Could Cannabis Help with Covid-19
by Sheena Foster
Twitter user Greg Sully, aka @PhattGreg, began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms in early August, and they wouldn’t let up. “I have, for many months, been experiencing the horrid side effects of being unable to draw a full breath,” he says in a YouTube testimonial. But then the London native claims he started taking 20 milligrams of CBD oil daily, and that led to a drastic improvement. “CBD oil, when ingested, actually relieves the symptoms…and I’m not talking just a little better.”
Sully is not a doctor, and it’s unlikely you’ll find any medical professional who, at this point in time, would say CBD is a cure for the novel coronavirus. But social media is filled with similar testimonials, with people claiming that cannabis can do everything from help with symptoms to prevent you from getting the virus in the first place.
For what it’s worth, CBD is not a cure-all and the science does not yet support taking the cannabinoid to treat COVID-19. But several teams of researchers around the world are currently looking into ways it could be a tool in battling the virus. If their initial findings hold true under further testing, well, @PhattGreg and crew might be onto something.
HOW IT WORKS
Many of the people who become extremely ill with COVID-19 develop what’s known as a “cytokine storm.” After the virus infiltrates the body, it wreaks havoc on the lungs and respiratory system. The cytokine storm is a type of heightened immune response, characterized by inflammation that then spirals out of control and can have devastating consequences on all the major organs. Several recent studies on laboratory animals suggest CBD—which is a natural anti-inflammatory—can calm this intense reaction, giving patients a greater chance at stopping a severe reaction to the virus.
One researcher on the case is Babak Baban, MD, an immunologist and associate dean of research at the Dental College of Georgia, in Augusta. In 2014, Baban began studying the effects of CBD on melanoma and head and neck cancers—but when the pandemic hit, he switched his focus and began looking at the intersection of CBD and COVID on mice models.
Inside his lab, Baban has been mimicking coronavirus-like symptoms such as lung failure in mice and then using an injectable form of CBD and an inhalable form of CBD to calm the reaction of skyrocketing levels of apelin circulating in blood and lung tissue.
Apelin “is a protective protein, which has a big role in establishing and maintaining the balance in our body,” says Baban. “When I say the balance, [I mean] inflammation. Inflammation by itself is not bad. Inflammation is [the body’s] first line of defense.”
His study, published in The Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, found that without CBD, apelin levels plummeted to zero. With CBD, they normalized by rising twentyfold. “We were very happy to see a clue,” says Baban. Next, he plans a preclinical trial with inhalable CBD on human models. He posits it may eventually be able to replace the invasiveness of a mechanical ventilator. “We are very optimistic, but we will see.”
Despite this exciting research, Baban warns against self-medicating with CBD if you suspect you have COVID-19. “[Everyone] asks us, ‘Should I go to the store and use the CBD?’ No, actually,” he advises. “If somebody encounters COVID and is in the earliest stages, CBD actually can hurt them because CBD can down-regulate the immune system when it is needed. It is a blind treatment if you do it like that.”
AN ANTIVIRAL ADD-ON
Meanwhile, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha, researcher Siddappa Byrareddy, PhD, has been focusing on CBD’s calming properties on lungs ravaged by COVID-19.
“We are not proposing CBD as a treatment option for COVID-19,” says Byrareddy. “What we’re seeking to do is use any antiviral like remdesivir, which can bring down the virus replication, and use cannabinoids as an option to add as an adjunct to any antiviral therapy to reduce lung inflammation, because once the virus infects the cells, it induces inflammation.”
As he sees it, the duo could potentially deliver a significant one-two punch against COVID. Byrareddy says he and his team are seeking funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to perform his research on monkey models. He hopes his study will show that the two molecules “can work together to help cure the patient.”
A NEW KIND OF MOUTHWASH
While American scientists have been focusing on CBD’s effects on the lungs, focus upward to the nose and mouth, COVID’s most common entry points.
In a non-peer-reviewed study published in Preprints, researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, say they have developed 800 new strains of cannabis sativa, which are high in CBD, and have a heightened number of anti-inflammatory properties.
The researchers hypothesize that these strains can control ACE-2, an enzyme found on the cellular wall of oral, nasal and intestinal tissue. Essentially, if coronavirus is the key, ACE-2 is the door that opens to our body’s most virus vulnerable areas. “Imagine a cell being a large building,” says researcher Igor Kovalchuck, MD, PhD. “Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70%.... The level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it.” Kovalchuck and others believe that knowledge could help them produce a preventative anti-COVID mouthwash or gargle one day.
ZEROING IN ON A COMPOUND
Can the compounds that give weed its smell cure COVID? Maybe. Israeli researchers have been homing in on terpenes, which are responsible for cannabis’ smell. Early studies using a specific formulation of terpene and CBD found the combo inhibited inflammation caused by COVID-19 in blood from healthy donors. That’s a big deal.
Researchers also learned the terpene-CBD combo was twice as effective at inhibiting inflammation than a commonly used line of treatment, dexamethasone, a corticosteroid. Next, they broke down the effectiveness of CBD and the terpene on its own. They found CBD inhibited 75% of the inflammatory response and the terpene fought off 80%. “The preliminary results were highly positive,” says Nadav Eyal, CEO at Eybna, a terpene manufacturing company. “They demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity of terpenes while breaking the perception that terpenes are just flavorings and fragrances compounds with a placebo effect.”
Even so, cannabis isn’t a cure…yet
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Article Source : https://www.pacificcollege.edu/media/CBD%204.pdf