The Endocannabinoid System and its impact on autoimmune disease

 In Blog, Diet, Health, Lifestyle, Research


Wahls Protocol Seminar Sponsor Elixinol connected us with Dr. Philip Blair for an important interview on The Endocannabinoid System and its impact on those with autoimmunity.

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The Endocannabinoid System Simplified

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a series of ligands, receptors, transport molecules, and enzymes present throughout the entire body that acts as a “master regulator” for other systems within the body. In fact, all mammals have an ECS, and humans have evolved with cannabinoids.


● “Relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect. ” 1

● Discovered in 1992

● Not well understood by the medical community

● ECS also regulates immune, mood, and metabolism


  • What is the endocannabinoid system?
  • Hoe does one diagnose whether endocannabinoids are out of balance?
  • How can we restore our endocannabinoid system?
  • What is CBD?

The Endocannabinoid System and its impact on autoimmune disease FULL TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Walhs: Dr. Blair, thank you for joining me today. I’m really excited that we’re going to talk a bit about endocannabinoids, and how this has a huge impact for all of us who have autoimmune issues. Could you give us a quick highlight of the endocannabinoid system, and a few comments as to why it’s so important that we help address these issues for anyone with an autoimmune illness?

Dr. Blair: Well, Dr. Wahls, it’s a pleasure to be with you here today. I want to talk about the endoccanabinoid system because it’s so fundamental to the regulation of our other systems within the body. We have a system, this endocannabinoid, that actually goes back about 600 million years, plants first developed some of these endocannabinoids, or substances that signal other parts of the body for particular function. And then animals came out a hundred million years later and developed receptors for, particularly, these molecules. It’s really exciting to see how this has evolved. Now currently, the humans have the most advanced form of this endocannabinoid system.

Dr. Blair: So what is it? It really is a collection of receptors and ligands, or molecules that connect to that, within the body. But it also encompasses things like enzymes, as well as degradation products, and for transport molecules. Now all these things are doing are are connecting up these functions within our body and these signals within our body to take action at a cellular level. It’s from cell to cell, or within a cell, and it is the final common pathway for much, often nerve stimulation as well as hormonal stimulation.

Dr. Blair: Particularly related to autoimmune diseases, this is a part of the final common pathway for autoimmune type of phenomena and immunologic inflammation, as well as the neurologic stimulation.

Dr. Blair: We’ve got these connections with the the brain, and the gut, and part of those connections are made with this endocannabinoid system. It’s a very sensitive system that’s telling us about what’s going on in our body, as well as inducing other types of actions within the body. Particularly like the immunologic phenomena that we have within our gut. The gut actually signals the brain using some of the endocannabinoid connectors and the brain signals the gut using some of these connectors. So it’s an integrated system of extraordinary power.

Dr. Blair: What we’ve found is that we can modulate some of that particular system, and because it does get out of order, some of the things that cause it to get out of order are lack of sleep, lack of exercise, wrong types of foods, stresses in our body. What we can do in order to recover that is a lot of the things that you’ve talked about so much, Dr. Wahls, about getting the right kind of exercise, eating the right kind of diet, reducing our stress and having the right environment. But, in addition to those things, we may be able to use some of the plant-derived cannabinoids, the substances that come naturally from plants, so signaling molecules, that actually modify the endocannabinoid system in our body and help it recover.

Dr. Walhs: What leads our endocannabinoids to get out of balance and start sending incorrect signals?

Dr. Blair: Well, all of the classic things that we encounter, but lack of sleep, the toxins in our food and our diet, the stresses that we’re encountering in our workplace. It could be air pollution, it could be toxins from the sea. There’s so many different things that can cause the disruption and disturbances of this, that we actually see a host of endocannabinoid deficiency diseases that really involve almost all of the major diseases that we experience.

Dr. Walhs: How does one diagnose deficiency states?

Dr. Blair: Unfortunately, we don’t have an ability to easily diagnose it now. Some studies have shown that doing PET scans of the brain will identify the particular cannabinoid receptor deficiencies, using markers to identify them, as well as doing some laboratory testing, looking for some of the endocannabinoids, like anandamide and 2-AG, which are very common ones. But these are experimental testing, and we don’t have very good standards for those either. In one study with PTSD, they found that a combination of these disorders, or these measurements, including cortisol levels, would have an 85% predictability of identifying someone with PTSD.

Dr. Walhs: Wow, so if someone is wondering, could my endocannabinoids be out of balance? It sounds like there’s not really a way for me to go to my primary care provider, or specialist, for that matter, to get a assessment that would tell me that.

