Can cannabis cure COVID-19?

November 11, 2020

The world is anxiously waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine with bated breath. Until this day arrives, there is nothing we can do to gain immunity and there are currently no treatments against the virus itself. Within the papers filled with stories of gloom and doom, there is some heartening news: to add to the seemingly endless benefits of CBD, there is new evidence that it may help to reduce cytokine storms (an overreaction of the body’s immune system) and excessive lung inflammation in patients.

The majority of the population that has contracted COVID-19 encounter mild or moderate symptoms that don’t require hospital visitation. But those who experience serious and dangerous symptoms are often treated in hospital with breathing support to provide the principal need of receiving extra oxygen. As a respiratory disease, the more consequential symptoms of COVID-19 can affect the lungs and cause a range of breathing problems.

Although many people will show mild or no symptoms at all, quite a few will develop a cough and fever if the virus reaches the air passages that allows air to reach the lungs (the respiratory tree). For some people, the infection becomes more serious with lung tissue itself becoming swollen and filled with fluid and debris from dead cells (clinically referred to as pneumonia.)

Infected lungs are less effective at allowing oxygen to pass to the bloodstream which is why patients with breathing difficulties receive supplemental oxygen in hospitals. Although usually treatable in healthy people, the infection can cause significant damage to the lungs even after the virus has passed through the body.

Scientists and researchers across the globe have been scrambling to understand the virus and discover possible treatments and vaccines. Various studies have looked into the ways cannabis might be used to help treat COVID-19 and help patients recover from it, and these studies have shown some encouraging results.

The scientific studies

A study conducted by researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia show that CBD could help patients with COVID-19 who show signs of respiratory distress.

Using mice, researchers duplicate the lung damage caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can be brought on by coronavirus. On these models, CBD was used and discovered to ease symptoms by reducing inflammation-promoting cytokines and improving oxygen levels in the blood. The CBD also helped repair damage to the lungs caused by ARDS, such as swelling and scarring. Further clinical trials are required to determine optimal dosages and timings before CBD can become part of the official treatment for COVID-19.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that cannabinoids are beneficial for inflammation, which is the likely reason scientists turned to CBD as a potential treatment for COVID-19. There are multiple on-going trials in Israel testing the role of CBD in Covid-19 treatment, from blending CBD with steroids to control inflammation, to testing exosomes (vesicles used in the body that transport essential substances) with CBD which may be an effective way of delivering CBD to the lungs.

Two of these Isreali studies have already yielded strong findings in preliminary investigations. Researchers from The Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus are testing cannabinoids on the white blood cells of COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised. Dr Igal Louria-Hayon, who is the scientific director of The Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center and is leading a study, explained that “based on our experimental data, we hypothesize that cannabis may affect the cytokine storm which occurs during COVID-19 disease.” The experiment is ongoing and pending analysis, will continue to a second clinical trial where COVID-19 patients will be treated with “the candidate strains that presented anti-inflammatory potential on human-derived cells (the first experiment).”

Another Israeli study being conducted by Eybna and Cannasoul, has had successful initial results. This study is probing the efficacy of a unique cannabis terpene formulation – NT-VRL on the sometimes life-threatening inflammatory conditions that can be caused by COVID-19. Early results have indicated that the terpene formulation combined with CBD is twice as effective than CBD alone.

Since the end of 2019, the world has been confronted with a new pandemic. The virus has affected us all in various ways, and we are all frightened, many traumatised, by the various effects. Although the virus is, in the bulk of cases, mild or flu-like, the sometimes deadly virus can destroy lung tissue and even cause pulmonary failure.

In the last few months we have seen the infection rate and death toll rise across the world, especially in the UK, and it seems to many that the only way we will overcome the virus is with a vaccine. Although this appears to now be on the horizon, until then, scientists and doctors are trying their best to improve the treatment and help prevent the infection and spread, helping to reduce the severity of this disease. For now, the anchor of treatments is one of ‘supportive care’. Rather than being able to treat the underlying viral infection, our only resource is to maintain the function of the body’s vital organs while the disease advances and eventually resolves.

There are an abundance of previous studies that have shown CBD can help regulate our immune systems and reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is a strong indication that CBD will demonstrate effectiveness in treating coronavirus, as inflammation matches many of the COVID-19 symptoms. A flurry of research into CBD and COVID is taking place right now across the world, with initial hopeful insights, but we are still waiting on concrete evidence to allow CBD to be administered as an formal treatment for patients.

It is certainly a wise time to be continuing your CBD use if you do already take it, or to look into the benefits if you are intrigued. If you start to feel any COVID-19 symptoms, it makes sense to use the recommended dose of a high-quality CBD product to help boost your immune system and potentially reduce any inflammation you might have in the throat and lungs. At the minimum, CBD will help reduce any anxiety you might have during this uncertain time in history!

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