As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, researchers have begun looking for solutions in an unlikely place: the cannabis plant. The active compounds in cannabis have a number of properties that make it attractive as a possible add-on treatment for infections due to the new coronavirus, and recently scientists have begun to study their potential to reduce susceptibility to the disease, and even discussed the possibility of use as an antiviral medication.
This month, researchers from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute recommend more research on how CBD can help treat the dangerous lung inflammation caused by the new coronavirus. The authors detailed the evidence for the usefulness of cannabis’ anti-inflammatory powers in an article published in this month’s issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
In the article, the researchers explain that “recent reports have suggested that acute infection is associated with an overabundance of cytokines, which contributes to symptoms of fever, cough, and muscle pain.” These extreme cases of inflammation can lead to severe pneumonia that blocks the lungs and makes it difficult or impossible to breathe. So one of the important strategies scientists are studying in the fight against COVID-19 is reducing inflammation.
In particular, researchers are studying drugs that reduce the activity of the cytokine IL-6. In a recent study, one of these drugs, Tocilizumab (also called atlizumab, is an immunosuppressive drug, primarily for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis), helped clear the lungs of patients and helped heal the 90% of the patients treated. Unfortunately, it also produced serious negative side effects such as inflammation of the pancreas and hypertriglyceridaemia (a risk factor for coronary heart disease). This has led researchers to continue the search for anti-inflammatory strategies, preferably less severe for these patients who are already seriously ill.
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This is where cannabis comes in. The authors explain that several cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant have anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, they indicate that CBD is the most likely candidate for treating COVID-19-related inflammation. CBD has shown serious anti-inflammatory properties in previous studies, it does not create the mind-altering effects associated with THC. If it succeeds in reducing inflammation in patients treated with COVID-19, it could be a safer alternative to other anti-inflammatory options.
Why do researchers think CBD can help with COVID-19, in particular?
Previous research also supports the idea that CBD can specifically reduce inflammation in the lungs. In an animal asthma study, CBD was able to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, thereby reducing inflammation in the airways. In the same study, CBD also reduced pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which the lung tissue is damaged and scarred, which thickens the lung tissue and makes it difficult to breathe. This is important because COVID-19 can also leave patients with severe pulmonary fibrosis.
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The authors also note that CBD is not the only promising cannabinoid as an anti-inflammatory drug. THC has also shown strong anti-inflammatory results, but it is less tolerated than CBD, with common symptoms such as disorientation, anxiety, and increased heart rate. Research on CBD, on the other hand, shows that it is safe and well tolerated at 1,500 mg per day, for a period of up to two weeks. The authors explain that this “suggests that it is possible to reduce lung inflammation / pathology and severity of disease induced by SARS-CoV2.”
Although negative side effects are minimal with CBD, the article’s authors note that CBD may have a secondary benefit for patients with the condition, reducing anxiety. “The many uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the economic situation, employment and loss of connection, can fuel depression, fear and anxiety,” they explain, noting that the increase in inflammation in COVID- 19 can also trigger increased anxiety. levels. But CBD has shown great promise for managing anxiety and can help reduce these problems.
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