Dr. Blair: Well, we don’t have any good, and easy, laboratory tests that can be done. Unfortunately we just have to make some assumptions that. Many of the common diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, have all been identified as endocannabinoid deficiency disorders. But we don’t know if it’s the cause or if it’s the effect.

Dr. Walhs: [crosstalk 00:06:14]

Dr. Blair: Is [crosstalk 00:06:15] causative. And what can you do about it, is really what it amounts to. And as I mentioned before, is it all the things that we’ve been talking about that will help us recover the endocannabinoid system and get well.

Dr. Walhs: How do we restore our endocannabinoid system? I’m sure when people are thinking about endocannabinoids, or we’re thinking about marijuana, or we’re thinking about cannabis, is that correct? Or should we be thinking about something else?

Dr. Blair: Well, there are actually lots of substances that interact with the the endocannabinoid system, that system within our body. Good foods, Omega-3s are extraordinarily valuable and integral in the construction and maintenance of the endocannabinoid system.

Dr. Blair: Some of the, the essential oils that we’ve been exposed to for years and years, things like caryophyllene and some other types of terpenes, fragrant a compounds that that we have, and we’re constantly exposed to, or that seem to have some medicinal or herbal properties. These are actually signaling molecules to the endocannabinoid system. And so they help recover it.

Dr. Blair: But the primary focus is on the cannabinoids, the phytocannabinoids that come from cannabis, because they have the highest concentration in that. Now, certainly cannabis is… I look at cannabis is really two species. One is the marijuana with a high amounts of THC. And then the other side of that is the hemp plant that has very high concentrations of CBD. And my real focus has-

Dr. Walhs: Hang on. CBD, not everybody in my tribe here knows what CBD is. So, quick, let’s translate that for us.

Dr. Blair: All right. So CBD is cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that comes from hemp and the cannabis plant. And specifically I want to shift over to the hemp plant that doesn’t have any significant amounts of THC. And this is widely available. Cannabidiol is a very simple 21 carbon molecule, but it has such wonderful signaling properties, not only on the endocannabinoid system, but also on a vast array of other neuro-transmitters as well as immunologic connections within the body.

Dr. Walhs: Are you telling me to go out and eat more hemp, or hemp oil, to get my cannabinoids simulated? What advice are we giving?

Dr. Blair: Well, you’d have to eat an awful lot of hemp oil in order to do that. And hemp seed oil doesn’t actually contain cannabidiol, or THC for that matter. It needs to be extracted and pressed out in a cold press arrangement to preserve all of the natural, whole plant goodness that is there. Cannabidiol comes out in fairly high concentrations, and that can be used as a supplement in many different forms. Whether it’s a capsule, or it’s a tincture, or it’s a liposomal form for improved bioavailability, that you can are all available and easily ingested.

Dr. Walhs: So is that legally available? I know that the hemp, and THC, and cannabis has a variety of states in terms of whether it’s legal or not. Can you help us understand what the status is?

Dr. Blair: Well, I’m not a lawyer, and it tends to be a gray area. The federal government has taken the attitude that anything that comes from cannabis is a problem, and they have disagreements, and they don’t completely agree. However, since 2014, and then the Farm Act at that time, hemp products without any significant amount of TCH have been widely distributed. And, in fact, there’s some companies that are operating in over 40 countries of the world and distributing CBD, cannabidiol, widely.

Dr. Walhs: Yeah, I know here in Iowa, cannabis is now… Not cannabis. Hemp, rather. It is going to become an agricultural product.

Dr. Blair: It’s about time. The 2018 Farm Act really clarified that Congress meant, specifically, they wanted to allow hemp and they wanted to allow products that come from hemp, like cannabidiol, to be fully available within the marketplace without restriction and cross state lines.

Dr. Walhs: Yeah. I think that’s a very, very positive thing. Have you been using CBD in your clinical arena? Can you talk a bit about that?

Dr. Blair: Yes. I was a family practitioner in the service. I retired from the army in 1996 and then I went into disease management focusing on kidney disease. I spent a good time at that and I’ve found that the dietary approach was probably the best approach you could use, but I needed something more. Reviewing different literature I identified that cannabidiol from hemp could have some valuable attributes. And so five years ago I started working with it, did the reviews in the literature, and I started using it, distributing it to friends and family, as well as starting to use it in patients. I’ve been blown away by the effectiveness and the lack of adverse effects that come from cannabidiol.

Dr. Walhs: What type of symptoms would you say people generally respond?

