Cannabis may help with lupus symptoms, but there’s little research on it.

Because cannabis might reduce inflammation and pain, it may help relieve some lupus symptoms.

But there’s very little research on medical cannabis and lupus, and there’s no consensus on whether it can treat the condition.

Consult your care team before using cannabis (or any other substance) to treat lupus.

Every human body contains an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This biological system plays a role in regulating certain bodily functions, including immune system responses like inflammation.

Cannabis contains dozens of cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds. One well-known cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may have various health benefits.

The body also produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids work by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors throughout your body.

A 2021 research review found that cannabinoids could improve certain symptoms of autoimmune diseases, particularly pain and inflammation. But much of this research came from animal studies.

Recently, researchers looked into whether lenabasum, an endocannabinoid type 2 receptor agonist, could help manage lupus. Lenabasum may reduce inflammation.

A 2022 study examined whether lenabasum could help people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The researchers gave 101 people with SLE a placebo or lenabasum for 12 weeks in this study.

The researchers found that lenabasum was safe and well-tolerated by most of the participants, but it didn’t make a major difference to their pain levels.

On the other hand, a 2018 study involving mice with SLE found that cannabis accelerated the lupus progression.

For that reason, it’s not clear whether cannabis can help or harm people with lupus. More research — especially research involving human participants — is necessary before understanding the connection between cannabis and lupus.

Some people with lupus on internet forums report that medical cannabis has helped relieve some of their symptoms.

However, since these reports are anecdotal and not from studies, they don’t show that cannabis can be helpful.

If your care team thinks that trying cannabis might be worthwhile, they can provide you with personalized information on how best to use it.

It’s important not to replace or stop your current treatment unless your care team specifically says you can. Cannabis is not a replacement for lupus medications or lifestyle changes.

The Lupus Foundation of America strongly suggests having an honest conversation about cannabis with your care team. This means telling your doctor — or any health professional who treats your condition — if you use cannabis.

Cannabis can interact with certain drugs, sometimes increasing side effects or reducing the drug’s efficacy. For this reason, talking with your care team about cannabis use is a matter of safety.

If you’re concerned about getting into legal trouble for using cannabis, know that federal law prohibits clinicians from telling the police about your drug use. With that said, there are exceptions to this rule.

A healthcare professional can break confident confidentiality if they’re concerned you might harm yourself or others. They may also alert the authorities if you’re pregnant and using cannabis or other drugs.

If you’re not sure how to broach the topic with your healthcare team, try saying something along the lines of:

  • “I’ve read about people with lupus using medical cannabis to manage their symptoms. What are your thoughts on this? Would medical cannabis be safe for me to try?”
  • “A few people in my chronic disease support group use medical cannabis. Do you have any experience advising your patients on using cannabis?”
  • “I’ve found that cannabis improves my symptoms. Will my medications interact with cannabis? Is it safe for me to use it?”

Not all clinicians are 100% clued up on treating their patients with medical cannabis. If you’d like to use cannabis for managing your lupus but your care team doesn’t have the experience to advise you on it, they might be able to refer you to a clinician who does.

You might also have some luck finding a cannabis-friendly clinician through the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) or the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

CBD has shown promise in treating other chronic conditions that involve pain and inflammation. For example, a 2022 study found that CBD could improve joint pain, physical function, and sleep quality in people with arthritis.

Although this suggests CBD could improve those symptoms in people with other conditions, there’s no guarantee it’ll work for people with lupus.

Because CBD seems to have immunomodulatory effects, there’s reason to believe it might help people with autoimmune diseases, but experts must research this further.

A 2023 review found that CBD may treat autoimmune diseases, including lupus. However, the authors highlighted that there’s a lack of research on CBD and lupus.

To learn more about lupus and cannabis, check out the following resources:

You can also participate in a clinical trial on lupus. By participating in trials, you help researchers test possible treatments, which advances clinicians’ understanding of lupus.

The Lupus Foundation of America has a search tool that can match you to a relevant clinical trial. You can also enroll in their lupus patient registry to help researchers learn more about your experience and symptoms.

There’s a lot that experts still don’t know about lupus. Whether cannabis can help people with lupus is a question that remains unanswered.

Anecdotally, some people with lupus report that cannabis has improved their symptoms. But there’s little research that shows it can help everyone.

If you’re considering using cannabis for lupus, discussing it with your treatment team first is important.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.