Cannabis and COVID-19: Research on Effects, Treatments, and more!

“Unprecedented Times,” “New Normal,” Social Distancing.” Those are just a handful of phrases that have entered our daily vocabulary thanks to the International pandemic known as COVID-19. The fear of catching the novel coronavirus is something everyone has had to deal with, and while cannabis has shown to be helpful in relieving mental health side effects of the pandemic, like anxiety and stress, can it be used in combating the virus itself? Cannabinoids such as CBD have a history of safe use and contain several properties that may be useful in treating certain medical symptoms of a virus such as COVID-19.

What is ACE2 and how does it involve Cannabis?

ACE2 is an enzyme in cells that has been determined as a key gateway for the COVID-19 vires. This enzyme is found primarily in lung tissues, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers have found that altering the levels of ACE2 could help decrease susceptibility to COVID-19.

So where does cannabis play into the ACE2 enzyme?

Sativa cannabis strains, particularly those with high cannabidiol (CBD) levels, are now being tested to regulate gene expression and molecular production in order to reduce ACE2 levels and allow for lower susceptibility to COVID-19. These cannabis strains could ultimately be developed into preventative treatments such as a mouthwash or a throat gargle for both clinical and at-home use. That’s right, studies are showing that a simple “swish” before bed, could potentially help mitigate contraction of the virus.

cannabis and covid 19 Research

Could Cannabis help treat those who already have COVID-19?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been used for some time in medical studies for its therapeutic applications against cancer and various inflammatory diseases. In terms of COVID-19, a phenomenon of cytokine storm syndrome occurs, in which too many cytokine proteins are released in the body, influencing molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis. Studies have shown that when cytokine proteins overwhelm the immune system with hyper inflammation, they can attack the lungs and cause shortness of breath, and prohibit a fluid exchange of oxygen. Early research studies with COVID-19 have indicated that CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of patients whose bodies’ inflammatory response has become pathogenic.

Another study, out of the University of Southern California, has found that THC could prevent the harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), as well as increase healthy lung bacteria.

ARDS causes your body’s immune system to kick into hyperdrive and not only attack the dangerous disease you have, but also destroy your lungs and other organs in the process. If that organ destruction can’t be stopped, then fatal consequences can occur. If THC does combat ARDS, it could prove to be lifesaving and extremely helpful in COVID-19 treatment.

Alternative Medicine

Cannabis users have seen the positive medicinal effects of this natural plant for centuries, so it’s no surprise that it is now being studied for its potential in many current mainstream treatments. Unfortunately, since cannabis is still illegal federally, it is not widely accepted as a form of alternative medicine, making its scientific testing still more arduous to come by. We will continue to advocate for cannabis benefits with hopes to see some strong advancements in cannabis research, portraying the science around the wellness of cannabis in the treatment of COVID-19.

Legal Disclaimer: COVID-19 and cannabis research is still in the preliminary stages. Broader research and human trials are needed. The information shared in this post is intended for educational purposes only. At the time of publication, the scientific literature does not support the use of medical cannabis as a therapy for the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19.

References: 
  1. C. Coetzee, R.-A. Levendal, M. van de Venter, C.L. Frost. Anticoagulant effects of a cannabis extract in an obese rat model. Phytomedicine 14 (2007) 333–337.
  2. Kander, T. Coagulation disorder in COVID-19. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S2352-3026(20)30217-9.
  3. Wang, B.; Kovalchuk, A.; Li, D.; Ilnytskyy, Y.; Kovalchuk, I.; Kovalchuk, O. In search of preventative strategies: novel anti-inflammatory high-CBD Cannabis Sativa extracts modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 gateway tissues. Preprints 2020, 2020040315 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0315.v1).
  4. Mabou Tagne A, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, et al. Cannabidiol for viral diseases: hype or hope? Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020;5:121–131.
  5. InnoCan Pharma collaborates with Tel Aviv University to develop a new revolutionary approach to treat the COVID-19 coronavirus with exosomes-loaded CBD.
  6. Price, E. (2020). THC May Help Treat COVID-Induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome In Mice, Researchers Say. Retrieved 26 October 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilyprice/2020/10/03/thc-in-cannabis-could-help-prevent-fatal-covid-19-complications/#33a0d0eb409e

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