Written by Kandi Neal
The use of cannabis products has increased exponentially over the last few years. Known for its healing properties, CBD can be used for many things, including pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Due to its popularity, studies are constantly being conducted to explore the variety of ailments it can aid in treating. As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise, researchers have begun to look into whether the cannabis plant may be useful in the treatment of COVID-19.
With serious cases of COVID-19, the body’s immune system can overreact, causing an abundance of cytokines to release. Otherwise known as a ‘cytokine storm,’ this is when COVID patients start to develop a cough, high fever, muscle pain, and inflammation. According to Emily Ealenbaugh, co-founder of Mindful Cannabis Consulting, as well as a contributor for Forbes, CBD is known from prior studies as an IL-6 cytokine inhibitor, therefore acting as a helper to reduce the production of cytokines. “CBD has very few side effects, so it’s something that’s being looked at as a much milder treatment that still has a lot of anti-inflammatory powers,” says Earlenbaugh. Although there is no scientific evidence that cannabis or its compounds can help with COVID-19 at this time, research has shown that cannabis should not be ruled out when considering possible treatment options.
In 2014, The Scripps Research Institute reported that the likely primary cause of death in many viral outbreaks, including the Spanish flu of 1918, and more recently, the bird flu & H1N1 was due to a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm. CBD also aids in the production of interferons, a protein that helps the body fight infections. Additionally, experts from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Nebraska are recommending that scientists study the anti-inflammatory properties in CBD as a possible treatment for lung inflammation brought on by the coronavirus.
While researchers continue to explore several ways to fight against COVID-19, some are diving a little deeper to see if cannabis derived CBD could possibly benefit those that are suffering from severe forms of this infection. Further research has suggested that CBD is perhaps able to reduce the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression, which is used as a cell receptor to invade human cells. While this is good news, more studies must be conducted to see if CBD has the potential to work as an antiviral supplement.
According to a study Georgia’s Augusta University, research indicates that CBD may positively affect ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), a threatening symptom in COVID-19 brought on by an overactive inflammatory response. The conductors of the study explain that “currently, other than supportive measures, there is no definitive cure for ARDS, illustrating the urgent need for creative and effective therapeutic modalities to treat this complex condition.” However, CBD might be able to assist with this, as it can potentially reduce the creation of cytokines, thus fighting off the storm. With the reduction of problematic cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1b, and IL-17, the inflammation could be brought down and put a stop to the respiratory stress.
The findings from Augusta University were from a study executed on mice. They were given a treatment that would mimic ARDS so that they would exhibit symptoms comparable to what is seen with critical COVID-19 patients. Once the cytokine storm was created, the blood oxygen saturation level was reduced by 10% with noticeable lung damage. Once the mice began to experience respiratory stress accompanying the cytokine storm, they were given CBD. The results were phenomenal. According to the researchers, “These symptoms were totally or partially reversed and returned to the level and condition of the normal after treatment with CBD.” The mice that were given CBD also saw an increase in lymphocyte levels in their blood, which are significant white blood cells that work to fight infections.
CBD is here to stay
In summary, this research is in its infancy stages and would need to be studied on humans as well. Because COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, many more studies will need to be conducted to balance out the findings. However, the early data gives us hope that CBD might be worth considering when it comes to fighting ARDS, as well as a supplemental treatment for COVID-19 at the very least. Every day, there is more information on the health benefits of CBD, and this data gives us all the more reason to believe in its healing properties. If you have been considering incorporating CBD into your life, this is a great time to give it a try.