Autoimmune diseases, characterized by the body’s immune system attacking its own cells, can be debilitating and challenging to manage. Common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus. These conditions often involve chronic inflammation, causing significant discomfort and disability [1]. As traditional treatments sometimes fall short, interest in alternative therapies like cannabis has grown. But does cannabis help symptoms of autoimmune disorders? This article explores the option of using cannabis to ease symptoms of autoimmune diseases, examining current research and its implications for patients.

Understanding autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune response mistakenly targets healthy cells. Normally, immune cells protect against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. However, this defense mechanism malfunctions in autoimmune conditions, leading to an overactive immune response that damages healthy tissue. Common symptoms for some autoimmune disorders include pain, fatigue, and inflammation, all of which severely impact the quality of life [1].

Overview of cannabis

Cannabis, known as marijuana or hemp – based on the percentage of Delta-9 THC the plant contains, is comprised of various components. These include the psychoactive substance THC and the non psychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol (CBD). These compounds interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body, particularly CB1 and CB2 receptors. Notably, CB1 receptors reside mainly in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors primarily inhabit immune cells and peripheral tissues. This interaction with the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating immune function and inflammatory responses [2].

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The endocannabinoid system and autoimmune disorders

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is essential in maintaining homeostasis in the body. For example, it modulates functions related to  responses through activating CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, the ECS may become unregulated in autoimmune disorders, contributing to problems. By targeting the ECS, cannabis therapy for autoimmune diseases could attempt to work with responses in the ECS to bring about relief [2]. However, more research is needed to substantiate this theory.

Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System

Managing autoimmune diseases: treatment options

While there is no cure for most autoimmune diseases, various treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Common treatments typically include:


  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: These medications help reduce inflammation and pain by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines. This is crucial for managing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Corticosteroids: Used to decrease inflammation.
  • Painkillers: Such as paracetamol and codeine, to alleviate pain.
  • Immunosuppressant drugs: These inhibit the immune system’s activity to prevent it from attacking healthy tissues.
  • Targeted drugs: Interleukin inhibitors and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers specifically target parts of the immune response.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Slow the progression of autoimmune diseases.
  • Antimalarial drugs: Help manage symptoms like skin rashes.
  • Anticoagulants: Prevent blood clots in certain autoimmune conditions [3].


  • Insulin: For autoimmune diseases affecting the pancreas, such as Type 1 diabetes.
  • Thyroid hormone: For autoimmune thyroid disorders.
  • Vitamin B12: To address deficiencies caused by autoimmune conditions [3].

Other Treatments:

  • Blood transfusions: Used if the autoimmune disorder affects blood cells.
  • Physical therapy: Encourages mobility and strength, particularly in conditions affecting muscles like multiple sclerosis and myositis.
  • Exercise: Regular activity can improve muscle strength and overall health.
  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Quitting smoking: Particularly beneficial for diseases affecting blood vessels.
    • Diet: A diet rich in plants, healthy fats, protein, and fermented foods can support overall health and reduce inflammation [3].

Each person’s treatment plan must be tailored to their unique immune system, genetic makeup, and environmental factors, with the guidance of a medical provider. Notably, autoimmune diseases often require a multifaceted approach to address the wide range of symptoms and complications.

Cannabis and autoimmune disorders: can it help?

  • Immune system modulation: Some researchers suggest that cannabinoid therapies may help balance the immune response by modulating mechanisms in the ECS, potentially reducing the overactivity that characterizes many autoimmune disorders [4]. However, others disagree with this theory. Thus, more research is necessary to establish its efficacy and safety.
  • Overall wellness: Various cannabinoids have shown promise in elevating mood and promoting relaxation. Though these effects may not directly affect auto-immune disorders, they can help improve quality of life. [5]

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Scientific research and evidence regarding cannabis and autoimmune disorders

Research into cannabis treatment for autoimmune diseases is still evolving. However, preclinical studies, including murine collagen-induced arthritis models, have shown promising results. In these studies, cannabis use correlated with improvements [6]. Similarly, in vivo studies have indicated that cannabinoids can potentially modulate immune responses in animal models [7] . However, other studies have shown little improvement in these areas. Thus, before using cannabis for an autoimmune disease,  it’s crucial to seek the advice of a specialist in autoimmune diseases for effective treatment.

Risks and considerations

While cannabis offers potential benefits for a variety of issues and illnesses, it also comes with risks and considerations. For example, side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and changes in appetite are common. Additionally, cannabis can interact with medications, potentially altering their effectiveness or causing adverse reactions [8]. Patients should consult healthcare professionals before starting cannabis treatment to ensure it is safe and appropriate for their condition.

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Personal stories and testimonials

Many patients with autoimmune conditions have tried cannabis and shared positive experiences. However, it’s difficult to quantify improvements in symptoms from anecdotal reports. Whether these benefits help with chronic pain and inflammation or, rather, overall mood and sense of well-being is unclear. While anecdotal evidence is encouraging, more robust scientific research is needed to validate these anecdotal reports.

Medical and professional opinions

Healthcare professionals increasingly recognize the potential of cannabis in helping with a number of complaints. For instance, some doctors advocate for its use as an adjunct therapy for various conditions, especially when traditional treatments fail to provide adequate relief [10]. However, findings and recommendations for cannabis and autoimmune conditions are just emerging, emphasizing the importance of physician-guided, individualized treatment plans and monitoring.

Cannabis for overall wellness and uplift

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Key takeaway: cannabis and autoimmune disorders

Cannabis holds promise as a revolutionary wellness option. Though current research is optimistic regarding its potential wellness effects and immune system modulation [4], more studies are needed to fully understand its efficacy and safety. Thus, patients considering cannabis treatment should consult their healthcare providers to weigh the potential benefits and risks.

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Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up-to-date, but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis are evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers.


  1. Everything You Need to Know About Autoimmune Diseases
  2. Endocannabinoid System 101
  3. Autoimmune Disorder Treatments
  4. Cannabinoids as Immune System Modulators: Cannabidiol Potential Therapeutic Approaches and Limitations
  5. 4 Ways Cannabis Can Boost Your Mood
  6. The Nonpsychoactive Cannabis Constituent Cannabidiol: Oral Anti-Arthritic Therapeutic in Murine Collagen-Induced Arthritis
  7. Evidence Supporting the Benefits of Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease
  8. Potential Side Effects of Cannabis
  9. Does CBD Help Treat Autoimmune Diseases?
  10. Is It Legal for Doctors to Prescribe Medical Cannabis?
  11. Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids

Frequently Asked Questions

Cannabis is being studied for its potential to manage symptoms of autoimmune disorders [9]. However, more research is needed to understand its effectiveness and safety.

Yes, there are potential risks. For example, these include side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, and changes in appetite. Also, cannabis can interact with medications [8]. Thus, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before considering cannabis.

Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating processes related to immune functions. This interaction may help modulate the system and its responses, but the exact mechanisms and long-term effects are still being studied [4].