The consequences of COVID-19 have changed our society, habits, perspectives and slowed down the global economy and public life. Although vaccine developments are in progress, the search for the solution is too slow and researchers are trying other methods to fight this virus. In this article we will take a look at some of the newest research on cannabis effects on Covid-19 and immune system.
WHAT IS COVID-19 AND HOW IT OPERATES?
Covid-19 is an acute infection with an avarage death rate of 3.7 %. The main cause of death due to this virus is lung failure.
With its protein, Covid-19 grabs on to the healthy cell receptors, especially the ones located in the lungs. These protein flow through ACE2 receptors and when entering the virus covers the healthy cells and takes control of them. Eventually, it also destroys some of the healthy cells.
At first, the virus moves through our breathing paths (mouth, nose, throath, lungs) and effects our respiratory system. However, due to the fact that breathing pathways which are located deeper in our body have more of ACE2 receptors, the virus is likely to spread to deeper parts of our respiratory system compared to other viruses (such as the common cold). That is why Covid-19 is more dangerous. When it enters the lungs it causes heavy breathing especially if it leads to pneumonia.
ADVANCEMENT OF INFECTION
Infection advancement usually occurs due to 2 phase immune system response. To fight the virus, immune system requires a specific adaptable immune response in the first phase. With this response it can prevent the virus to develop1. So the first critical step is to achieve the correct immune system response and prevent further spread of the virus.
The second phase is usually connected to the excessive release of cytokines (cytokin storm)1,2. Typically, the level of cytokins increases. Epitelic lung cells play a key role in excessive release of cytokins, which cause inflammation, including IL-6 and IL-83,4.
With most population (approx. 80%) symptoms end with coughing and fever. With the less fortunate, the infection can become very dangerous. From 5 to 8 days after the first symptoms occur some people feel the shortness of breath, which can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome after a few days.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CANNABIS?
Cannabis is often used for its healing compounds. Different types of cannabis contain over 500 elements, including phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) have an extensive history of safe use and contain many elements used to treat a wide range of health issues.
CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to decrease pain and anxiety. In combination with other cannabinoids, terpenes and medical approach, CBD has a great potential to treat symptoms from viruses such as Covid-19.
Cannabinoids could be the modulators of immune system, that change the balance of inflammatory and non-inflammatory cytokins.
Early studies suggest that cannabis has the potential to treat the symptoms of Covid-19. Researchers discovered that cannabis extract can lower the levels of cytokins IL-8 and IL-6 in epitelic lung cells. CBD played a major part in this.
Full spectrum extracts can decrease blood coagulation, which was proved in animal trials. It is a fact that many negative consequences of Covid-19 are connected to the coagulation change. That is why cannabis has potential to regulate this change.
You can read more about this research here. Some additional sources are listed on the bottom of the page.
CAN CANNABIS HELP PREVENT OR CURE COVID-19?
As suggested by “In Vitro Evaluation of the activity of Terpenes and Cannabidiol against Human Coronavirus E229” published in Life magazine, the combination of compounds found in cannabis has the potential of treating and even preventing the coronavirus infection in the lung cells. The research focused on anti-inflammitory effects of terpenes. These are natural compounds found in various plants, including cannabis. The NT-VRL formulation is a combination of 30 terpenes, including beta-caryophyllene, eucalyptol and cytral.
RESULTS LOOK PROMISING
Marsha Rosner, a researcher from University of Chicago along with her team discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) and its metabolite slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the epitelic lung cells. CBD slowed down the expression of virus genes and changed many virus effects on host cell gene transcription. Furthermore, proteins (produced by host cells) which inform the cells and act as a virus threat early response mechanism, were triggered.
In the end, SARS-CoV-2 infection incidence was much lower with patients who consumed CBD, compared to the control group, which did not. The abstract of the study is available here.
