Treatment for COVID-19: Research Looks to Cannabis and CBD
As the coronavirus moves across the globe and more people become infected, researchers are looking for ways to fight the disease the coronavirus causes, COVID-19. At this point, there is no cure for COVID-19. While some people do recover, even after being placed on a ventilator, doctors don’t have a specific medication or treatment that guarantees success.
Because of the lack of a consistently successful treatment, scientists and doctors continue to look for ways to cure COVID-19. Based on previous research, they know that cannabis and CBD have properties that may help with COVID-19. New research points to cannabis and CBD as potential treatments.
The Difference Between Cannabis and CBD
Both cannabis and CBD are from the Cannabis sativa plant family, which includes both marijuana and hemp plants. CBD is extracted from hemp plants and differs from cannabis because it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes the “high” associated with marijuana. CBD and cannabis also have different chemical makeups and contain different cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are part of the endocannabinoid system in the brain and body. The endocannabinoid system regulates neurochemicals that affect wellbeing and function, including sleep, mood, appetite, immune function, and metabolism. Cannabis and CBD affect some of the same and some different cannabinoid receptors. Research indicates that alone or paired together, cannabis and CBD can help with the symptoms of many medical conditions.
Cannabis use is reported as far back as 3000 years ago. It has been used for pain, digestive problems, and to improve sleep. In the United States, cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal and difficult to research. In 2018, the Farm Bill declassified CBD from being a Schedule 1 drug, as long as it contains less than the legal THC limit of 0.03%. New research, especially on CBD, is ongoing.
Previous research, mostly on animals and human models, points to cannabis and CBD having potential benefits for:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Substance use disorders
- Mental disorders
- Sleep issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Neurodegenerative conditions
- Sensitive skin
Multiple studies show that cannabis and CBD have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These benefits have led current researchers to look at cannabis and CBD as a potential cure for COVID-19.
A study from researchers at Augusta University in Georgia suggests that CBD may positively impact acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a symptom of COVID-19 caused by an overactive inflammatory response, sometimes referred to as a cytokine storm. Cytokines are proteins that affect the signals between cells. This research found that CBD may be able to help by reducing cytokine production, inhibiting a cytokine storm. Reducing specific cytokines may bring down inflammation and thus end the respiratory distress and damage.
Another new study from Canada says that cannabinoids can inhibit the genes that produce ACE2 and TMPRSS2, blocking the virus from being able to infect humans. When the coronavirus is inhaled or swallowed, the virus attacks a protein called ACE2 by connecting the spikes on the virus cells into the protein. Then another protein in our bodies called TMPRSS2 allows the virus to enter the cells. Cannabinoids in cannabis may stop the genes from producing the proteins needed for infection to occur.
Another group of scientists is looking at the mental health effects of cannabis and CBD for patients with COVID-19. Because of the unknowns about the virus and how to treat COVID-19 infections, many patients experience anxiety and depression before, during, and after having the disease. Cannabis and CBD are known to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may aid a patient’s overall wellbeing.
Scientists are rapidly studying coronavirus and COVID-19 disease to try and find a way to prevent infection and develop a cure. New research shows that cannabis and CBD may hold some of the answers to fight this pandemic.