Cannabis and Autoimmunity: Possible Mechanisms of Action

Immunotargets Ther. 2021 Jul 21;10:261-271. doi: 10.2147/ITT.S267905. eCollection 2021.


Medical cannabis (MC) describes the usually inhaled or ingested use of a cannabis plant or cannabis extract for medicinal purposes. The action of whole cannabis plants is extremely complex because their large number of active compounds not only bind to a plethora of different receptors but also interact with each other both synergistically and otherwise. Renewed interest in the medicinal properties of cannabis has led to increasing research into the practical uses of cannabis derivatives, and it has been found that the endocannabinoid system (particularly CB2 receptor activation) is a possible target for the treatment of inflammatory and the autoimmune diseases related to immune cell activation. However, in vivo findings still lack, creating difficulties in applying translational cannabinoid research to human immune functions. In this review, we summarized the main mechanisms of action of medical cannabis plant especially regarding the immune system and the endocannabinoid system, looking at preliminary clinical data in three most important autoimmune diseases of three different specialities: rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Keywords: auto-antibodies; autoimmunity; cannabidiol; cannabis; cannabis derivatives; terpenes; tetrahydrocannabinol.

Publication types

  • Review