As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and on—and the planet is in an all-out race to vaccinate as many people as possible as fast as humanly possible—
it may be worthwhile to check what role CBD may play in reducing the severity of the infection. Medicinal cannabis has been known to have properties that can make it a supplementary treatment for managing the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Recently, scientists have also been researching its potential to reduce one’s susceptibility to the virus.
How Does COVID-19 Infect Humans?
The novel coronavirus infection uses its spiky protein surface to attach itself to the ACE2 receptors in healthy human cells, especially those that are found in the lungs and seize control of the cells. During this process, it also kills many healthy cells. The virus moves down the respiratory system by passing down the nose or mouth to your throat and lungs. However, since there are more ACE2 receptors in the lower respiratory tract, the COVID-19 virus will travel deeper than other coronaviruses like the common cold. This is what makes COVID-19 more dangerous than your average flu. By entering the lungs, the virus causes pneumonia-like symptoms, making it harder to breathe.
For about 80% of the people, the symptoms are only a cough or fever. However, for people who have weakened immune systems, and other underlying factors, the infection can be extremely severe or, as we all know, deadly. About five to eight days after the first symptoms, people affected by the virus may experience shortness of breath, which can lead to acute respiratory distress symptoms a few days later.
CBD And COVID-19
Cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) have historically been used to treat numerous medical conditions and their symptoms. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, can help relax blood vessels, and manage pain and anxiety. Research has shown that CBD, in combination with other cannabinoids and terpenes, may be used to treat COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, whole plant cannabis extracts have been shown to reduce the coagulation of blood during animal testing.
Since many negative effects of the novel coronavirus seem to be related to changes in blood coagulation, it may be possible to use CBD to manage these issues. In fact, researchers from the University of Nebraska, along with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, are conducting more research into how CBD can treat lung inflammation due to the virus. The researchers report that acute infection is caused by a “cytokine superstorm,” which manifests as fever, muscle pain, cough and extreme inflammation that can lead to acute pneumonia, which can “drown” your lungs and make breathing very difficult, if not impossible. Hence, one of the ways to prevent the more severe symptoms of coronavirus is to reduce inflammation. Scientists are particularly looking at drugs that can reduce the activity of IL-6 cytokine.
There are a few drugs in the market that can help reduce inflammation and clear out infections from the patient’s lungs. However, they come with several severe and adverse side effects such as pancreatic inflammation. Hence, researchers are now looking in earnest for a drug that’s not overly aggressive towards already critically ill patients.
Moreover, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia and Dental College of Georgia report that CBD also has the properties to improve oxygen levels and reduce inflammation and lung damage when they performed the test on a laboratory model. The researchers claim that the levels of a particular peptide, apelin, which is found in essential human organs to fight inflammation, go way down during a cytokine storm, resulting in the death of a patient. The research shows that CBD is able to normalize the apelin levels, along with normal lung functions.
CBD was also shown to the levels of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-1α and β as well as macrophage inflammatory protein-1α, interferon gamma, and tumor necrosis factor-α, which are all linked to severe cases of COVID-19. On the other hand, CDB is associated with an increase in interferons, which is a group of signaling proteins activated to fight viral infections.
There has been other research, including animal testing on asthma in which CBD was showed to reduce cytokine production, reducing the inflammation in the respiratory tract. The same study also found that CDB reduced pulmonary fibrosis that which involves lung tissue, becomes damaged, thick and scarred, making breathing difficult. This is very important in the case of COVID-19 since the novel coronavirus can also leave patients with severe pulmonary fibrosis.
Wait, There’s More
Aside from these benefits, the use of CBD results in minimal negative side effects and even positive beneficial side effects like reduced anxiety. The coronavirus crisis has resulted in many uncertainties including unemployment, financial challenges and loss of physical connection—all of which contribute towards fear, anxiety and depression.
CBD doesn’t result in disorientation or other negative psychotropic effects that are associated with other cannabis-derived ingredients such as THC and has already been approved by the FDA as safe for use on children who suffer from intractable epilepsy.
If CBD is effective in reducing lung inflammation in COVID-19 patients, it could be a safer alternative to harsher, anti-inflammatory drugs.
Scientific research shows that CBD is quite promising towards the reduction of the more severe symptoms of the novel coronavirus when used in combination with other therapies. Therefore, until the world’s population is inoculated with a vaccine, it’s crucial that governments around the world make the studying and research of CBD easier for medical labs and research institutions so that we can see mitigate the effects of the global pandemic.
–PuraPhy Staff Report
Photo by Eva Ozkoidi