CBD and Lupus — All You Need to Know in 2021
Ever heard of those diseases that have no established cause and no known cure? Well, lupus is one of them!
Despite the arduous search for a miracle drug throughout the years, all efforts of finding a cure have been in vain, that is, up until now. Namely, the recently-discovered connection between CBD and lupus is showing great promise in finally providing an answer to this millennia-long question.
Ironically, the answer to this ancient ailment was ultimately found in an ancient remedy. Still, the pursuit continues as the therapeutic potential of CBD is yet to be fully discovered. Nevertheless, there is ample evidence today to begin engineering a novelty lupus medication.
Therefore, the main goal of this article will be to provide the answer to the question — “does CBD help treat lupus?”
In addition, we will help you better understand this disease, by answering other (relevant) questions such as “how does CBD oil work” and “what are the connections between these two?”
But, first of all:
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is associated with the inflammation of almost any part of the body. It is a chronic condition with an autoimmune mechanism — in other words, the organism starts producing altered antibodies that attack healthy human cells.
Inflammation is a complex physiological process that occurs in damaged or infected tissue. It entails a multitude of biochemical reactions including immune cells, tissue cells, and signaling molecules.
As a result, the main perk of using cannabis for lupus lies in the plant’s anti-inflammatory traits.
Lupus has no known roots. Nonetheless, the many testimonies of modern medicine have recognized the main factors that contribute to the onset of lupus:
- Genetics — Autoimmune diseases can be inherited.
- Hormones — Hormone fluctuations can trigger inflammation, especially estrogen.
- Gut Microbiota — Due to a dysfunction of the gut bacteria, intestinal cells tend to produce more inflammation and overstimulate the immune system.
- Environmental Influences — Heavy metals, chemical toxins, pathogens, emotional stress, and drugs.
We will try to uncover whether using extracts of medical marijuana for lupus influences any of these factors and whether CBD falls into the category of lupus treatment options.
Lupus is not just a single disease but a collection of conditions that have the same biological response to a hyperactive immune system. Medically, there are four main types of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — The most prevalent and most severe case.
- Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) — Affects the skin, mostly in the form of rashes and lesions.
- Drug-induced lupus — Passes with the elimination of certain drug treatments.
- Neonatal lupus — Hereditary and extremely rare.
The use of CBD for lupus can be considered in both SLE and CLE cases.
Major Lupus Statistics
Lupus statistics for 2020 look like this:
- 322,000 people in the US have lupus
- There are at least 5 million lupus patients worldwide
- In 80% of cases, lupus develops between the ages of 15 and 44
- 90% of lupus patients are women
- 1 in 3 lupus patients suffers from multiple autoimmune diseases
- There are 16,000 new cases of lupus diagnosed each year
- Approximately 1.5 million people have multiple lupus symptoms, but not the diagnosis
- Prevalence has increased ten times in the last 50 years
- There is no connection between the cultural use of marijuana and lupus incidence
Diagnostic guidelines for lupus define that if a person has at least 4 out of the 11 known criteria, a doctor may confirm the diagnosis:
- A butterfly-shaped rash that covers the cheeks and nose (malar rash)
- A series of red patches that raise above the skin (discoid rash)
- Oral or nasal ulcers, or soreness of the mouth
- Inflammation on the heart or lungs – “lupus lungs” are expressed by piercing chest pain while breathing
- Non-erosive arthritis
- Kidney disorder (lupus nephritis)
- Presence of seizures or cognitive problems
- Low blood cell count
- Positive immunologic disorder test
- Positive antinuclear antibody test
However, the most prevalent use of CBD for lupus is to treat flare-ups — they are considered exacerbations and are defined as joint and muscle pain, fever, fatigue, eye inflammation with eye dryness, and a higher risk of blood clotting.
- Coronary heart disease — Decreases blood flow to the heart causing heart attacks in most severe cases.
- Brain diseases — Impaired vision, cognitive and behavioral problems, including higher risks of strokes or seizures.
- Kidney disease — Kidney failure is one of the leading causes of death in SLE patients.
- Blood vessel inflammation — Restricts blood flow causing organ and tissue damage.
- Lung disease — Often results in respiratory failure.
