Most reporting done on the immune system has focused on ways to strengthen or stimulate immunity. The hope is if you bolster the immune system you can fight off illnesses better or avoid getting sick altogether. Especially during cold and flu season. The full story on immunity is more complex.
A healthy immune system is a balanced immune system, one that is not too weak and not too strong. In reality, it’s important to regulate immune function, not just strengthen it.
Just like the immune system can become weak—making you susceptible to getting sick—it can swing in the opposite direction and become overstimulated, leading to an attack on your own body. A hyperactive immune system is just as dangerous as a weak immune system, but for different reasons.
When the immune system becomes overactive, it can start indiscriminately attacking your own healthy cells leading to autoimmune issues (1). An overactive immune system can damage the body and result in a wide range of concerns including…
- Joint pain
- Achy muscles
- Hair Loss
- Digestive distress
- Skin rashes
- Swollen glands
Early evidence suggests that a compound extracted from hemp called CBD (cannabidiol) oil can exert immunomodulatory effects on the immune system. In doing so, CBD may balance the immune system and help prevent it from becoming overactive (2, 3).
CBD is one of many cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, and research shows that cannabinoids have a number of beneficial effects on the body, including in the areas of sleep, stress, joint discomfort and immune health.
While scientists still haven’t entirely figured out the details, they believe that CBD exerts this immune-regulatory effect and other benefits by acting on the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
The ECS is a relatively recent discovery. It is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and cannabinoid molecules that help your body maintain homeostasis or a state of balance.
In this case, when the immune system becomes overactive, the ECS can help normalize immune function (4). This helps ensure that it does not attack your own cells or cause chronic inflammation.
One animal study, for example, found that the endocannabinoid system helps maintain a balanced immune response in the gut and pancreas (5). It does this by modulating the activity of specific macrophages and T cells in the gut.
CBD has a wide range of direct and indirect effects in the body, including research that shows cannabidiol has significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (6).
Current research suggests that CBD inhibits the FAAH enzyme which degrades anandamide—a natural endocannabinoid in the body that stimulates the ECS (7). When the FAAH enzyme is inhibited, less anandamide is broken down. This effectively increases the amount of anandamide circulating in the body. The increased anandamide levels, in turn, then stimulate the ECS.
This means CBD may indirectly stimulate the ECS by increasing the amount of anandamide in the body. Research is ongoing into how cannabinoids work in the body and interact with the endocannabinoid system (8).
Scientists still haven’t uncovered a specific cause for an overactive immune system. In reality, it likely has many different causes. So far the evidence seems to suggest that diet, toxic chemicals, gut health, and genetics are among the most influential factors (9, 10).
As your ECS attempts to regulate the immune system it uses compounds called endocannabinoids as fuel. However, if your immune system is constantly stimulated, the ECS may run out of fuel and lose its capacity to downregulate immune activity. When this happens, scientists call it an endocannabinoid deficiency.
While more research is needed, CBD appears to be a promising compound for the immune system by stimulating the body’s own balancing system, the endocannabinoid system.
Beyond taking a quality CBD Oil, research suggests that there are other strategies that can help keep the immune system in good working order. Here are more ways to keep your immune system balanced and healthy:
- Get enough vitamin D through sun exposure or supplementation
- Support gut health with probiotics and fermented foods
- Add immune-balancing medicinal mushrooms to your diet
- Detox with zeolite to eliminate environmental pollutants
- Manage your stress levels since stress impacts immunity
- Get high-quality sleep as sleep has a restorative effect
With an abundance of environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and genetic influences, the immune system can become overactive and attack the body’s own healthy cells.
As such, regulating immune function is more important than ever. Early evidence suggests that CBD Oil may be a helpful strategy to prevent the immune system from becoming hyperactive.