a suitable dosage for your needs. CBD dosages for Lupus treatment are not a one-size-fits; experts recommend a baseline of 10-20 mg per day, which is equivalent to the ration of 1:6mg for every 10 pounds of body weight.
Medical Research about CBD and Lupus
Despite the few clinical studies about CBD treatment for Lupus, there is a growing body of work exploring how cannabinoids affect the immune system of an individual with Lupus. This focus on the immune system is critical as it enables pharmaceuticals to develop drugs that mimic Lupus treatment. An in-depth study of the immune system and the role of the endocannabinoid system occurred in 2009, where researchers learned a few things about CBD oil and lupus2 . First, cannabinoids tested on other autoimmune disorders like colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis show that they protect the patient from pathogenesis by inducing a range of inflammatory pathways. It is this finding that echoes the role that CBD plays in the body of Lupus patient- reducing inflammation by interfering with the process through which the body generates inflammation.
Secondly, cannabinoids suppress the inflammatory response and relieve the symptoms of the disease. The properties of cannabinoids are mediated using different pathways, e.g., the suppression of chemokines and cytokines at the inflammatory sites, induction of apoptosis in active immune cells and upregulation of the T cells. A 2018 research published on Cellular Immunology found that CBD alters the activity of T-cell after a spinal cord injury3. This unusual activity of T-cells is involved in Lupus treatment. This discovery expands on the previous point by mentioning the actual proteins (cytokines) and cells involved in regulating the immune system.
Another research report published on the Free Radical Biology and Medicine Journal examined the role of CBD in diseases associated with inflammation4. George W. Booz, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, concluded that inflammation and oxidative stress cause many human diseases. Identifying the relationship of each proves challenging because both properties feed off each other. However, the administration of CBD shows it is a promising starting point for more drug development thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing effects.
Patients have also reported significant improvement in the disease after administering CBD oil. A particular survey involving Lupus patients was documented at the Lupus Corner. Seven hundred eighty-one individuals with the condition used CBD for a range of reasons, including treating Lupus. 83% of the respondents who used CBD as a direct strategy to manage Lupus symptoms would recommend it to other patients.
CBD oil and lupus research continues to face regulatory, pharmacology and botanical challenges. However, attitude toward cannabis use has shifted as researchers continue to explore this plant’s therapeutic effects. Enough research findings show cannabis is a viable treatment option for alleviating pain and has anti-inflammatory effects on patients with severe conditions like Lupus, arthritis and spinal cord injuries, among others. Research into CBD as a natural treatment for Lupus began to flourish when scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system and the ability of the CBD oil to stimulate of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. However, if the FDA is to approve CBD oil for Lupus, randomized trials using accepted scientific methods need to prove the efficacy of this form of treatment. The recent stance of the Lupus Foundation of America is that there is a need for more research into CBD and Lupus.
- Lupus Foundation of America. (2019). Help Us Solve The Cruel Mystery. [online]
- Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S., Hegde, V. and Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Medicinal Chemistry, 1(7), pp.1333-1349
- Dhital, S., Stokes, J., Park, N., Seo, K. and Kaplan, B. (2017). Cannabidiol (CBD) induces functional Tregs in response to low-level T cell activation. Cellular Immunology, 312, pp.25-34.
- LupusCorner. (2019). Marijuana (Cannabis) or CBD Oil for Lupus – LupusCorner. [online]