Lupus symptoms can hide behind different diagnoses for years. What’s more, it’s safe to say that the extensive use of recreational cannabis for treating lupus symptoms helped popularize the many health benefits of CBD and spurred further research into the matter.
Lupus Treatment Options
Is there a cure for lupus? — No, there is not. On the other hand, some treatments can help alleviate the symptoms, treat pain or slow down the progression of the disease.
Certain life habits, such as avoiding sunlight, practicing meditation, and physical activity, can prolong remissions and delay lupus flare-ups.
Natural Treatment for Lupus
Natural remedies include the use of ginger, coconut oil, Epsom salts, and flaxseed. Some preparations contain cannabis, yet there is still no concrete evidence on the effects of CBD and lupus outcomes.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
These are OTC preparations, such as ibuprofen creams or naproxen tablets. They are the most common lupus pain medications used to treat joint, muscle, and head pain.
Their continuous use often leads to indigestion, stomach erosion, lowering of the immune responses, and can incite additional complications.
They are used for lupus flare treatment and can be used orally or in a topical form, in the case of rashes. The most frequent steroid used is prednisone.
Prolonged external use of steroids leads to skin thinning and skin cracks. In contrast to CBD oil, lupus steroid treatment in the long-term can seriously harm the immune system.
Used for pain, rashes, and lung inflammation. Most commonly used is hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). This drug, however, can cause headaches, weight loss, and stomach pain.
Other medications include B-lymphocyte specific inhibitors (belimumab) and immunosuppressants (methotrexate, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide).
Severity and outlook depend on the organs that are involved in the autoimmune response. Most people with lupus can expect to live an average lifespan. However, the quality of their lives can vary.
Why Use CBD for Lupus?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive substance abundantly found in cannabis plants, proven to have intense physiological activity and great therapeutic potential.
CBD oil — the most commonly used form — was medically studied in the form of a purified hemp extract that can be standardized and adequately dosed. Overall, a large variety of CBD oil-infused health products are available on the market today.
There are also edibles (gummies, chocolates, brownies, chewing gum, etc.), liquid drops, pills, smokables, eye drops, suppositories, and topical products (ointments, cremes, gels, salves, and balms). Most of these are neither produced nor regulated as drugs.
Epidiolex is the only cannabis-based drug on the market today. It was the first FDA-approved CBD epilepsy treatment. However, regarding the use of CBD oil, lupus research is still lagging behind.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
CBD binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the body that control our homeostasis through multicellular activity. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 — Primarily located in the nervous system, connective tissues, and glands.
- CB2 — Prevalent in the immune system, heart, bones, kidneys, lymph nodes, liver, and spleen.
These receptors and their human ligands comprise the endocannabinoid system. Isolated CBD strains bind mainly to CB2, therefore regulating the overall immune system and inflammation.
CBD oil enhances the homeostatic activity in the organism by regulating movement, energy, the immune system, bone metabolism, and endocrine functions. The main therapeutic potential of cannabis oil for lupus is found in its anti-inflammatory effects.
Health Benefits of CBD
CBD can be used for a variety of indispositions, and symptoms:
- Pain treatment
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bacterial infections
- Blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bone healing
Regardless of the growing amount of data on similar health topics, CBD oil for lupus + reviews of the same, are still far from being official. Nevertheless, lupus CBD treatment can still fall upon its former laurels, namely, the evidence of its antirheumatic use.
Antirheumatic Properties of CBD
Rheumatic diseases are autoimmune in nature. Health benefits of CBD have been confirmed in treating inflammatory rheumatic conditions, such as acute arthritis and osteoarthritis. Researchers clearly state that there is potential in treating other chronic rheumatic diseases associated with inflammatory pain, like lupus.
Various case studies have confirmed the efficiency of CBD in treating pain with other autoimmune diseases, including systemic sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
CBD and Lupus Treatment
As previously mentioned, there is no permanent cure for lupus, and the disease has multiple symptoms and a variety of comorbidities, making it hard to treat.
However, given the variety of CBD oil’s health benefits, there is massive potential in its use in both direct lupus symptom treatment, and as complementary medicine.
Calculating the Dosage
Considering that most CBD-containing products are not approved as medication, there is no defined dosage or even a recommended daily allowance table. According to research, the best dosing strategy includes the appliance of CBD dosage for inflammation.
