I get a lot of search traffic asking about mast cell disease and marijuana or cannabis, and I was also curious about it myself, so I did a little research.
I always like to go to the experts and since I am still reading (and reviewing!) Dr. Afrin’s book, Never Bet Against Occam, I thought I’d see if he had anything to say about the topic and sure enough, he addresses it.
This is directly from the glossary section:
The mast cell surface features (inhibitory) cannabinoid receptors, making me wonder whether at least some of the chronically ill patients out there who claim that the only thing that makes them feel better is marijuana might be unrecognized MCAS patients in whom THC’s binding with the cannabinoid receptors on their dysfunctional mast cells leads to a quieting of the activity of those cells and thus a lessening of symptoms.
Dr. Afrin is citing research which has proven that the mast cell has cannabinoid receptors, so that’s very interesting and something I hadn’t come across yet:
Cannabinoids are broadly immunosuppressive, and anti-inflammatory properties have been reported for certain marijuana constituents and endogenously produced cannabinoids. The CB2 cannabinoid receptor is an established constituent of immune system cells, and we have recently established that the CB1 cannabinoid receptor is expressed in mast cells. In the present study, we sought to define a role for CB1 in mast cells and to identify the signalling pathways that may mediate the suppressive effects of CB1 ligation on mast cell activation. Our results show that CB1 and CB2 mediate diametrically opposed effects on cAMP levels in mast cells. The observed long-term stimulation of cAMP levels by the Gαi/o-coupled CB1 is paradoxical, and our results indicate that it may be attributed to CB1-mediated transcriptional regulation of specific adenylate cyclase isoenzymes that exhibit superactivatable kinetics. Taken together, these results reveal the complexity in signalling of natively co-expressed cannabinoid receptors and suggest that some anti-inflammatory effects of CB1 ligands may be attributable to sustained cAMP elevation that, in turn, causes suppression of mast cell degranulation.
So that was surprising to learn (who knew our mast cells had cannabinoid receptors?!) and that’s enough evidence to convince me that medical marijuana has the potential to help at least some mast cell disease patients.
I’d love to see more research in this area, to be honest. Hopefully federal law will change soon so that can happen.