Dr. Blair: Well, autoimmune. Marvelous. One of the first cases I had was of psoriatic arthritis, destruction of the joints. There were joint replacements going on, chronic pain. We found that using just 60 milligrams of a tincture was able to put that condition absolutely at ease, stop the inflammation, resolve the pain for the woman. And she had no progression of her arthritis, or the pains, that quickly. The effects were immediate and then they persisted. You definitely had to continue a dose, but she found that she was only needing to use about 60 milligrams, once every other day.

Dr. Walhs: How about overall health and wellness? Any impact there?

Dr. Blair: I’ve been really impressed with the overall improvement in a number of different areas. Number one, there’s an improvement in mood and there’s a relaxation. So there’s an attitude change with the immediate changes… With the immediate use of CBD. It’s not a high but it you generally feel well and confident and you’re able to get things done. In contrast to THC, this is a substance that will be task oriented, get you on target, doesn’t cause any type of impairment. In fact, I see a cognitive improvement as well as a physical improvement. That goes for physical exercise as well. Athletes are telling me that they perform significantly better under the influence of cannabidiol. Plus, it offers the protection in case they do get injured.

Dr. Walhs: If somebody wanted to explore using CBD as part of their wellness program, whether they have disease or not, how would they go about doing that?

Dr. Blair: Well, I know that Elixinol has a website that’s got considerable amount of information about it. There’s quite a bit of literature on the web right now talking about cannabidiol, so those are possibilities. There’s a website called that has quite a bit of information. And Realm Of Caring offers really an impartial view of what’s available about CBD as well as the cannabinoids.

Dr. Walhs: How long would it take to perceive the difference? If I’m doing this to get a sense of, “Okay, I’m benefiting.” Or, “I’m not going to be someone who benefits.”

Dr. Blair: I recommend people start with the first serving. I expect to see a response with an effective product and dose within two minutes.

Dr. Walhs: Well, that’s pretty fast. Okay. Do we have any clinical studies that you can point people to?

Dr. Blair: Well there are a number of clinical studies that have been than done. They haven’t gotten to the degree of rigor that really the medical community is looking at for the double blind randomized controlled trials with a placebo. But there are a number of studies with regard to focusing on PTSD, as well as there were studies done in some foreign nations looking at bone transplant and actually using CBD to prevent graft-versus-host reaction. There was also studies that have been done with respect to schizophrenia showing that CBD was as effective as the best of the anti-psychotropic medications without causing any significant harm-

Dr. Walhs: Well, that’s certainly huge.

Dr. Blair: … Not having any significant adverse effects.

Dr. Walhs: Certainly huge. Well, Dr. Blair, this has been phenomenal. I’m so glad you’re coming to our seminar. We’ll get to talk in more detail about CBD, and I’m sure our attendees, and the health professionals, will have more questions, or want to engage a deeper conversation with you about how they might try it as part of their wellness program or in their clinical practices.

Dr. Blair: I’m excited to be working with you, Dr. Wahls.

Dr. Walhs: Yeah, we’re really glad to have you. It’s a transformational experience. We’re thinking we’ll… but yeah, it’s hard to know what our final numbers will be, but we keep having to go to the hotel to expand our numbers, so we’ll see what happens. But it will be transformational, and we’re thrilled that you’ll be part of it.

Dr. Blair: That’s very exciting for me, as well. I continue to be amazed and perplexed by the whole science of this endocannabinoid system and how it works within our lives.

About the author

COL Philip Blair, MD, is a family physician and consultant in disease management. He graduated from West Point in 1972, attended the University of Miami School of Medicine, trained as an Army family physician and served as a combat physician in the first Gulf War. After medical assignments on three continents and 29 years in uniform, he retired from the Army and has since been consulting on complex disease management since 2000 with patients around the globe.

Since 2013, Dr. Blair has been studying, treating and lecturing about the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), including pre-clinical trials with PTSD sufferers. ECS disorders appear to be the root cause of many chronic medical conditions. Colonel Blair, MD serves as Medical Director of Pro Health Advisor, Inc., and Elixinol.

His current goal is to enhance health and wellbeing by restoring his patient’s ECS through diet, exercise, appropriate medications and non-psychoactive herbs, including hemp.

Dr. Blair is a popular speaker and guest for numerous conferences and podcasts. Since 2016, he has presented to audiences ranging in size from 15 to 500.

1. Russo, EB. “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System.” PhytecsÆ

2. Russo, EB. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions? Neuro†Endocrinol†Lett†. 2008 Apr;29(2):192-200.

3. Pacher, P., et al. The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological†Reviews September 2006, 58 (3) 389-462; DOI:

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