CBD dosage for lupus entails introducing the substance in smaller doses, and then gradually increasing the dosage until the desired therapeutic effect is achieved.
The initial anti-inflammatory dose of CBD is 10 to 20 mg per day, which could be increased by 5 mg per week until the desired symptom relief is reached.
There is no official concern about overdosing. CBD is sometimes used in doses of 200 mg per day for epilepsy symptoms. A safety study from 2011 claims that doses as high as 1,500 mg per day can be well tolerated in humans.
How much CBD oil to take for lupus? — As much as you need. So long as there are no conflicting drug interactions or emerging CBD oil side effects.
Limitations of CBD Treatment
The most frequent side effects of CBD include symptoms such as a dry mouth, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and drops in blood pressure. If any of these do occur, CBD products should be excluded from therapy.
CBD drug Interactions happen in liver cells. Cannabidiol inhibits the expression of certain liver enzymes that are responsible for the metabolism of many foods and drugs.
Most of the NSAIDs used for lupus and CBD oil should not be taken together!
The main problem with this therapy actually concerns drugs that are used to treat pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketorolac, and ketoprofen. When taken together, CBD can elevate the blood levels in the body, inadvertently causing heart problems, stomach erosion, lung problems, and even cause bleeding.
CBD interacts with steroids, but not with prednisone.
Taken together, they can lead to liver damage, kidney damage, and immune suppression. On the other hand, there are no known reactions between commonly used, lighter steroid prednisone and CDB.
CBD oil and Plaquenil can be used together.
Both Plaquenil and CBD oil are known to lower blood pressure and cause a dry mouth. If the treatment is based upon the two, these symptoms need monitoring.
As lupus has many accompanying conditions, with their own set of drugs, possible interactions should always be considered.
Choosing the Right Product
There are two main types of high-quality CBD oil products:
- Full-spectrum oils — a variety of additional chemicals found in the marijuana extract.
- Pure CBD — a filtration-purified product that contains up to 99.9% CBD.
Although most studies confirm the efficiency of the pure extract, there are theories that the full-spectrum oil provides additional health benefits.
When using medical marijuana products, determining what strain is good for lupus is advisable. It is best to take the one that has a CBD:THC ratio that is in the CBD’s favor. According to a few sources, exceptional choices include Cannatonic, Harlequin, Afgan Kush, Blue Dream, and Charlotte’s Web.
Treating Lupus Symptoms with CBD
There is evidence that implies that CBD is a potential lupus medicine. It can be used as an independent remedy to treat lupus symptoms directly or as a form of support to the existing treatment.
Joint and Muscle Pain
In 2017, researchers quantified the efficiency of CBD on chronic pain by emphasizing its use in autoimmune diseases.
The link between CBD and lupus is found in its anti-inflammatory properties, which influence immune system cells via CB2 interactions. CBD suppresses the intestinal inflammation that triggers an autoimmune response. In addition, the anti-inflammatory effects in mean tissues can also inhibit multiple organ flare-ups.
Furthermore, topical creams can be used as a quick pain relief for lupus back pain.
When used without steroids or NSAIDs, CBD can prolong the period of lupus remissions, thus increasing the quality of life.
In mild to moderate cases, calculating the CBD dosage for lupus pain begins with smaller doses and increases over time. In most cases, 100 mg daily doses and higher are needed to achieve a systemic anti-inflammatory effect.
In severe cases of SLE, CBD oil should also be used in titrating doses. However, multidrug interactions should be considered when adjusting the dosage. In concomitant use, the CBD doses needed for immunosuppression are also lower.
Systemic weakness is a state that usually follows lupus flare-ups. In the case of possible drug interaction, CBD oil can be used solitary for total system recovery.
Homeostasis maintenance is the link between CBD oil and lupus fatigue treatment. This is based on the anti-anxiety effects of CBD. Using it can help cope with pain, stress, and nervousness. Furthermore, CBD balances the homeostatic processes in the organism via CB2 receptors, shortening the recovery time and rebalancing the neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
The same neuroprotective effects can be achieved with smaller doses of CBD to treat headaches, memory problems, dizziness, and neurology-related behavioral problems. In severe cases of lupus, cannabis products have been proven to lower the incidence of seizures.
