Cannabinoids as Immune System Modulators: Cannabidiol Potential Therapeutic Approaches and Limitations

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2022 Nov 22. doi: 10.1089/can.2022.0133. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Introduction: Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant Phytocannabinoid in Cannabis extracts. CBD has a binding affinity for several cannabinoid and cannabinoid-associated receptors. Epidiolex (oral CBD solution) has been lately licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of pediatric epileptic seizures. Methods: In this review, we discussed the most promising applications of CBD for chronic inflammatory conditions, namely CBD's anti-inflammatory effects during inflammatory bowel disease, coronavirus disease (antiviral effect), brain pathologies (neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties), as well as CBD immunomodulatory and antitumoral activities in the tumor microenvironment. Special focus was shed on the main therapeutic mechanisms of action of CBD, particularly in the control of the immune system and the endocannabinoid system. Results: Findings suggest that CBD is a potent immunomodulatory drug as it has manifested immunosuppressive properties in the context of sterile inflammation (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases), and immunoprotective effects during viral infections (e.g. COVID-19) Similarly, CBD has exhibited a selective response toward cancer types by engaging different targets and signaling pathways. These results are in favor of the primary function of the endocannabinoid system which is homeostatic maintenance. Conclusion: The presented evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system is a prominent target for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid diseases, viral infections, neurological and psychological pathologies, and cancer. Moreover, the antitumoral activities of CBD have been suggested to be potentially used in combination with chemo- or immunotherapy during cancer. However, clinical results are still lacking, which raises a challenge to apply translational cannabis research to the human immune system.

Keywords: COVID-19; cancer; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; chronic inflammatory disease; irritable bowel syndrome; neurological pathologies.