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Lupus is an Autoimmune Condition That Causes Great Suffering for Patients But Cannabis May Help With That

Jessica McKeil
cannabis, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, research, lupus, autoimmune disease, immunity, immune system, homeostasis, inflammation, pain

Cannabinoid therapy is helping people with autoimmune disease and it treats the inflammation and the pain, as well as improving digestion and mood for Lupus patients.

Imagine that your body cannot tell the difference between a dangerous infection and its own healthy cells. As your body kicks into high gear, trying to fend off this foreign invader, it’s actually attacking itself. It can’t decipher which cells are good and which are bad. It can’t turn off; eventually ramping up into an immunity overload. This is life with an autoimmune disease. Lupus is among the worst of them.

Autoimmune diseases are more common than you might think. These can manifest in a myriad of different ways, from Rheumatoid arthritis to celiac disease to Type I diabetes to lupus. As research deepens, it seems that more and more common chronic diseases are actually autoimmune issues.

Lupus is a Debilitating Autoimmune Condition

Here, we will focus on lupus, an autoimmune disease affecting at least 5 million people around the world. Lupus falls under a more classic definition of autoimmune issues, causing swollen and inflamed joints, headaches, fatigue, and anemia among many other problems. It’s both difficult to diagnose as well as to treat. Lupus is a lifelong battle to keep the symptoms down, with most medications either targeting the symptom specifically (for example Advil for pain) or trying to dampen an over-reactive immune system (example, Neoral, Sandimmune or Gengraf for immune suppression).

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With such a focus on reducing the activity of a hyperactive immune system, cannabis represents a new approach to autoimmune disease treatment. Not only does cannabis affect pain, inflammation, and mood (all relative to the treatment of lupus), with the right strain, it also might influence the immune system as well.

The Endocannabinoid System and Autoimmune Disease

Ever wonder why so many medical conditions seem to benefit from cannabis and its hundreds of natural chemical compounds? Cannabis’s ability to treat illness as wide-ranging as anxiety, chronic pain, and autoimmune diseases is thanks to its ability to interact with our endocannabinoid system. A pro-cannabis neuroscientist, Michele Ross, Ph.D., describes the endocannabinoid system as “the controller of all controllers” It’s the system monitoring all our other vital systems.

As part of this role, the endocannabinoid system works tirelessly to return our bodies homeostasis. In your daily life, this means working to regulate pain, inflammation, immune response, learning, and memory, as well as mood. It’s a busy system, to say the least.

Some cannabinoids from cannabis, like THC, communicate directly with our endocannabinoid receptors. Others, like CBD, enhance or suppress the activity of our own natural chemical communicator, which in turn work with the receptors. Cannabis seems to encourage many aspects of the endocannabinoid system to return back to normal; to a well-balanced, well-oiled machine. By soothing pain, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and many other therapeutic benefits, cannabis could have a lot to offer someone living with lupus.

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As with many possible applications of medical cannabis, there isn’t enough evidence thus far for any official conclusions about its effectiveness. But, even the Lupus Foundation of America has issued an organization statement on the possibility, “The Lupus Foundation of America supports further scientific research on the use of medical marijuana for treating and alleviating the symptoms of lupus. More research in this area will provide evidence regarding its safety and effectiveness.”

What Can Cannabis Do For Lupus?

To date, there is no cure for lupus or any other autoimmune disease. As mentioned it’s hard to diagnose, and the symptoms are challenging to treat. Conventional medications don’t always work. It’s very common for patients with lupus to go through years of trial and error before settling on a drug cocktail that manages to suppress their painful symptoms. Often, these cocktails have significant detrimental side effects.

Cannabis offers an alternative to, or an effective co-therapy to, the medley of pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed to patients with lupus. It’s attractive because generally speaking, it’s so well received by the patients with minimal side effects. Many of the cannabis compounds are safe to use, even in acute treatments.

However, cannabis doesn’t come without risks, including its ability to affect the strength and metabolism of some common prescriptions. That’s why it’s always best to speak with your doctor before getting underway.

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A recent study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, discovered that THC could have a critical ability to suppress an overactive immune system. The author’s findings suggest that THC changes molecules, called histones, which leads to suppression of inflammation.


Michele Ross, Ph.D., recommends the use of THCa for the treatment of lupus specifically. THCa is found in abundance in raw, uncured cannabis. It’s the precursor to THC, which develops once the product has been exposed to heat. In Ross’s experience and study, THCa reduces pain, suppresses over-active inflammation, and stimulates appetite. In the most serious cases of lupus, weight loss can become a serious concern. THCa does not have any of the psychoactive side effects of THC.


Not only a powerful anti-inflammatory itself, but it’s also capable of soothing anxieties, reducing stress, and modulating mood. Lupus isn’t just a physical disease; the chronic and severe symptoms often trigger depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Plus, CBD can help temper the powerful experience of a large dose of THC.

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With more research, scientists will gain a better understanding of why and how cannabis works so well for the treatment of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Just like with Multiple Sclerosis, a cannabis-derived drug may eventually get developed for the treatment of this challenging disease. Until then, many patients continue to work with their physician to find the perfect dose, strain, and treatment regime using cannabis.

Jessica McKeil
Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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