New Flu Season Products Sparked By Research on Cannabis

By Amelia B.
All the hype over recent research studies showing cannabinoids can influence the immune system has led to a huge influx of cannabis-based cold, flu, and immune system products that may or may not have any of their intended effects. Try them out now or wait for science to catch up?

Certain cannabinoids can influence the immune system. This much does not seem to be up for debate. What no one seems to have pinned down is exactly how they affect the immune system, as it seems to both slow it down and speed it up as the body requires.

Some naysayers have even made claims that THC negatively impacts immunity (we’re looking at you, big pharma!)

Predictably, many cannabis companies have jumped the gun on science and have begun marketing a vast array of immuno-support canna-products for every possible flu symptom. We tend to be a bit skeptical on both sides.

Due to lack of regulation of many over the counter cannabis health products, many less than ethical cannabis companies out there tend to use non-disclosure policies concerning the actual THC or CBD content in their products. Some of these products, when tested, contain only trace amounts of industrial hemp oil, which essentially makes them snake oil salesman.

That being said, there are more than a few reliable, quality sources for cannabis health products that are tested and certified for potency by an independent third-party. Doing a bit of brand research before you buy one of these products can reliably help you from getting scammed. 

On the other hand, big pharma and the AMA will try to discredit every cannabis health benefit they can. At this point, no one is sure, but here is the science behind both sides.

The Claims

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Cannabinoids are known immunomodulators, meaning they aid in immune system influence and regulation. Scientists and doctors aim to gain an understanding of how cannabis interacts with the immune system holds the potential to treat many health conditions, including cancer and AIDS.

Can Cannabis Weaken a Healthy Immune System?

A healthy individual uses an inflammatory response as a defense mechanism to protect against infection or damage. Inflammation can keep infections from spreading by trapping pathogens and isolating damaged parts of the body.

Preliminary studies have found that cannabinoids can, in fact, suppress the immune system by decreasing inflammation. Theoretically, suppressing the immune system’s natural inflammatory response and decreasing inflammation could make things worse.

Traditionally, anti-inflammatories have been seen as a positive thing, and are as common as taking ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. Physicians often recommend anti-inflammatory diets for health as well.

It begs the question of why these anti-inflammatory properties can be seen as negative in cannabis, but positive in other common over-the-counter drugs and ways of eating.

Which just circles back to point at anti-marijuana propaganda once again.

Cannabis in a Hyperactive Immune System

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In many autoimmune disorders, patients can suffer from an overactive immune system. This can result in chronic inflammation, as with irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and allergies. In these instances, cannabinoids could prove critical to effective treatment.

Cannabis in an Underactive Immune System

Some conditions deplete and attack the body’s immune functions and leave them weak, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. Cannabis research in these instances remarkably shows cannabinoids can actually strengthen a weak immune system...but how is cannabis able to do both?

Can Cannabinoids Talk to the Immune System?

This research is still in its infancy stages, but it could lead to a breakthrough discovery about cannabinoids being able to “communicate” with immune functions and other systems in the body to determine what the body needs and affect it accordingly. More research is needed, but the implications of this potential discovery are astronomical.

Possible Treatments for Cancer and HIV/AIDS

A healthy immune systems trigger cell-suicide in the body’s diseased cells, a process known as apoptosis. Cancer in its simplest form is diseased cells resisting the call to suicide. Cannabis has been shown to trigger cancer cell-suicide. Research is being conducted to determine effective treatments.

In Aids, the powerful virus compromises the immune system, rendering the body unable to fight off infection. Cannabis could potentially be used to strengthen immune responses to fight off infections. A 2015 study showed HIV patients had lower viral loads as well as higher CD4 immune cell counts after consuming cannabis.

Available Products

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  • Congestion and sinus pain vapor rub infused with CBD-infused and essential oils to apply to sinus pressure points
  • a cough and sore throat elixir drops containing a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC to mix in hot tea
  • Detoxifying Bath Soaks with Epsom salts and essential oils containing a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC.
  • Transdermal Patches to combat body aches, imparting about 5 mg of cannabis at a steady rate directly into your bloodstream

Warnings From the Scientific Community

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published statements regarding the state of cannabis research regarding immune functions and the need for additional research.

They mentioned a “paucity of data on the effects of cannabis or cannabinoid-based therapeutics on the human immune system.”

We had to look that one up. Apparently, it means there is a scant or insignificant amount, as in not enough to determine the effectiveness of cannabis products on the immune system. These guys are so science.

They also stated insufficient data has been gathered to “draw overarching conclusions concerning the effects of cannabis smoke or cannabinoids on immune competence,” and “limited evidence to suggest that regular exposure to cannabis smoke may have anti-inflammatory activity.”

On one hand, it seems they are saying we shouldn’t be concluding cannabis aids the immune system enough to begin self-medicating or over prescribing cannabis for these issues. On the other hand, they are recommending scientists research these things to further advance their findings so that these claims can be reasonably made. 

In all likelihood, they are simply maintaining scientific objectivity until they can conclude measurable effects based on sufficient data, as is their job. Thanks, science. But don't tell us what to do. 

To Wait or To Experiment?

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If cannabis health advocates sat around and waited for the scientific research community to back up every anecdotal claim before self-medicating, scientists would never have begun conducting cannabis research in the first place. Research on the plant seems to only gain funding for such research after an overwhelming amount of anecdotal claims have been made.

We say, if you can reasonably afford these pricey immuno-health products, feel free to conduct your own research to spark further studies. The many people who already use cannabis recreationally can tell you there is no danger in trying them for health benefits.

If you do decide to experiment with these, make sure to choose ethical cannabis brands that display the actual CBD or THC content per dose and look for independent 3rd party testing certification. Otherwise, you’re basically overpaying for glorified sugar pills, which will seriously skew public opinion on effectiveness.

Citations

1.Admin Weed Diaries Does Cannabis Affect Your Immune System?. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from http://weeddiaries.com/does-cannabis-affect-your-immune-system/

2. Cannabis in the Clinic? The Medical Marijuana Debate. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/cannabis/

3.Guzmán M Control of the cell survival/death decision by cannabinoids.. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11269508

4.Mariana Freitas Aguiar Factors Related to Changes in CD4+ T-Cell Counts over Time in Patients Living with HIV/AIDS: A Multilevel Analysis. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3914785/

5.Stacey Mulvey Combat Flu Season With These Nevada Cannabis Remedies. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.leafly.com/news/strains-products/nevada-cannabis-flu-remedies-to-combat-symptoms

6. How Do You Handle a Flu Emergency?. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/flu/guide/treatment/

7. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425755/

8. The old cure for cold. Retrieved November 08, 2018 from https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/17t1eh/the_old_cure_for_cold/

About the author: Amelia B.

Amelia B is a wife, a preschool teacher, and a mother of two young children. She enjoys camping, hiking, cooking, reading, traveling, listening to live local music, refurbishing furniture, and creating works of art.