As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, medical researchers have begun to investigate the use of cannabis as a potential treatment for infections from the coronavirus. Specifically, scientists are exploring cannabis as a way to reduce susceptibility to the virus as well as its use as an antiviral medication.
At the end of 2020, researchers at the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute called for more research into how CBD, which is derived from the cannabis plant, could be of help in treating the dangerous inflammation that occurs in the lungs with COVID-19. In a peer-reviewed article in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the authors state that “recent reports have suggested that acute infection is associated with a cytokine superstorm, which contributes to the symptoms of fever, cough, muscle pain.” These instances of inflammation can result in a severe pneumonia that clogs up the lungs and makes breathing difficult for patients. Scientists are therefore looking for ways to battle COVID-19 by reducing the inflammation.
While there is a drug that is effective in clearing out the lungs and leads to recovery in 90 percent of COVID-19 patients, it is also associated with serious negative side effects. Thus, researchers have continued to search for better anti-inflammatory drugs that do not have the negative effects on seriously ill patients. This has led them to consider the potential of cannabis, particularly noting that CBD is likely to have beneficial inflammation-reducing effects.
CBD has been shown to have major anti-inflammatory properties, and does not bring disorienting psychotropic effects that are linked to the most common cannabis chemical, THC. CBD has also already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as safe for children with epilepsy. It is shown to be effective in reducing inflammation in COVID-19 patients, it may provide a safer means of treatment than other drugs. CBD has also been shown to raise the production of interferons, a type of protein that activates immune cells and prevents virus replication. In addition to its inflammation-reducing properties, CBD has also been effective in reducing patients’ levels of stress, fear and anxiety.
While researchers do not suggest that cannabis or its chemical compounds can help in the treatment of COVID-19 specifically, the authors of the article believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that further investigation of CBD’s potential should be considered.