As the coronavirus spreads across the world with its trusty sidekick panic, people become desperate for answers — and some have been willing to give them, even without real evidence.
To say that anything can “cure coronavirus” is, at this time, certainly a zealous overstatement; COVID-19 is still new, as is our ever-evolving understanding of it. Yet we’ve all seen the headlines promising the value of cannabis for prevention and treatment… and while some may have been painfully misleading, you should know that there are some interesting studies in the works, and this article is dedicated to sharing those with you.
Just remember: at the end of the day, this is all still new and emerging research — and you should always consult with a professional healthcare provider before making any changes to your routines.
Here’s what we know:
Some say smoking can increase the chance of poor lung health
Dr. Donald Tashkin, a professor at UCLA, has extensively studied the effect of smoking cannabis on the lungs. According to some of his research, “Regular smoking of marijuana by itself causes visible and microscopic injury to the large airways that is consistently associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of chronic bronchitis that subside after cessation of use.” This includes phlegm production, inflammation of the lungs, and coughing. The study does note, however, that the pulmonary risks of smoking cannabis, even heavily, are far lower than the consequences of using tobacco.
In addition, according to a study, only 12% of smoke inhaled had beneficial compounds. When the cannabis was instead vaporized, it contained 95% of beneficial compounds. Vaping cannabis does not create combustion but instead heats the plant material just enough to release the medicinal properties.
Considering all of this information, vaping your medicine may be a better alternative to smoking if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
CBD has immune-boosting properties + the ability to combat inflammation
According to Dr. Thomas Macsay, CBD can be an effective tool in combating chronic inflammatory patterns present in many disease processes and immune dysfunction. “[CBD] is able to achieve this by upregulating the endocannabinoid system,” he said. “Which is meant to regulate cellular function and decreasing inflammatory signaling, bringing the body closer to homeostasis.”
CBD also acts as an immunosuppressant, according to Dr. Macsay. It does this by binding CB2 receptors and causing death to the diseased cells, otherwise known as apoptosis. It also introduces regulatory T cells to the body, cells that populate the immune system, and has a role in regulating the immune system.
Cannabis and CBD are also bronchodilators – meaning they tend to relax and open the airways. This may be an important point in arguing cannabis as a coronavirus treatment.
Studies on Cannabis + COVID-19
Though we have been in the coronavirus trenches for months now, we still don’t know enough about COVID-19 and how it behaves like a virus, much less regarding COVID-19 and cannabis. That being said, there is still some great research being done in this area.
One of the most exciting studies is from a team of Canadian scientists out of the University of Lethbridge, done in April 2020. The scientists found that 13 (out of the 800 different varieties tested) of the cannabis plants that were high in CBD affected the ACE2 pathways. This is the means to which the coronavirus enters the human body, the way it gets in. It is important to note that based on the research, a patient couldn’t use any regular cannabis product and expect to fight COVID-19 off. The data supports only high-CBD/low-THC strains as a possible treatment method, and even so, it was just a handful of the varieties tested that showed promise.
According to the study, “We have developed over 800 new Cannabis sativa lines and extracts and hypothesized that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may be used to modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 target tissues. Screening C. sativa extracts using artificial human 3D models of oral, airway, and intestinal tissues, we identified 13 high CBD C. sativa extracts that modulate ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels. Our initial data suggest that some C. sativa extract down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another critical protein required for SARS-CoV2 entry into host cells.”
Israel is considered to be the most progressive when it comes to cannabis research, and they have many studies in the works. According to FreshToast, InnoCan Pharma is collaborating with Tel Aviv University for a study around “utilizing exosomes as ‘homing missiles’ to target cell organs damaged by COVID-19.” As writer Brendan Bures states, it is thought that “CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties will repair the damaged cells through a synergistic effect.”
Additionally, at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center, Stereo Biotechs and Mor Research Application have a clinical trial in the works, exploring the use of “traditional steroids and CBD [to fight COVID-19], with the belief CBD will enhance the therapeutic potential of the steroids.”
A third study is being conducted by Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center, investigating the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD and how that could diminish respiratory symptoms experienced in moderate COVID-19 patients.
“What this means is the team has carefully developed several cannabis strains that have been experimentally shown to make it significantly more difficult for the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus to find a home inside of the tissue cells it latches onto in order to infect us with the COVID-19 disease.” SOURCE
Denise C. Vidot is leading a preliminary study at the University of Miami exploring cannabis users and COVID-19. The press release reads, “Through an anonymous electronic survey, experts will obtain epidemiologic data on the mental and physical health among those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The survey will also help examine potential changes in frequency, dose, and route of cannabis use patterns based on COVID-19-related closures and updates. Another topic that researchers will be investigating is the sharing of inhaled cannabis products, such as joints and vapes among users, which could be a contributing factor to the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
Vidot said, “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that population-based data is vital to make informed decisions,” Vidot said. “So, we are combining our skills to do our part to provide that data. Our goal is to have cannabis users from every country complete this survey, so the data is more generalizable.”
Another interesting study that has come out of the cannabis industry has been on the technology of BioLargo’s CupriDyne for inactivating COVID-19, aka “Cannabusters.”
CupriDyne is designed to eliminate odor with a completely natural ingredient: activated iodine or Iodine 2. According to Cannabusters brand rep Derek Stucki, iodine (I²) is what makes air smell so fresh after a rain; it oxidizes all organic molecules it comes into contact with, effectively eliminating rather than masking or encapsulating the odor. And it’s completely safe — after all, it’s a necessary nutrient found in table salt, and throughout our food supply.
With its ability to break down tough compounds, Cannabusters had to wonder: could CupriDyne be helpful for fighting COVID-19? It turns out that it has the potential to do just that. A study done at the Galveston National Laboratory showed promise in the Cannabusters’ ability to inactivate SARS-CoV-2, concluding that “the novel iodine complex tested herein offers a safe and gentle alternative to conventional disinfectants for use on indoor and outdoor surfaces.” It is currently pending FDA approval, and Stucki has high hopes that their new consumer-focused product, Cannabreezy, could be used by the general public to help disinfect personal masks and other potentially contaminated goods at home.