Researchers report that Cannabis Sativa and its extracts with high content of anti-inflammatory CBD, can change gene expression and inflammation. It also contains anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Canadian researchers from various institutions, including University of Lethbridge in Calgary, developed over 800 new cultivars of Cannabis Sativa in developed a hypothesis, that Cannabis Sativa with high CBD values can lower and regulate angiotensin – changes encime ACE2 expression in the target COVID-19 tissue.
Till today we have limited data on connection between COVID-19 and cannabinoids. New approaches are discovering new ways of using CBD with oral solutions such as mouthwash, gargling and mouth cleaning preparations. The purpose of products like these is to lower the ACE2 levels in tissues that have a high risk of virus colonization.
Studies have shown that during COVID-19 progression, levels of ACE2 change. In this regards, the ability to control these levels becomes very important. While performing SARS animal trials, it was concluded, that ACE2 was the key for lungs to operate normally.
With the use of artificial 3D models of human oral, respiratory and internal tissues, researchers showed that high CBD cannabis can decrease and regulate ACE2 expression in the COVID-19 target tissue. It suggest, cannabis extracts have great potential for COVID-19 prevention. Altogether they recognized 13 high CBD cannabis extracts, that decrease the levels of ACE2 protein.
Researchers claim, that high levels of ACE2 expression in oral epitel tissue suggest that oral cavity is very sensitive to SARS-CoV-2 infection and therefore and important focus when developing virus prevention strategy. Some cannabis extracts also decrease and regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another key protein required for SARS-CoV-2 to enter the host cell.
While the most efficient extracts still require additional confirmation, researchers believe that their study is very important for further analysis of cannabis effects on COVID-19.
REDUCING NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS
While analysing COVID-19 there was a lot of interest in the phenomenon called cytokine release syndrome (cytokine storm), where an excessive amount of cytokine protein is released into the body. These proteins can attack the lungs and overload our immune system with a heavy inflammation. Early research show that CBD and THC can contribute to treating patients of which body responded with pathogen during inflammation.
Immune System Response is the Key
Terpenes have the potential of treating a wide spectrum of virus infections. In many “In Vitra” studies, company Eybna research showed that NT-VRL in combination with cannabidiol (CBD) can potentially be a good therapy for treating heavy inflammation (such as cytokine storm), which we could see with many COVID-19 patients.
Many research from this field focused on the ability of decreasing the immune system response with cannabinoids and terpenes, without supressing it.
Early results of ongoing Eybn and CannaSoul Analytics studies show, that a combination of terpenes and cannabinoids used to reduce inflammation with Covid-19 infections are 2x more successful than corticosteroid dexamethasone. Study has not yet been peer reviewed
Another new approach, which is currently being researched in Israel, is a development of cell therapy, which uses exosomes fueled with CBD to treat patients with COVID-19. The purpose of this technology is to target the central neural system indications and COVID-19.
Exosomes with CBD have the potential of synergic effect with anti-inflammatory properties, targeting specific damaged organ areas, such as infected lung cells.
HOW TO MOVE FORWARD?
Ongoing research suggest a great potential of cannabis effects on Covid-19. Including virus prevention and treating the COVID-19 infection. However, Cofounder of Eybna emphasised not to jump to a conclusion too soon. If clinical studies are successful, only then can we fully confirm the positive cannabis effects on Covid-19.
You can read more interesting articles from cannabis field on our blog.
You can like our Facebook page to stay updated on the latest articles, news and special offers. You can also take a look at our online store with 100% natural products.
G. D. C.
Below you can also view some additional sources used in this article:
- Shi, Y. et al. COVID-19 infection: The perspectives on immune responses. Cell Death Differ. 27, 1451–1454 (2020).
- Mehta, P. et al. COVID-19: Consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression. Lancet 395, 1033 (2020).
- Ruscitti, P., Berardicurti, O., Iagnocco, A. & Giacomelli, R. Cytokine storm syndrome in severe COVID-19. Rev. 19, 102562 (2020).
- Gao, Y. et al. Diagnostic utility of clinical laboratory data determinations for patients with the severe COVID-19. Med. Virol. 92, 791–796 (2020).