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, it can also sustain long-term damage, especially if left untreated. The good news? Marijuana appears to be a valuable herb in treating 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 about 5 million people globally. That number could be much higher, however, as it 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. Women of colour, in fact, appear to be significantly more at risk than Caucasians. It is known that this condition can also be caused or triggered by too much exposure to sunlight. Some medications and infections can also cause it.
Unfortunately, there is no cure. Symptoms range from mild to severe reactions. Most people with Lupus, once diagnosed and receiving proper treatment, can live productive lives. Lupus is caused by a hyperactive immune system. Healthy tissue is confused for harmful agents like bacteria and viruses. It is then attacked by antibodies.
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.
Tragically, apart from cannabis, other medications can have undesirable side-effects. These in turn then have to be treated with other medications. Many people with Lupus who turn to cannabis do so because they cannot handle the side-effects of traditional prescription drugs.
HOW MARIJUANA IMPACT THIS DISEASE
Inflammation is just the body’s response to infection. It is a way to signal resources to heal an injury. However, even when caused by Lupus, cannabis can still be highly effective in quelling inflammation and therefore, helping to treat this condition.
CB2 receptors, in fact, specifically modulate the inflammatory response. With additional help from cannabinoids, widespread inflammation can potentially be relieved. Medical marijuana also can increase an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-10, while decreasing interleukin-2, a proinflammatory protein. In essence, no matter the cause, medical cannabis (in conjunction with the endocannabinoid system) lowers inflammation systematically. Clinical trials are now ongoing in multiple countries to study how exactly cannabinoids impact lupus. On top of that of course, cannabis can help treat the other symptoms caused by the condition, including chronic pain.
MANAGING WITH CANNABIS
Like all diseases of the autoimmune system, a regular, healthy lifestyle is the best long-term treatment beyond medication. That includes a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep.
Many lupus patients use cannabis as part of this regimen, and do so in a number of ways. While smoked cannabis can provide instant symptom relief, many lupus sufferers also use edibles. This is because combining cannabinoids with other chemicals via the stomach may result in greater efficacy. Asian cuisines, such as Chinese, Thai, and Indian foods, are very good for combining with cannabinoids to prevent or manage inflammation. For example, turmeric, ginger, red pepper, and lemongrass, which are all common herbs used in these kinds of cooking, also have additional anti-inflammatory compounds. Using them in conjunction with medical cannabis is one recipe for symptom management.
THE IMPACT OF CBD
The overall anti-inflammatory impact of CBD makes it a top cannabinoid for the ongoing treatment of this condition. CBD is becoming more available, not only in the form of CBD-rich flower, but in extracts as well.
CBD oil in particular appears to be a top oral ingestion method. This also makes infusing cannabis into food easier than ever before.