Cannabinoids and autoimmune diseases: A systematic review

Autoimmun Rev. 2016 Jun;15(6):513-28. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2016.02.008. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


Cannabinoids have shown to have a variety effects on body systems. Through CB1 and CB2 receptors, amongst other, they exert an effect by modulating neurotransmitter and cytokine release. Current research in the role of cannabinoids in the immune system shows that they possess immunosuppressive properties. They can inhibit proliferation of leucocytes, induce apoptosis of T cells and macrophages and reduce secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In mice models, they are effective in reducing inflammation in arthritis, multiple sclerosis, have a positive effect on neuropathic pain and in type 1 diabetes mellitus. They are effective as treatment for fibromyalgia and have shown to have anti-fibrotic effect in scleroderma. Studies in human models are scarce and not conclusive and more research is required in this field. Cannabinoids can be therefore promising immunosuppressive and anti-fibrotic agents in the therapy of autoimmune disorders.

Keywords: Autoimmune diseases; Cannabinoids; Endocannabinoid system; Fibromyalgia; Immunosuppression; Inflammatory bowel disease; Multiple sclerosis; Neuropathic pain; Rheumatoid arthritis; Scleroderma; Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); Type 1 Diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Mice
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy*


  • Cannabinoids