D65: THC, CBD, and Cytokine Storms

THC, CBD, and Cytokine Storms: A Comprehensive Review


Cytokine storms are hyperactive immune responses that can be fatal, typically as a result of an infection or autoimmune condition. THC and CBD, along with endocannabinoids like anandamide (ANA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), have been shown to modulate the immune response, including the cytokine response, by interacting with various receptors and cells in the immune system[1].

Cell Components and Receptors

Cannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors primarily, but also modulate Toll-like receptors, which are a part of the innate immune system and are usually the first to detect pathogens. T-cells, B-cells, macrophages, and NK cells also have cannabinoid receptors and are affected by cannabinoids like THC and CBD. For instance, CBD has been found to reduce the production of cytokines by T-cells[2].

Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Pathogens

THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids have varying effects on different types of pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. For example, CBD has shown some antibacterial properties[3]. Terpenes like limonene and linalool also possess antibacterial and antiviral properties4].

Cytokines and Immunity

Cytokines like TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-1beta play significant roles in orchestrating the immune response to pathogens. Overproduction of these cytokines can result in a cytokine storm, which is life-threatening. Some studies indicate that CBD can reduce the production of these cytokines[5].

Comparison Table: Effects of Cannabinoids on Cytokines

CytokineTHC EffectsCBD EffectsInteraction with PathogensStrength of Evidence
TNF-alphaReducing[6]Reducing[5]Bacteria, VirusesModerate
IL-6Reducing[6]Reducing[5]Bacteria, VirusesModerate
IL-1betaReducing[6]Reducing[5]Bacteria, VirusesModerate


  1. Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Medicinal Chemistry.
  2. Tanasescu, R., & Constantinescu, C. S. (2010). Cannabinoids and the immune system: an overview. Immunobiology.
  3. Appendino, G., Gibbons, S., Giana, A., Pagani, A., Grassi, G., Stavri, M., … & Rahman, M. M. (2008). Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure− activity study. Journal of natural products.
  4. Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology.
  5. Mecha, M., Feliú, A., Iñigo, P. M., Mestre, L., Carrillo-Salinas, F. J., & Guaza, C. (2013). Cannabidiol provides long-lasting protection against the deleterious effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis: A role for A2A receptors. Neurobiology of disease.
  6. Kaplan, B. L., Springs, A. E., & Kaminski, N. E. (2008). The profile of immune modulation by cannabidiol (CBD) involves deregulation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT). Biochemical pharmacology.

Special Notes:

People with conditions that involve the immune system, such as autoimmune diseases, should exercise caution when considering the use of cannabinoids. For more comprehensive advice, please consult Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic.

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