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How Cannabis Can Help Manage Lupus
Many people who suffer from the chronic symptoms of lupus treat the condition with cannabis. The drug has a known anti-inflammatory effect that is beneficial for this difficult-to-recognise condition. Better still, there are no long-term side effects.
Many people who suffer from chronic symptoms of lupus turn to cannabis. The plant is being studied in greater depth for its therapeutic potential, and poses little risk of long-term side effects. Can cannabis be used to ease symptoms of lupus?
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the immune system begins to attack its own tissues and organs. Not only does this result in widespread inflammation throughout the body, but left untreated, patients can endure long-term damage.
The good news? Cannabis appears to be a valuable tool in managing this condition. Symptom control is one of the most important parts of living with the disease.
WHAT IS LUPUS?
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects roughly five million people globally. That number could be much higher, however, as lupus is often hard to recognise. There are about 16,000 new cases of lupus reported annually. Most of those who develop the condition are between the ages of 15–44.
Direct causes of the chronic condition are still not understood. The disease is not contagious, though it can be transmitted genetically. Moreover, women of colour appear to be significantly more at risk than Caucasians. It’s thought that lupus can also be caused or triggered by too much exposure to sunlight, some medications, and viral infections.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure.
Symptoms range from mild to severe reactions. Most people with lupus, once diagnosed and receiving proper treatment, can live productive, fulfilling lives.
Lupus is caused by a hyperactive immune response that mistakes healthy tissue for harmful agents like bacteria and viruses, stimulating the production of antibodies to attack.
Diagnosis is often the first barrier to treatment. No two cases of the condition are exactly alike. Furthermore, symptoms can sometimes look like those of other conditions, making diagnosis more complicated. Generally, however, patients tend to suffer from multiple symptoms over time. These include:
- A “butterfly” shaped rash on the face over the bridge of the nose
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen after exposure to direct sunlight
- Fatigue and fever
- Headaches, confusion, or memory loss
- Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue during periods of extreme stress or cold
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
You should seek medical attention immediately if you develop an unexplained rash, fever, or ongoing fatigue. The most important thing is to catch and diagnose it early. Undiagnosed, the ongoing damage from inflammation has major downstream health effects. Tissue scarring causes significant damage to organs, muscles, and tendons. However, it can also cause other chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s. In fact, developing lupus itself is a major risk factor for developing cognitive disabilities later on.
Unfortunately, approved medications for the condition may have undesirable side effects. As such, those looking to manage symptoms while avoiding the potentially adverse side effects of pharmaceutical drugs often turn to cannabis in hopes of experiencing relief.
HOW CANNABIS IMPACTS LUPUS
Inflammation is merely the body’s response to injury; it is a natural way to signal resources to heal an infection. That said, we know that chronic inflammation is bad for the human body.
Given the mounting body of research on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cannabis in regard to inflammation, it makes the plant a ripe candidate for clinical study.
A 2016 review  in _Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences_ explores the role of CB2 receptors in modulating the inflammatory response. As one of the main receptor types in the ECS, CB2 receptors are primarily located on immune tissues—hence why they are assumed to play a role in inflammation. Referencing past research in which “mice lacking the CB2 receptor have [_sic_] an exacerbated inflammatory phenotype”, study authors eventually conclude that, while CB2 activation appears to produce anti-inflammatory effects, the receptor has yet to be targeted to treat human disease.
Another 2016 review  , this one published in the _Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology_, references various studies that demonstrate THC’s potential to increase  the immunosuppressive protein interleukin-10, while decreasing  the proinflammatory protein interleukin-2. Here too, researchers invoke CB2 receptors as the assumed primary target for producing immunosuppressive activity.
MANAGING LUPUS WITH CANNABIS
Like all diseases of the immune system, a healthy lifestyle is the best long-term treatment beyond medication. That includes a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep.
Many lupus patients include cannabis as part of their regimen, and do so in a number of ways. While the effects of smoked or vaporized cannabis come on fast, some patients prefer to dose with edibles.
Asian cuisines rich in anti-inflammatory substances, such as Chinese, Thai, and Indian foods, are very good for combining with cannabinoids in this manner. For example, turmeric, ginger, red pepper, and lemongrass, which are all common ingredients used in these cuisines, boast their own anti-inflammatory compounds and effects. Adding one or more of these ingredients into your edibles may be a good course of action.
THE IMPACT OF CBD ON LUPUS
We’ve examined THC individually and cannabis as a whole, but what about CBD for lupus? In this context, a 2011 review  published in _Free Radical Biology & Medicine_ once again points to potential anti-inflammatory actions—this time displayed by CBD alone. Although the researchers recognise a lack of conclusive evidence, they note that CBD “offers promise as a prototype for anti-inflammatory drug development”.
When it comes to ingesting CBD, CBD oil in particular appears to be the method of choice given its ease, discretion, and portability. However, CBD can also be taken in the form of edibles, vapor, creams and balms, etc.
Lupus is a disease where the body literally fights itself. Cannabis can help lower overall inflammation as well as mediate the inflammatory response.