Treating Lupus with Cannabis
Treating Lupus with Cannabis. So, 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.
Treating Lupus with Cannabis
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.
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. For other patients, strains with high THC work.
Different types of lupus
There are four different types of lupus. Learn more about each type below.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
is the most common form of lupus—it’s what most people mean when they refer to “lupus.” Systemic lupus can be mild or severe. Below is a brief description of some of the more serious complications involving major organ systems.
- Inflammation of the kidneys—called lupus nephritis—can affect the body’s ability to filter waste from the blood. It can be so damaging that dialysis or kidney transplant may be needed.
- Inflammation of the nervous system and brain can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches, and strokes.
- Inflammation in the brain’s blood vessels can cause high fevers, seizures, and behavioral changes.
- Hardening of the arteries or coronary artery disease—the buildup of deposits on coronary artery walls—can lead to a heart attack.
Learn more about how lupus affects various organs and tissues in How Lupus Affects the Body.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus
This form of lupus is limited to the skin. Although cutaneous lupus can cause many types of rashes and lesions (sores), the most common—called discoid rash—is raised, scaly and red, but not itchy. Areas of rash appear like disks, or circles.
Another common example of cutaneous lupus is a rash over the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose, known as the butterfly rash. Other rashes or sores may appear on the face, neck, or scalp (areas of the skin that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light), or in the mouth, nose, or vagina. Hair loss and changes in the pigment, or color, of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous lupus.
Approximately 10 percent of people who have cutaneous lupus will develop systemic lupus. However, it is likely that these people already had systemic lupus, with the skin rash as their main symptom.
Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus
Drug-induced lupus is a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs. The symptoms of drug-induced lupus are similar to those of systemic lupus, but it rarely affects major organs.
The drugs most commonly connected with drug-induced lupus include:
- Hydralazine—Treatment for high blood pressure or hypertension
- Procainamide—Treatment for irregular heart rhythms
- Isoniazid—Treatment for tuberculosis
Drug-induced lupus is more common in men because they take these drugs more often; however, not everyone who takes these drugs will develop drug-induced lupus. Lupus-like symptoms usually disappear within six months after these medications are stopped.
Neonatal lupus is not a true form of lupus. It is a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus and is caused by antibodies from the mother acting upon the infant in the womb. At birth, the infant may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts but these symptoms disappear completely after several months with no lasting effects. Some infants with neonatal lupus can also have a serious heart defect. With proper testing, physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth.
Most infants of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.