CBD is considered preventive medicine for cardiovascular events in lupus treatments as it reduces heart inflammation and lowers blood pressure. Overall, cannabidiol in combination with Plaquenil could prove extremely beneficial. The protective effects can also be accomplished by using lower doses of CBD for longer periods of time. Still, CBD oil with high THC content should not be used.
CBD-containing eye drops were confirmed to reduce corneal inflammation in patients with an eye injury.
Sterile CBD eye preparations can be considered for dry eyes and eye inflammation, which accompanies lupus. This way interactions are minimal, or non-existing.
CBD Oil for Lupus Lungs
There is evidence with promising results for treating lung cancer patients with CBD. “Lupus lungs” is predominantly an inflammatory condition. It develops through a period of consistent autoimmune inflammation. The long-term use of low CBD doses could result in chronic suppression of inflammatory immune components.
New research defines the cannabinoid structure of the skin as extremely sensitive to exogenous cannabinoid stimulation. Therefore, the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD could be efficiently applied to the inflamed skin tissue.
The difference between cannabis oil and lupus topicals (steroids) is that CBD-based products have significantly fewer side effects.
Depending on the skin surface that is afflicted, different topical preparations can be used. Creams or ointments with 5 to 10% of CBD can be used as a general treatment.
Supportive and Preventive Use
In contrast to symptomatic use, CBD products can be effective as a supportive treatment, treating the side effects of other drugs, thus promoting detoxification during remissions. Favorable effects can be achieved with lower doses of CBD.
In predisposed people, emotional stress can be a potent inducer of lupus, and cannabis products have been long used in relieving stress. Neurophysiological effects of CBD could be useful in delaying the disease onset.
Furthermore, CBD oil could be used for its digestive stimulating properties. Healthy digestion not only helps lupus patients but also prolongs the quiet phase and lowers the autoimmune response.
There is a copious amount of evidence that supports the use of CBD as an anti-inflammatory substance. It is well tolerated and produces clinically relevant health effects.
As for lupus and CBD, cannabidiol products can be used both to prevent and treat lupus symptoms. Nevertheless, due to the complex nature of lupus symptomatology, no universal recommendation can be made. Every case has its own calculation.
Lupus patients should always consider consulting their physician, or pharmacist, to professionally assess risks, benefits, and calculate the right dosage.
Regarding the relationship between CBD and lupus, it is safe to say that we can expect to see more clinical data in upcoming years.
What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a chemical also found in cannabis plants. It reacts mainly with CB1 receptors and is responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive properties. So far, CBD has been proven more safe and efficient.
Does CBD help lupus?
CBD has many physiological effects that can be used for lupus symptom relief. It can also be used in flare-up prevention. Its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties are useful in relieving pain, and other accompanying health problems.
Can CBD worsen lupus treatment?
There is no evidence that CBD products can worsen lupus symptoms or onset lupus flare-ups. They are considered helpful, but not officially prescribed by doctors. Caution is recommended in people who take a lot of medications for lupus because of the possible CBD-drug interactions.
Can CBD help with autoimmune disease?
CBD is helpful in reducing the hyperactivity of the immune system that is responsible for autoimmune disease development. There is clinical evidence that supports the benefits of CBD in treatments of rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia, which are considered autoimmune diseases.
Conversely, cannabis does not always aid the immune system.
Can medical marijuana help lupus?
There is empirical evidence that marijuana can help with lupus symptoms, such as nervousness, pain, indigestion, seizures, and eye problems. However, there are higher chances of psychoactive side effects with the use of THC preparations. On the other hand, CBD products have more benefits and fewer contraindications.
How much CBD oil should I take for lupus?
There is no defined CBD dose for lupus. Dosing should be calculated according to the symptoms, and in consideration of other drugs used.
What foods trigger lupus flare ups?
Alfalfa sprouts and garlic are considered as immunostimulants and could fuel the autoimmune response.
Additionally, processed meat and additive-infused bread and bagels could acidify the digestive composition in the gut, and induce an intensive immune reaction.
Can I use meds with lupus and marijuana?
The majority of lupus medications are metabolized in the liver, therefore the use of cannabis should be thoroughly reconsidered.
Steroids, other than prednisone, are not to be used with marijuana, along with most NSAIDs. Plaquenil, on the other hand, appears to have no interactions on this level, and could be considered a safe choice for the combination.