Does CBD work for HIV?
- Scientists believe that CBD and THC impact one’s health by interacting in different ways with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Consuming medical cannabis also affects the immune system directly(1).
- Studies have shown that CBD might effectively help boost immunity and provide relief for some HIV symptoms, such as inflammation, pain and anxiety characterized by worrying excessively, restlessness, agitation, and fatigue(2).
- As going through the HIV management process is distressing, CBD supplements can help ease therapy and improve sleep(3). According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, antiretroviral drugs perform better when the user is getting enough rest and is not stressed(4).
- Studies have shown that people who combined TCH:CBD in a one to one ratio or a 1:9 ration and the antiretroviral drugs saw an improvement in their CD4+T- cell count(5). CD4+T cells are white blood cells that fight infection.
- However, CBD has been shown to interact with other drugs and alter how the body metabolizes certain medications, as a 2017 research revealed(6). Consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use before starting a CBD regimen or combining it with current prescription medications.
Why Some People Are Using CBD for HIV
Cannabis, including marijuana and CBD, has been shown to possess characteristics that may help people manage symptoms associated with HIV and AIDS treatments.
These characteristics could be the reason why some people with HIV turn to cannabis in the form of THC, CBD, or combination as a viable treatment option for autoimmune diseases, like HIV.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that spreads in the body through body fluids attacking the CD4 cells of the immune system.
CD4 cells, also called CD4+T cells, are white blood cells that fight infection. Destruction of CD4+T cells affects the effectiveness of the body in combating infections and diseases.
CD4+T cell count indicates how severely the immune system has been affected and the extent to which the body can combat infections. The average range for CD4+T cells is 500 to 1,500.
As HIV infection progresses, the number of these cells declines, leaving a person increasingly vulnerable to diseases and cancers, explained the researchers of a 2011 study on laboratory monitoring of HIV infection(7).
When the CD4+T cell count drops below 200, HIV progresses to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), said the authors of the same study, which was published in The Indian Journal of Medical Research.
With AIDS, the body battles threats that can be fatal even from infections and diseases that a healthy individual can handle.
Typically, the CD4 cell count increases when HIV is constrained with effective HIV medication.
By reducing the quantity of HIV particles in the body, HIV medicines also reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
Although there has been no proven cure for HIV or AIDS, research is still ongoing, with many supplements and medications coming up to help in its management, according to an article posted on HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service (HIVATIS) website(8).
The CBD industry has not been lagging in search of a lasting countermeasure for HIV prevention, care, management, and cure, says an article posted on HIVATIS (HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service) website.
CBD HIV supplements are natural remedies to control the infection, prevent pain, and relieve HIV symptoms.
The use of these supplements, along with other proven prescription medications, helps to make treatment more relaxed and the person with HIV more comfortable(9).
HIV weakens the body’s immune system making patients vulnerable to infections, and many people with HIV are distressed with the thought of the virus present in their body(10).
In a study published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, hard-to-treat pain includes cancer-associated pain, neuropathic pain, and central pain states, such as pain associated with multiple sclerosis. The presence of CBD in the Sativex preparation was crucial to obtaining significant pain relief(12).
People become anxious after testing positive for HIV or any other terminal illness. Signs a person with HIV may be suffering from anxiety include worrying excessively, restlessness, agitation, and fatigue(13).
In stressful situations like this, CBD can help people relax and attenuate panic attacks. As going through the HIV management process is distressing, CBD supplements can help ease therapy and improve sleep quality(14).
Antiretroviral drugs perform better when the user is getting enough rest and is not stressed, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes suggested(15).
The HIV virus itself is not known to cause pain. However, HIV carriers are more susceptible to secondary infections, which can cause pain and inflammation(16).
Authors of a 2019 study published in BMJ Open proposed to conduct a pilot randomized clinical trial to examine the safety and tolerability of cannabis oils containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) consumed orally in people living with HIV(17).
Although research involving HIV has examined THC, data from in vitro, animal and human studies suggest that CBD has favorable anti-inflammatory effects and that the combination of CBD with THC improves the safety and tolerability profiles of cannabis(18).
In a study conducted by experts at universities in Virginia and Florida, CD8 and CD4 white blood cell counts were compared in 95 HIV patients, some of whom were chronic cannabis users(19).
Scientists discovered that both CD8 and CD4 types of infection-fighting immune counts were higher in patients using cannabis than that of non-cannabis users. Results suggested the plant had substantially improved their immune systems.
