Cannabidiol-induced lymphopenia does not involve NKT and NK cells

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Oct;60 Suppl 3:99-103.


The major non-psychoactive compound of cannabis plant, cannabidiol, has been reported to be a promising therapeutic agent for many inflammatory, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. In spite of growing interest in therapeutic use of cannabidiol very little is known about its influence on the immune system. Present study aimed to evaluate lymphocyte subsets distribution in peripheral blood after repeated, systemic administration of cannabidiol. Adult male Wistar rats received intraperitoneal injections of vehicle or cannabidiol at dose of 2.5 or 5 mg/kg/day, for 14 consecutive days. Blood samples were collected one hour after the last injection. Three-color immunofluorescent antibody staining procedure (CD3-FITC/CD45RA-PC7/CD161A-APC and CD3-FITC/CD4-PC7/CD8-APC) was used for determination of T, B, NK, NKT, T helper, and T cytotoxic lymphocyte subsets. Total leukocyte number and percentage numbers of leukocyte subpopulations were also assessed. Administration of cannabidiol at dose of 5 mg/kg caused a significant decrease in total leukocyte number and a significant fall in total numbers of T, B, and both T helper and T cytotoxic lymphocyte subsets. This immunosuppressive effect did not affect the total numbers of NK and NKT cells that are responsible for the primary, nonspecific antiviral and antitumor immune response. In contrast, administration of cannabidiol at dose of 2.5 mg/kg increased the total and percentage NKT cells numbers, and the percentage number of NK cells. The results suggest that repeated treatment with cannabidiol inhibits specific immunity by reduction of T, B, T cytotoxic, and T helper cell numbers, and may enhance nonspecific antiviral and antitumor immune response related to NK and NKT cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabidiol / immunology*
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Immunologic Factors / immunology*
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects*
  • Lymphopenia / chemically induced*
  • Lymphopenia / immunology
  • Male
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / drug effects*
  • Rats


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Cannabidiol