Cannabis Might Block COVID-19 Infection
Emerging research on cannabis and coronavirus
Canadian scientists at the University of Lethbridge have preliminary evidence that cannabis may block COVID-19 infection. So far, this is only a study in a test tube but the results are very promising. They seem to indicate that certain cannabis strains can reduce, by 73 per cent, the number of a type of receptor, ACE2, that the virus uses to enter the cells. This means the chance of getting infected is much lower.
From the research so far, it appears that high CBD strains of marijuana are the most effective. The researchers haven’t been able to identify yet what the ideal ratio is of THC to CBD, or even if the active ingredient is CBD or some other component of cannabis or a combination.
The Canadians aren’t the only ones looking at cannabis as a possible therapeutic for COVID-19. Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University have started clinical trials in patients to determine whether CBD can be used as a treatment to repair damage to cells caused by COVID-19. The basis for the studies is the known anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. One of the studies uses new cell technology to deliver the CBD directly into damaged cells by inhalation. The other study is combining steroids and CBD to see if the combination is superior to steroids alone to treat the inflammation that gets out of control and kills patients.
Yet another study, at the Israel Institute of Technology, is looking at terpenes, another component of cannabis. In previous research related to the epidemic of SARS in 2002, it was discovered that when specific terpenes came into contact with the SARS virus, they were found to reduce its severity, both in the test tube and in human studies. The mode of action involved the withholding of a certain protein that replicates the RNA. The formulation currently being studied is for inhalation.
Although this research is just getting started, the potential of cannabis to prevent and treat COVID-19 can be added to the long list of known benefits of cannabis products. Many of the other known benefits are particularly relevant during this very challenging time.
Other benefits of cannabis related to COVID-19
Cannabis is generally a safer way to treat pain than the pharmaceuticals currently being used, but never more so than during this pandemic. Opioids, NSAIDs, corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs used to treat autoimmune conditions all lower resistance to infection, whereas cannabis has the opposite effect. Opioids, gabapentinoids (gabapentin and Lyrica) and anti-anxiety drugs suppress breathing, a particularly dangerous side effect during an infection that makes breathing difficult. Cannabis does not suppress breathing.
Several patient surveys indicate that cannabis is superior to opioids and gabapentinoids for reducing pain with fewer side effects.
Cannabis also lowers anxiety, an especially important benefit during a time when uncertainty and fear are rampant. In addition, it helps with sleep, at a time when stress is keeping people up at night. Inadequate quantity or quality of sleep lowers immunity.
In times of stress, many people turn to alcohol for relief. In some people, alcohol unleashes anger and makes them more prone to violence. At a time when families are cooped up together and tensions are running high, domestic violence is on the rise. Cannabis is not known to increase anger, but rather has a mellowing effect.
There are so many reasons to keep taking cannabis right now, or to consider trying it if you haven’t yet. Even if marijuana is not legal in your state, CBD is. CBD from hemp is legal everywhere in the U.S. and readily available. With CBD products, be sure that the product is full spectrum rather than an isolate, as it’s possible that other cannabis compounds, alone or in combination with CBD, are responsible for its possible antiviral effects.