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cbd oil for lupus

Is CBD Oil for Lupus Safe or Effective?

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Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board-certified internal medicine physician and cardiologist.

CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana, has become a trend when it comes to treating diseases involving pain and inflammation. But is it effective for lupus?

CBD Oil on display

So far, we don’t have conclusive evidence that CBD oil can safely treat lupus, but research is currently being conducted to help make this possible.  

Because medical marijuana is still fairly controversial, and the laws are confusing, there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about CBD. That can make people hesitant to try it. Good news though—a new law is simplifying the matter for many of us.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is short for “cannabidiol.” While it comes from cannabis, it doesn’t get you high because it doesn’t have psychoactive properties. The high comes from a different chemical in the plant called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Marijuana growers focus on strains and techniques that increase THC levels. Cannabis that’s grown for hemp tends to have a lot more CBD than THC.

If you look online, you can find a lot of huge claims about using CBD oil for medicinal purposes. Claims are so glowing, in fact, that you might start to wonder if they can possibly be true. Certainly, when they come from websites that promote marijuana legalization and use, you may be wise to question the veracity.

It’s too early in the research process for us to be able to say “yes” about many of the claims. However, we’re learning enough to be able to say “it’s possible,” or even, “we think so.”

CBD oil is used to treat a host of different conditions, although it’s not approved for any of these conditions, as of mid-2018:  

  • Chronic pain and inflammation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders, including insomnia and nightmares
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • Movement disorders (Huntington’s disease)
  • Assistance with smoking cessation
  • Stopping the growth of cancerous tumors

When it comes to taking CBD oil, you have a lot of options: smoking, taking capsules, drops or sprays under the tongue, and as a topical ointment. Research in the United States is in the early stages,   though, since for decades, legal restrictions made it extremely difficult to study the medical benefits of marijuana.

CBD Oil for Lupus

With a lack of research on CBD oil for lupus, we have to go on what we know about CBD in general and can understand from research into conditions with similar symptoms or pathology. This potential treatment is likely to get attention from lupus researchers eventually, though, for several reasons.

  • Lupus contributes to an epidemic of pain, including untreated and undertreated pain. Current treatments are far from perfect, so drug companies have a sizable financial incentive to find more effective medications.
  • The opioid addiction/overdose epidemic is a huge problem for society and puts a lot of strain on the resources of the medical community as well as law enforcement. Meanwhile, several studies have shown that when marijuana becomes legal in a state, the number of opioid prescriptions—and overdose deaths—drops.   That’s bound to get the attention of doctors who want to protect their patients, law enforcement agencies battling the problem, and lawmakers seeking solutions.
  • A wealth of research suggests that CBD oil is effective against pain and inflammation. In its pure form, it’s generally regarded as safe. Lupus involves considerable inflammation.
  • We have abundant anecdotal evidence from people with lupus who say it’s effective. That can’t substitute for scientific proof, but it’s one more thing that gets doctors interested.

Additionally, a 2018 study published in Cellular Immunology found that CBD may alter T-cell activity after spinal cord injury.   Abnormal activity of T-cells (which are part of the immune system) are believed to be involved in lupus.

Lupus can include pain from neuropathy (nerve damage), and multiple studies suggest that CBD can alleviate that type of pain from diabetes, HIV, and other sources.

CBD Side Effects

We probably don’t yet know all of the possible side effects of CBD. Some side effects that have been reported are:

  • Changes to liver enzymes used to process drugs
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased tremor in Parkinson’s disease (at high doses)

The World Health Organization says CBD oil may also:  

  • Alter hormonal levels
  • Stimulate the immune system at low levels, and suppress it at higher levels

CBD doesn’t appear to lead to addiction or abuse. It’s also believed to have a low toxicity level, which means it takes a lot to cause an overdose.

Is CBD Legal?

You’d think the question of whether CBD is legal would get a straightforward, yes or no answer, but the legality issue can be confusing.

A lot of pro-marijuana websites have long claimed that it’s legal in all 50 states as long as it doesn’t have more than 0.3 percent THC. They based that argument on the provisions of a specific farm bill. But in 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the old bill didn’t apply to hemp or products derived from it.  

Then came the 2018 Farm Bill. This piece of legislation was wildly popular in both the Senate, where it was passed in June of 2018, and the House, where it was passed in December of 2018 and then quickly signed into law.   It re-classifies hemp as a legal agricultural product, which makes CBD products legal at the federal level.

In states where marijuana and/or CBD is legal, there’s no longer a clash between state and federal law, so the products are legally safe to use. Still, some states have specific laws on the books banning hemp products. So what does the new Farm Bill mean for those states?

Technically, federal law overrules state law. However, that doesn’t mean those states will stop arresting and trying people for CBD use, especially if they want to challenge the new federal law. If you’re in one of those states, talk to an expert about any possible trouble you could get into for using CBD products. The website has information about which states have laws specific to CBD oil. A site called Governing maintains a map of where marijuana is legal in some form.

The only form of CBD that is FDA-approved is Epidiolex, a purified formulation of CBD used for rare forms of epilepsy.   All the other CBD sources being enthusiastically marketed today are unregulated. They often contain amounts of CBD that are substantially different (too much or too little) than the labels indicate, and frequently contain higher levels of THC (the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana) than is permitted in a legitimate CBD product. Anyone electing to use CBD today will need to be cautious and ideally should consult with their physician before doing so.

A Word From Verywell

Treatment decisions should never be taken lightly, and that applies to “natural” treatments like CBD as well—especially when you take the law into account. Consider the pros and con carefully, and be sure to discuss this option with your doctor. Even if you’re taking it illegally, your doctor needs to know—your health could depend on it. As with any treatment, it’s important to watch for side effects.

With legal changes in store and lots of research coming out, we can probably expect a lot of change, and quickly, when it comes to CBD oil.

See what we know about CBD oil as a potential treatment for lupus, what the side effects are, and what you need to know about the legal status.

CBD for Lupus: How to Use CBD to Treat Lupus

The Lupus Foundation of America 1 cites that up to 1.5 million people are living with Lupus and 16,000 new cases are reported every day. Lupus is a condition that affects the immune system and is common in women aged 15-44 years. The condition drew public attention when Selena Gomez, a renowned singer, was diagnosed with it during her late teens. Lupus symptoms make it extremely challenging to diagnose and treat. Most treatments are designed to reduce organ damage and pain, manage flares, balance hormones and regulate the immune system activity; not to cure the disease. Some patients have resorted to using CBD oil given the recent explosion of CBD products for treating a range of ailments. The oil is believed to provide an effective solution for treating inflammation and pain associated with Lupus.

What is Lupus?

It is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack its organs and tissues. The most obvious symptom of this disease is inflammation, often affecting the joints, kidneys, brain, blood cells, lungs and the heart. A facial rash also develops, which resembles the wings of a butterfly. Some people are born with lupus genes, which may be triggered by infections, sunlight and other drugs. There are different kinds of Lupus:

  • Systematic lupus erythematosus: It is the most common type and affects the whole body. SLE symptoms can range from mild to severe and causes inflammation of the lungs, joints, kidneys, heart, skin or a combination of these. This type occurs in cycles; during times of remission, the patient does not exhibit any symptoms. However, during a flare-up, all the symptoms are likely to appear.
  • Discoid lupus erythematosus: It is also called cutaneous Lupus, and it affects the skin only. A rash appears on the neck, face and scalp. The raised areas become scaly and thick, leading to scarring. The rash lasts from a few days to years and is likely to recur. In some cases, DLE progresses to SLE.
  • Drug-induced Lupus: 10% of the patients with SLE are likely to trigger symptoms as a result of a reaction to certain prescription drugs. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, seizures, antifungals, antibiotics and oral contraceptives cause this type of Lupus.
  • Neonatal Lupus: 1% of mothers who have autoantibodies associated with Lupus will sire babies with Neonatal Lupus. Kids with the condition develop liver problems, skin rash and low blood counts. Most of them develop anaemia.

Common Lupus Symptoms

Most symptoms occur during flare-ups. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the muscles and joints
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes or glands Symptoms
  • Skin rashes due to bleeding
  • Pale toes or fingers when it is cold
  • Fever, headaches and usual loss of hair

Why CBD can be an Effective Natural Treatment for Lupus

Little research exists to justify CBD treatment for lupus. However, the properties of CBD compounds are believed to minimise some symptoms of the disease. A study conducted in 2009 about the use of CBD as a crucial anti-inflammatory drug found that it contains CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are also found in the immune cells. As such, CBD cannabinoids play a pivotal role in regulating the immune system.

CBD is an acronym for the word cannabidiol and is derived from cannabis sativa. For years, the plant has been used as an alternative medicine for treating anorexia and cachexia in HIV/AIDS patients and, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Advances in cannabinoid pharmacology led to the discovery of CB1 and CB2 receptors, which provide the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids. CB1 is dominant in the central nervous system, while CB2 is expressed in the immune cells. As such, CBD interacts with the receptors in the brains and immune system to reduce pain and inflammation.

The active CBD compounds achieve this by inhibiting the inflammatory protein interleukin-2 while stimulating an increase in interleukin-10 anti-inflammatory proteins. Further research shows that the best hemp products inhibit the production of interleukin-6, a protein associated with autoimmune diseases. The 2009 study on CBD also found that CBD provides an effective way of managing pain without the adverse effects exhibited by prescription drugs 2 . CBD oil activates vanilloid and adenosine receptors, which boost the production of serotonin. Here are more reasons that justify the use of CBD for Lupus:

Lack of Addictive Properties

CBD does not cause addiction when used for treating chronic conditions. Most of the prescription drugs formulated by pharmaceutical companies help manage Lupus symptoms. However, pharmaceutical companies use significant amounts of active compounds to suppress the symptoms, leading to serious side effects. CBD, on the other hand, is not addictive. Thus, patients don’t have to worry about withdrawal symptoms if they opt for CBD for Lupus.

CBD oil for Lupus an effective remedy for inflammation and pain

Lupus is known to cause an epidemic of pain from inflammation, including untreated and under-treated pain. Research suggests that CBD oil in its pure form is a safe and effective remedy against inflammation and pain. Anecdotal evidence from people says CBD is an effective remedy for the disease.

Anecdotal Evidence

People who have used CBD oil for Lupus find it an effective remedy for the disease. This kind of evidence does not substitute scientific proof, but it is something that should get researchers interested.

How to Use CBD to Treat Lupus

There are different ways to administer CBD oil in patients diagnosed with Lupus, and these include edibles, extracts, topical ointments, vapes, tinctures, honey-infusions, and capsules. Vaping is the best alternative for people who smoke. This is because the vape ensures only enough cannabis gets heated to release the cannabinoids. Patients who develop rashes and joint pain should use CBD tinctures and topical. However, since CBD is not FDA-regulated, patients are advised to consult with doctors familiar with CBD oil before administering any form of treatment. The manufacturer should be ready to provide a third-party analysis for its potency and purity.

How much CBD oil to take for Lupus

Once you have worked a treatment plan, the doctor should recommend a suitable dosage for your needs. CBD dosages for Lupus treatment are not a one-size-fits; experts recommend a baseline of 10-20 mg per day, which is equivalent to the ration of 1:6mg for every 10 pounds of body weight.

Medical Research about CBD and Lupus

Despite the few clinical studies about CBD treatment for Lupus, there is a growing body of work exploring how cannabinoids affect the immune system of an individual with Lupus. This focus on the immune system is critical as it enables pharmaceuticals to develop drugs that mimic Lupus treatment. An in-depth study of the immune system and the role of the endocannabinoid system occurred in 2009, where researchers learned a few things about CBD oil and lupus 2 . First, cannabinoids tested on other autoimmune disorders like colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis show that they protect the patient from pathogenesis by inducing a range of inflammatory pathways. It is this finding that echoes the role that CBD plays in the body of Lupus patient- reducing inflammation by interfering with the process through which the body generates inflammation.

Secondly, cannabinoids suppress the inflammatory response and relieve the symptoms of the disease. The properties of cannabinoids are mediated using different pathways, e.g., the suppression of chemokines and cytokines at the inflammatory sites, induction of apoptosis in active immune cells and upregulation of the T cells. A 2018 research published on Cellular Immunology found that CBD alters the activity of T-cell after a spinal cord injury 3 . This unusual activity of T-cells is involved in Lupus treatment. This discovery expands on the previous point by mentioning the actual proteins (cytokines) and cells involved in regulating the immune system.

Another research report published on the Free Radical Biology and Medicine Journal examined the role of CBD in diseases associated with inflammation 4 . George W. Booz, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, concluded that inflammation and oxidative stress cause many human diseases. Identifying the relationship of each proves challenging because both properties feed off each other. However, the administration of CBD shows it is a promising starting point for more drug development thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing effects.

Patients have also reported significant improvement in the disease after administering CBD oil. A particular survey involving Lupus patients was documented at the Lupus Corner. Seven hundred eighty-one individuals with the condition used CBD for a range of reasons, including treating Lupus. 83% of the respondents who used CBD as a direct strategy to manage Lupus symptoms would recommend it to other patients.


CBD oil and lupus research continues to face regulatory, pharmacology and botanical challenges. However, attitude toward cannabis use has shifted as researchers continue to explore this plant’s therapeutic effects. Enough research findings show cannabis is a viable treatment option for alleviating pain and has anti-inflammatory effects on patients with severe conditions like Lupus, arthritis and spinal cord injuries, among others. Research into CBD as a natural treatment for Lupus began to flourish when scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system and the ability of the CBD oil to stimulate of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. However, if the FDA is to approve CBD oil for Lupus, randomized trials using accepted scientific methods need to prove the efficacy of this form of treatment. The recent stance of the Lupus Foundation of America is that there is a need for more research into CBD and Lupus.

CBD for Lupus is gaining popularity. Due to the compound's anti-inflammatory properties, lupus patients can find a relief with no side-effects