If you have Hashimoto’s disease, you probably understand just how challenging it can be. With symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, muscle pain, depression and memory loss, Hashimoto’s can be a frightening and painful condition. But cannabis may provide some relief. Let’s explore the potential of cannabis for Hashimoto’s disease and how the plant may help—or hurt—your management of the condition.
What Is Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition in which an overactive immune system sends antibodies to attack and damage the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system and produces hormones that coordinate many of our body’s key functions. Hashimoto’s disease can lead to serious inflammation and an underactive thyroid, which means it produces less of these important hormones. This results in suboptimal body function.
Hashimoto’s, which affects more women than it does men, can bring on an array of symptoms, including the following:
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pale, dry skin
- Hair loss
- Enlargement of the tongue
- Unexplained weight gain
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Memory lapses
3 Ways Cannabis May Help Ease Hashimoto’s Disease Symptoms
Hashimoto’s disease is clearly a painful condition with a wide range of accompanying issues. With the knowledge that cannabis has been known to be beneficial as part of the treatment plan for other autoimmune disease, many people wonder if cannabis could be considered for Hashimoto’s as well. But the research on this is limited—and somewhat conflicting. According to the Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, only a handful of studies have studied the effects of cannabis on the thyroid gland (and none of them are all that current!), and the research to date hasn’t been especially definitive. But there is some evidence to suggest that cannabis, particularly marijuana rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could be beneficial for those suffering from this disease.
Here are three ways that cannabis may be able to help those with Hashimoto’s:
1. THC is an immunosuppressant.
Because Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition in which an overactive immune system attacks the body, one way to address it is by suppressing the immune system. And THC shows promise in doing just that.
Studies have shown that THC suppresses TH-1 cells. These cells are involved in the production of cytokines and the immune responses that damage tissues like the thyroid. By inhibiting TH-1 cells, THC may slow or stop the damage an overactive immune system can do.
2. THC is an anti-inflammatory agent.
One of the big symptoms of Hashimoto’s is inflammation, and both THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are potent anti-inflammatory compounds. That said, these two cannabinoids may not be equal when it comes to treating inflammation in Hashimoto’s disease.
Suppression of TH-1 cells with the consumption of THC can not only help calm an overactive immune system, but it can also help control Hashimoto’s-related inflammation. By suppressing these cells, THC dampens cytokine production, which not only slows the immune system down, but is also key in the process of inflammation.
Of course, not all Hashimoto’s sufferers benefit from the suppression of TH-1 cells. While doctors once thought Hashimoto’s disease was exclusively a TH-1-related condition, it’s been shown more recently that Hashimoto’s can also occur from overactive TH-2 cells.
TH-2 cells are another kind of T-cell that protect against toxins and bacteria. If you suffer from this version of the condition, THC may be much less helpful, since it has been shown to actually stimulate TH-2 cells. This could trigger a worsening of the situation for TH-2-dominant cases of Hashimoto’s disease.
The research on CBD for inflammation is a little less clear. While widely acknowledged as an inflammation reducer in general, research on CBD has been inconsistent when it comes to increasing or decreasing TH-1 and TH-2 activity.
In some studies, CBD seems to decrease the number of TH-1 cells and increase TH-2 cell production, much like THC does.
However, other studies suggest CBD causes an increase in TH-1 activity. This could not only increase inflammation, but also trigger other damaging immune responses.
If you have TH-1-dominant Hashimoto’s disease, you may want to think twice before taking CBD.
3. THC is a pain reliever.
Cannabis can also help relieve pain related to Hashimoto’s disease. Studies say that up to 97 percent of cannabis consumers take marijuana for pain.
And the science supports these claims. In fact, in a 2017 study done by HelloMD and UC Berkeley, 81 percent of respondents reported that cannabis alone was more effective at easing their pain than opioids were, with similar results reported for patients using non-opioid painkillers.
While both THC and CBD can help reduce pain, THC is likely a better choice for those with Hashimoto’s disease, since CBD has the potential to negatively affect the condition in other ways.
Consuming Cannabis for Hashimoto’s Disease
If you’re interested in taking cannabis for Hashimoto’s disease, be sure to check with your doctor before you give it a try. You should definitely find out whether you have TH-1- or TH-2-dominant Hashimoto’s disease, because the research suggests THC may be helpful for those with TH-1 dominant Hashimoto’s but is potentially harmful for those with TH-2 dominant Hashimoto’s.
If you have the TH-1-dominant variety, THC could be a great option for you. You can try out inhaled or edible methods on a regular basis to see if it reduces your inflammation and other symptoms. Either way, you may want to hold off on consuming CBD, since the results around its efficacy are still unclear.
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