What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which your body can’t tell the difference between viruses, germs and bacteria and your body’s own healthy tissue. This leads to your immune system creating antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue, leading to inflammation, pain and damage to body parts. Lupus is characterized by flares, where symptoms worsen, and remissions, when symptoms improve. Unlike HIV or AIDS, where the immune system is under-active, the immune system is overactive in lupus.
Between 1.5 and 2 million Americans live with lupus, and most are women between the age of 15-45. The most severe cases of lupus are found in Asians and African-Americans. The most common type of lupus is system lupus erythematosus, which attacks several body organs. Drug-induced lupus is caused by using one of over 400 legal prescription drugs. Other types of lupus include cutaneous lupus, which mainly attacks skin and forms a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose, lupus nephritis, which attacks the kidneys, and neonatal lupus, which occurs in babies born to mothers with lupus.
Symptoms of lupus include pain all over but focused in hands, fingers, wrists, and knees, skin rashes, mouth sores, fatigue, mood changes, swelling of hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, depression, anxiety, seizures, fevers, weight loss, chest pain, hair loss, ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, anemia and abnormal heart rate.
How is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Disrupted in Lupus?
This is an area of medicine lacking in research. One day genetic studies will see if mutations in ECS genes are correlated with lupus. Because the immune system contains cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2), endocannabinoids directly influence the immune system.
How Does Cannabis Help Lupus?
Pain and inflammation are two major symptoms of lupus, and cannabis helps relieve both, without nasty side effects that prescription medications have. Cannabis increases
the levels of anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-10 and decreases the levels of pro-inflammatory protein interleukin-2. Cannabis has also been shown to suppress the immune system by activating myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). MDSCs may help dampen the hyperactive immune system found in lupus.
Cannabis also helps treat symptoms of nausea and abdominal cramping that are often severe side effects of commonly prescribed drug for lupus, such as Plaquenil and corticosteroids.
How Can I Take Cannabis to Treat Lupus?
For patents who are not ready to quit taking their prescription medications yet, vaporizing cannabis is a great way to quickly ease pain, reduce inflammation and decrease the severity of side effects from prescription drugs given to lupus patients. Vaporizing cannabis is better than smoking cannabis in a joint, pipe, or bong because it doesn’t burn the cannabis. Smoking cannabis releases toxins similar to cigarettes, can cause lung irritation and often disintegrates cannabinoids with healing properties. Vaporizing cannabis heats the air around the cannabis, releasing a range of cannabinoids, each with unique health benefit.
Eating large doses of cannabis oil daily is essential if you want to make the switch from pills to cannabis only. Cannabis oil made from high-CBD strains work for some patients, but others do best with high THC & THCA extracts.. You can purchase cannabis oil in capsules to make it easier to swallow and remember dosing. If capsules are not available in your area, you can also purchase preloaded syringe of oil that you squirt into your mouth, or take cannabis tincture drops that you put under your tongue.
If you have sleep issues, eating an edible (brownie, candy, etc.) at night can help. Cannabis topicals, in the form of creams or lotions you put on your skin, can help with joint pain and swelling during the day.
A new way to get cannabis into your body is via a transdermal patch, similar to the birth control patch or the nicotine patch. This discrete method provides extended release medication for up to ten hours and is perfect for people who feel uncomfortable with other methods such as smoking cannabis. Patches on the market currently come in CBD, THC, 1:1 CBD:THC, and THCA varieties.
Juicing raw cannabis may reduce pain and inflammation associated with lupus, without that high you get from heated cannabis. That’s because raw cannabis has THCA and CBDA, the non-psychoactive forms of THC and CBD. Juice strains of cannabis with high levels of CBD(A) for best results.
What Strains Are Best For Patients with Lupus?
Finding the right strain for you sometimes takes trial and error. For some patients, strains with high levels of CBD are optimal for lupus. These include Cannatonic, which has close to 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, Charlotte’s Web, Harlequin, and Sour Tsunami. For other patients, strains with high THC work.
Let’s Make This Easy
- Use cannabis cream on your achy joints during the day. Don’t worry, it won’t get you high.
- Vape cannabis whenever you need pain or other symptom relief. Be safe and don’t drive immediately after using your vaporizer if using a strain that has THC in it as well, you could get a chemical DUI in most states.
- Eat an edible at night to help you sleep and relieve pain and inflammation. If you eat it during the day you may not be able to drive or work.
- If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where raw cannabis juice is available, drink it as often as you can afford to buy it. If not, try taking an extract with THC and THCA.
Lupus Foundation of America: What is Lupus?
Cannabinoid receptor activation leads to massive mobilization of myeloid-derived suppressor cells with potent immunosuppressive properties. Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M, Nagarkatti PS. European Journal of Immunology (2010).
About the Author – Michele Ross, PhD
Michele Noonan Ross has a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a BA in Psychology from Boston College. She is the author of two books, including “Vitamin Weed: A 4-Step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Endocannabinoid Deficiency.”
As founder of the Endocannabinoid Deficiency Foundation, she promotes the use of cannabinoids as vitamins our body makes and needs. Her focus is providing patients, health professionals, and policy makers with medically correct information on the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid therapy.
Dr. Ross broke boundaries as the first female scientist on reality television, starring on the hit CBS show “Big Brother.” She has leveraged her platform as a public figure to advocate for cannabis patients and change drug policy around the world.