Delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol alter cytokine production by human immune cells

Immunopharmacology. 1998 Nov;40(3):179-85. doi: 10.1016/s0162-3109(98)00041-1.


Marijuana, a widely abused drug in the US, and its derivatives (cannabinoids) have been used in AIDS and cancer patients for treatment of intractable nausea and cachexia. Yet, objective investigations of the effect of cannabinoids on the human immune system are few. We investigated the effect of delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) on cytokine production in vitro by human leukemic T, B, eosinophilic and CD8+ NK cell lines as models. THC decreased constitutive production of IL-8, MIP-1alpha, MIP-1beta, and RANTES and phorbol ester stimulated production of TNF-alpha, GM-CSF and IFN-gamma by NK cells. It inhibited MIP-1beta in HTLV-1 positive B-cells but tripled IL-8, MIP-1alpha and MIP-1beta in B-cells and MIP-1beta in eosinophilic cells but doubled IL-8. Both cannabinoids strongly inhibited IL-10 production by HUT-78 T-cells. Results indicate that THC and nonpsychotropic CBD have complex lineage and derivative specific effects on cytokines consistent with previous animal studies. These effects while of potential benefits in some inflammatory/autoimmune diseases may worsen HIV infection, tumorigenesis and allergic inflammation in the lung.

MeSH terms

  • Antiemetics / pharmacology*
  • Cannabidiol / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cytokines / drug effects*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Eosinophils / drug effects*
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*


  • Antiemetics
  • Cytokines
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol