Cannabis and COVID-19

Cannabis and COVID-19
Cannabis and COVID-19

I have been saying this since the epidemic started, cannabis may be linked to preventing contraction of corona virus, and may even be a cure. Not to jump on that bandwagon, but I truly don’t know anyone with covid and I realized almost everyone I know uses cannabis, whether for recreational or medical use, basically all my family members and friends are active users. This was just my stoned thought, I thought, but as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, researchers have started to look for solutions in a rather familiar place – the cannabis plant. Cannabis’ active compounds have a number of properties that make it appealing as a potential adjunct treatment for infections from the novel coronavirus, and recently scientists have begun looking at its potential for reducing susceptibility to the disease, and even discussed whether it could be used as an antiviral medication.  In particular, researchers are looking at drugs which reduce IL-6 cytokine activity. In a recent study, one such drug, Tocilizumab, was able to clear out patients’ lungs, and resulted in recovery for 90% of the patients treated. Unfortunately, it also produced serious negative side effects like inflammation of the pancreas and hypertriglyceridemia (a risk factor for coronary artery disease). This has led researchers to continue the search for anti-inflammatory strategies – preferably ones that aren’t as harsh on these already critically ill patients. That’s where cannabis comes in. The authors explain that several cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, they point to CBD as the most likely candidate for treating COVID-19 related inflammation. CBD has shown serious anti-inflammatory properties in previous studies, it doesn’t create the disorienting psychotropic effects associated with cannabis’ most common chemical THC, and it has already been approved by the FDA as safe for children with intractable epilepsy. If successful at reducing inflammation for COVID-19 patients, it could be a safer alternative to other anti-inflammatory options. 

For one thing, the authors explain that previous research has shown that CBD can reduce a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6, the one reduced by other drugs being studied for COVID-19. CBD was also shown to reduce interleukin (IL)-2, IL-1α and β, interferon gamma, inducible protein-10, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, macrophage inflammatory protein-1α, and tumor necrosis factor-α – all of which are associated with the pathology of severe cases of COVID-19. In addition to reducing these pro-inflammatory cytokines, CBD has also been shown to increase the production of interferons, a type of signaling protein that activates immune cells and prevents viruses from replicating. 

Previous research also supports the idea that CBD can specifically reduce lung inflammation. In an animal study on asthma, CBD was able to reduce production of proinflammatory cytokine production, actually reducing airway inflammation. In the same study CBD also reduced pulmonary fibrosis – a condition where lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred, thickening lung tissue and making breathing more difficult. This is important, because COVID-19 can also leave patients with serious pulmonary fibrosis. 

sometimes new evidence contradicts old claims. Cannabis represents a main topic where scientists have spun 180 degrees in discussing how the plant interacts with COVID-19. Public health officials announced back in March that marijuana smokers and vapers were more at risk to contract and spread the coronavirus.

Lung health experts still don’t recommend inhaling any combustible material like tobacco or marijuana, due to the inflammation caused in your airways. However, cannabis has emerged as an unlikely candidate in preventing and treating COVID-19 symptoms.

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