However, the said study was not specific to CBD use. Further research is needed on the overall effects of CBD alone on the immune function in people with HIV.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that people who combined THC and CBD and the antiretroviral drugs saw an improvement in their CD4+T- cell count(20).
More CD4+T cells can mean the body is more able to fight infection.
How CBD Oil Works to Help with HIV
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) holds crucial information on HIV and AIDS management.
Cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptor sites to promote the proper physiological function of the muscular system, immune system, and nervous system.
The cannabinoids stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptors located within the body’s ECS to regulate a plethora of physiological processes, including immune system function and inflammation, and to reinstate stable bodily functions successfully.
A study published in Clinical Pharmacokinetics examined how antiretrovirals work(21). Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the utilization of HIV medicines to alleviate HIV infection to reduce the viral load (the quantity of virus in the blood) while increasing CD4 count.
People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines every day to help them live longer, healthier lives. Although ART cannot eliminate HIV, it can reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
ART’s primary goal is to reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level. HIV-positive people who maintain an undetectable viral load would not be able to transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.
Disruption of homeostasis, or an imbalance, inevitably results in many HIV and AIDS symptoms, including weight loss, lack of appetite, lethargy and other side effects that result from a weakened immune system(22).
CB2 receptor activation creates an anti-inflammatory effect and becomes a therapeutic target for autoimmune disorders (wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the body) and neurodegenerative diseases (which affect the neurons in the brain)(23).
However, any ECS immunosuppressant activity, which inhibits or prevents the actions of the immune system, is believed to be temporary. This activity can also be overridden when necessary in the presence of infection(24).
Scientists believe that plant cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) impact one’s health by interacting in different ways with the endocannabinoid system. Thus, consuming medical cannabis also directly affects the immune system(25).
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for HIV
- Studies mentioned previously demonstrate CBD’s therapeutic benefits in boosting immune response and alleviating HIV symptoms, including inflammation, pain, and anxiety.
- CBD is non-addictive, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in a 2015 article(26). This characteristic makes CBD safe for daily intake.
- CBD “is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” as the World Health Organization (WHO) stated in a critical review(27).
- CBD oil may be purchased without a prescription in locations where they are legally available.
- Studies are too limited to determine whether or not CBD is an effective treatment for conditions other than the ones approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- As with the use of any natural chemical compound, there are risks involved in using CBD. According to the Mayo Clinic, possible side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, and reduced appetite(28).
- CBD has been shown to interact with other drugs and alter how the body metabolizes certain medications, as a 2017 research revealed(29). Consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use before starting a CBD regimen or combining it with current prescription medications.
- Dr Doris Trauner, professor of neurosciences and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a physician at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, cautions that CBD products marketed online and in dispensaries are mostly unregulated(30).
The lack of regulation makes it difficult to determine whether the CBD gummies, tinctures, patches, balms, and gelcaps contain what the product label claims.
A 2107 review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed labeling inaccuracies among CBD products. Some products had less CBD than stated, while others had more(31).
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for HIV
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) appears to be popular with people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), particularly those outside of the USA, the authors of a study published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs noted(32).
Vitamins, herbs, and supplements emerge as the most common approaches used, followed by prayer, meditation, and spiritual exercise.
According to the said study, supplements and herbs may be used for a range of reasons, including cleansing or strengthening the body(33).
Their popularity may be related to a generally high knowledge of nutrition amongst PLWHA, encouraged by the community and by healthcare clinicians(34).
CBD is also a natural supplement that has been shown to provide therapeutic benefits. Based on the studies mentioned above, CBD may help with HIV symptoms, including pain, inflammation, weak immune system, and anxiety.
How to Choose the Right CBD for HIV
Studies cited previously show that CBD is not the only cannabinoid found in cannabis that can help with HIV and its symptoms. Hence, when choosing a CBD product, opt for one that contains full-spectrum CBD oil.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all phytonutrients from hemp, including trace amounts of THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils. These compounds work together to intensify the therapeutic benefits of each cannabinoid, resulting in the “entourage effect”.
Those with allergies to THC may opt to use broad-spectrum CBD oil, which is like full-spectrum CBD but without the THC that makes the user high.
However, regardless of the form of CBD product of choice, careful consideration must still be employed in selecting the best CBD oil to help with the immune system, inflammation, pain, and anxiety.
The following factors are essential to ensure the safety and reliability of the CBD products purchased:
- Research on the exact legal stipulations applicable to CBD in the area where it would be bought and used.
- Purchase only high-quality CBD products from legitimate and reliable brands. The majority of companies that manufacture the best CBD oil products grow their hemp from their own farm, or they purchase from licensed hemp producers.
- Research product reviews before buying from an online store. When purchasing from a physical store or dispensary, check whether the store is authorized by the government to sell CBD.
- One important thing to look for in CBD products is certification codes. Several certification authorities approve certain products only after some thorough screening tests.
- Compare company claims about their products’ potency with that of the third-party lab reports. Look for a certificate of analysis for every product purchased.
- Consulting with a trusted medical professional experienced in CBD use is ideal before one purchases his or her first bottle of CBD.
CBD Dosage for HIV
There is no recommended CBD dosage specific for fighting fungus or any type of fungal infections.
According to an article written by Peter Grinspoon, MD, on Harvard Health in August 2019, experts do not know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition(35).
Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies, effective doses cannot be determined.
How to Take CBD Oil for HIV Symptoms
CBD oil cannot cure HIV but may be beneficial for managing its symptoms. One of the common symptoms, which the people living with HIV experience, is a continuous and irritating skin rash.
In this situation, CBD oil may be an effective option as it is also available in topical forms, such as lotion, cream, patch, balm, salve, and bath salts.
For topical products, look for keywords on the product labels that indicate that the product uses nanotechnology, encapsulation, or micellization of CBD. These words suggest that their solution can carry CBD through the dermal layers, rather than just staying on the skin.
CBD oil capsules and edibles, such as brownies, gummies, and lozenges, are a convenient and straightforward way to take CBD oil, especially for first-time CBD users.
This format is easy to work into a routine, and the dose is consistent. CBD oil can be added to one’s favorite food or beverage as well.
CBD oil tinctures or drops are a practical option for those who seek fast results and maximum dosage control.
Tinctures and drops may be administered sublingually (under the tongue), through which the CBD oil is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
Place the desired quantity of drops under the tongue using a dropper, and then let the CBD oil stay in place for at least 60 seconds. Once 60 seconds have passed, swallow the CBD oil.
CBD oil vapes are one of the quickest ways to get CBD into the body since it enters the bloodstream through the lungs, without going through the digestive system.
Note that vaping is not for everyone, as some people may not be comfortable with this method.
Experts are not sure if vaping can lead to lung problems but believe the most likely cause is a contaminant, which may include irritation or allergic reactions to chemicals in the inhaled vapors(36).
What is the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV)?
SIV is an HIV-like virus that can infect monkeys and apes and can cause a disease similar to AIDS.
Because HIV and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) are closely-related viruses, researchers study SIV as a way to learn more about HIV.
However, SIV cannot infect humans, and HIV cannot infect monkeys(37).
THC and Antiretrovirals
Marinol (dronabinol), a drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, is a human-made form of cannabis that has been marketed as a safe alternative to medical marijuana.
Its active ingredient is synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
Only one study has examined the effects of cannabinoids on the pharmacokinetics of antiretrovirals. Researchers in the study concluded that the use of marijuana or dronabinol is unlikely to impact antiretroviral efficacy(38).
Quality of Life
HIV disease is among the most distressing of conditions, having numerous and life-changing effects on the patients. Thus, the assessment of QOL is essential.
Research published in the Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS defines QOL as an overall sense of well-being, including happiness and satisfaction with life as a whole(39).
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes QOL as an “individuals’ perceptions of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in connection to their goals, standards, expectations, and concerns.”
HIV is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. However, CBD’s therapeutic benefits can help people with HIV and AIDS manage their symptoms to make therapies more relaxed and improve their quality of life.
CBD can be a welcome addition to some complementary and alternative medicines used by people with HIV who do not find comfort and relief in common antiretrovirals.
As a natural remedy with unique advantages, CBD also has its limitations and risks. Thus, consumers who plan to include CBD in their regimen must first consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use.
A growing number of states, except CBD oil-only states, or states with endless lists of conditions, explicitly include HIV or AIDS as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use.
As of 2019, those 29 states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington.
There are nearly 8,000 clinical studies on HIV and HIV-related disorders listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, an online resource provided and maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, to provide information on HIV.
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- Chen WT, Shiu CS, Yang JP, et al. Fatigue and Sleep Disturbance Related to Perceived Stress in Chinese HIV-Positive Individuals: A Mixed Methods Study. J AIDS Clin Res. 2013;4(6):15524. doi:10.4172/2155-6113.1000214.
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