Immune system function was on everyone’s mind during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is why supplement, mineral and vitamin sales skyrocketed. Supplement sales rose 21 percent in part because the virus made people want to prepare their immune systems for the worst-case scenario. Many people included regular doses of CBD as part of their immune system protection regimen—and there’s science to support that choice.
CBD, the ECS, and the Immune System
CBD promotes balance in your body by stimulating your endocannabinoid system, which is involved in many of your body’s most important functions, including your immune system.
The immune system, which protects your body against illness and disease, is comprised of a complex set of components, including organs (such as the skin, tonsils, mucous membranes, and spleen) the lymphatic system, antibodies, bone marrow, and white blood cells. Your immune system uses inflammation as a defense mechanism to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, toxic compounds, or irradiation. When inflammation becomes chronic or unchecked, however, it can result in disease as well as lethal conditions. The dreaded cytokine storm that caused so much organ damage and fatalities to people with coronavirus results from out-of-control inflammation.
In their study Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis, researchers emphasized the need to “effectively reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby strengthening the immune system during the COVID-19 crisis.” Low-grade chronic inflammation has been shown to weaken the immune system, which leads to an increased risk of infections.
So while CBD is obviously not a magic shield against contracting Covid (the vaccine is, have you gotten your shot?) it can strengthen your immune system by reducing inflammation throughout your body. Similar to the way we lift weights and take calcium to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis, taking CBD can be a preventative tool to keep the immune system from being weakened by inflammation.
CBD, Stress, Insomnia and the Immune System
Like chronic inflammation, stress takes a serious toll on your immune function.
In his acclaimed book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert M. Sapolsky argues that “Stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions.” People under stress produce fewer natural killer cells, which fight tumors and viral infections, their immunity-boosting gamma interferon production drops, and infection-fighting T-cells respond more weakly.
The science indicates that CBD can help with stress: as one 2015 study stated, “CBD exhibits a broad range of actions…including anxiolytic [anti-anxiety], panicolytic, and anti compulsive actions, as well as a decrease in autonomic arousal, a decrease in conditioned fear expression, enhancement of fear extinction, reconsolidation blockade, and prevention of the long-term anxiogenic effects of stress.”
Insomnia is another serious drain on immune system function. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.” It turns out your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, antibodies and cells that are key for fighting infection while you sleep. So if you’re not getting adequate rest, you’re literally not producing the cells that your immune system requires to fight infection.
Stress and insomnia are as inextricably linked as relaxation and sleep. A 2017 study of 72 people found that CBD decreased anxiety for 80 percent of the participants and improved sleep scores for two-thirds of them. Another study found CBD helped manage disruptive sleep disorders in Parkinson’s patients. Even pharmacists have begun to recommend it as an option for patients who struggle to sleep. CBD’s effect on sleep is definitely an area where we need more clinical research—but its overall calming effect on the central nervous system may help people with both relaxation and rest.
CBD as an Ounce of Prevention
Like exercise and a nutritious diet, CBD can be a daily preventative measure to keep all of your systems strong, including your immune system. CBD’s potential to reduce chronic inflammation, reduce stress response and promote sleep are all positives when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy.