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Cannabinoids and the immune system: Potential for the treatment of inflammatory diseases?

      Abstract

      Since the discovery of the cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands, significant advances have been made in studying the physiological function of the endocannabinoid system. The presence of cannabinoid receptors on cells of the immune system and anecdotal and historical evidence suggesting that cannabis use has potent immuno-modulatory effects, has led to research directed at understanding the function and role of these receptors within the context of immunological cellular function. Studies from chronic cannabis smokers have provided much of the evidence for immunomodulatory effects of cannabis in humans, and animal and in vitro studies of immune cells such as T cells and macrophages have also provided important evidence. Cannabinoids can modulate both the function and secretion of cytokines from immune cells. Therefore, cannabinoids may be considered for treatment of inflammatory disease. This review article will highlight recent research on cannabinoids and how they interact with the immune system and also their potential use as therapeutic agents for a number of inflammatory disorders.

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