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Cannabis for Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: How Does it Work?

Can CBD reduce inflammation? Does cannabis have antioxidative effects?

These are popular questions in the realm of CBD research at the moment, and luckily, scientists are starting to find answers to those questions.

What is inflammation?

Your body has a fantastic line of defense when it comes to injuries, viruses, bacteria, and other offending agents. This line of defense is called inflammation.

Although inflammation is necessary to protect your body and joints, too much inflammation is not a good thing, and it can contribute to a lot of pain and the development of certain diseases. This is why many people try to take certain medications or supplements to reduce the inflammation in their bodies.

What is oxidative stress?

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This can cause damage to cells and tissues in the body. Free radicals often damage other cells if they are not neutralized by antioxidants. They are formed naturally in the body, and can also be formed by contact with cigarette smoke, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Antioxidative agents help to neutralize those free radicals so that they don’t harm the body’s cells and tissues and cause oxidative stress. The body’s natural immune response is also able to trigger temporary oxidative stress as well. Too much oxidative stress can cause conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and it can speed up the aging process.

The research behind cannabis for reducing oxidative stress and inflammation

This 2021 review states that “CBD is not psychoactive and shows numerous advantageous pharmacological effects, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.”

The recent review talks about the effects of cannabinoids on inflammation and oxidative stress in various conditions (skin inflammation, inflammatory respiratory system disease, and more). The review cites recent studies showing how cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and others) have both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.

The reason that cannabinoids like CBD may be so helpful in mitigating these issues is not totally understood, but the researchers believe it has a lot to do with how cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The review explains how CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the ECS play a big part in inflammatory and oxidative processes. Those receptors are affected by cannabinoids, which can increase or decrease the production of certain things that help reduce inflammation and free radicals.

For example, THC causes an “inhibition of the release of proinflammatory cytokines-IFN, TNF-↵, IL-17A, and IL-22.” This basically means that the cannabinoid THC decreases the release of certain molecules that cause inflammation - ultimately reducing inflammation overall.

As another example, CBD has an “affinity to PPAR-, 5-HT1A, adenosine A2A, and TRP.” This essentially means that CBD aids in decreasing cytokine production, promoting antiviral activity, regulating fibroblast and myoblast production, and much more. Simply by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in various parts of the body.

How cannabinoids affect certain diseases

The review looked at a few specific diseases to analyze how cannabis may

potentially help.

Here are just two of those diseases:

Inflammatory bowel diseases:

The review states that there are CB1 and CB2 receptors located in all layers of the bowel. Researchers reported that “The activation of CB1 receptors can limit inflammation by regulating motor neuron activity and induction of healing epithelial injuries (...)”

They also mentioned that a few studies have shown that patients with inflammatory bowel diseases experienced less abdominal pain, contractions, and diarrhea when using cannabis.

Inflammatory skin diseases:

There are also many CB1 and CB2 receptors in the skin, and the ECS seems to have an impact on various dermal effects. Cannabinoids decrease the production of certain things that can damage the skin, and they may also promote balance in the skin’s systems, potentially preventing acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and more.

Overall, cannabinoids like CBD interact with receptors in the skin to help keep it healthy.


This review explains how cannabinoids like CBD and THC can help keep various systems in the body healthy by increasing the production of helpful compounds and decreasing the production of certain harmful components. It also states ultimately, we need more research so that we can have a better understanding of exactly how cannabinoids affect the ECS.

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