Cannabis’s therapeutic effects have long been known, with cannabinoids like THC and CBD commonly used to treat various symptoms. But what effect does cannabis have on COVID-19?
Cannabis has evolved from that substance your parents warned you about that only hippies used. As research into cannabis’s therapeutic properties has developed, so has the mainstream use of cannabis products. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are prevalent because of their extensive therapeutic benefits and ease of use. With health benefits, including pain relief, improved anxiety, and reduced inflammation, it’s no wonder why cannabis products have soared in popularity.
Cannabis and COVID: Can it help?
With its impressive healing potential, you may be wondering if cannabis might be able to help fight the illness currently affecting the whole world – COVID-19. COVID-19 has resulted in millions of deaths, closed international borders, and caused economies to be on the brink of collapse. This contagious respiratory disease can leave you with a fever, feeling fatigued, and struggling to breathe. It can even be fatal. So can cannabis offer any help in the fight against COVID-19?
A recent study published in January of this year in the journal Aging has found that cannabis may offer some help for patients with COVID-19 (1).
Cannabis and the cytokine storm
One of the primary biological events that occur in patients with severe acute respiratory distress cases from COVID-19 is something called a “cytokine storm.” A cytokine storm is where the body experiences an extreme increase in proinflammatory cytokines. These cytokines are a category of proteins, and the cytokines involved in a cytokine storm lead to an increase in inflammation.
COVID-19 patients often suffer from lung fibrosis, a serious and untreatable condition that leaves lung tissue scarred and makes it more difficult for you to breathe. If a substance could stop the cytokine storm, it would be able to suppress inflammation, prevent lung fibrosis, and put COVID-19 patients in remission.
C.Sativa, a type of cannabis, was found in a cytokine storm study to reduce multiple cytokines and pathways related to inflammation and fibrosis. Two of the cytokines that C.Sativa reduced were TNFa and IL-6, which are thought to be the main targets when trying to block a COVID-19 cytokine storm and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Multiple studies support cannabis and its cytokine storm fighting properties
The Aging study isn’t the only piece of research that has concluded that cannabis shows an ability to block a cytokine storm in COVID-19 patients.
A 2020 mouse-model study found that CBD, an active cannabinoid compound found in cannabis, reduced proinflammatory cytokines and improved the clinical symptoms of mice with symptoms similar to COVID-19 (2).
The study suggests that CBD may work as part of the treatment of COVID-19 by reducing the cytokine storm and protecting lung tissue from inflammation.
How else could cannabis treat COVID-19?
Cannabis shows strong potential in reducing inflammation and scarring in patients with COVID-19, but how else could cannabis help patients with COVID-19?
Compounds in cannabis like CBD and THC have also shown promise in a range of other areas, including pain relief and treating anxiety. While these therapeutic benefits have not been investigated in patients with COVID-19, they could offer exciting areas of future study.
With symptoms of COVID-19, including body aches, sore throat, and headaches, pain relief would be welcome by many patients.
Cannabis has shown significant potential as a pain reliever, particularly from its ability to increase serotonin’s effects, a neurotransmitter that can induce pain relief (3, 4).
Finding out you have COVID-19 can be a stressful time for patients. Because of its highly infectious nature, patients are isolated from friends and family. The serious and scary nature of the illness can also take a serious toll on your mental health.
Compounds within cannabis have shown impressive anxiety-reducing qualities, particularly CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid compound that could help to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. CBD can increase serotonin activity and lower cortisol levels. Reducing these chemicals is essential for anxiety management as serotonin reduces anxiety, and cortisol is a stress hormone often found in higher levels in patients with anxiety and depression (5, 6, 7, 8).
In a 2019 double-blind placebo trial, CBD was also found to reduce anxiety in teenagers with social anxiety disorder (9).
Is inhaling cannabis smoke a good idea for COVID-19 patients?
While consuming cannabis is most commonly done by inhaling the smoke of cannabis flower, that is not the only way cannabis’s therapeutic compounds can be consumed. Most research involving cannabis uses oil extracts, like CBD oil.
Cannabis oil can be consumed through ingestion, vaping, nasal sprays, or topical application. Many delivery mechanisms don’t involve the lungs and leave out potentially harmful substances that come with smoke inhalation.
Cannabis has shown a lot of potential in fighting against COVID-19, thanks largely to its anti-inflammatory properties. The recent study published in Aging shows that cannabis could significantly improve the condition of COVID-19 patients by reducing a cytokine storm and protecting lung tissue from inflammatory damage.
Research also shows that cannabis and its compounds hold other significant therapeutic properties, including pain relief and anxiety reduction. While these could offer relief to COVID-19 patients, research is needed into the pain-relieving and anxiety-reducing properties of cannabis on COVID-19 patients specifically before any conclusions could be drawn.
Although this recent research is exciting and shows the potential power of cannabis in the fight against COVID-19, always follow your doctor’s advice when managing COVID-19.
Source: Open Access Government
Image: Adobe Stock