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A recent study uncovers the health benefits of CBD to help aid in the fight against COVID-19.
With much still unknown about the COVID-19 virus that emerged near the end of 2019, researchers are trying to grapple with the challenges it brings. Experts are struggling to keep up with the virus as it continues to infect others. With no known cure or vaccine, new treatment options are being investigated. Cannabis has found its way onto the list of potential COVID-19 treatments. Researchers are examining both cannabis terpenes and cannabis-derived cannabidiol (CBD). It is assumed that these alternative options may be able to offer some health benefits to those individuals experiencing severe symptoms (1). It is theorized that CBD may be able to reduce Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression and pro-inflammatory cytokine production to help combat lung inflammation and be used as an antiviral. Unfortunately, there have been very few studies orchestrated to test these theories.
However, new evidence is emerging strengthening the case for CBD. Researchers at Augusta University (Augusta, Georgia) led by Babak Baban, PhD, Department of Oral Biology and Diagnostic Sciences, DCG, DCG Center for Excellence in Research, performed a study proposing that CBD could provide positive results for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is seen in severe patients of COVID-19 due to an overactive inflammatory response (2). ARDS can also be referred to as “cytokine storm.” Authors of the study explained that, “currently, other than supportive measures, there is no definitive cure for ARDS, illustrating the urgent need for creative and effective therapeutic modalities to treat this complex condition” (1).
The researchers suggested that CBD may offer some benefits to help reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine production by reducing specific cytokines like interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1B, and IL-17. With those cytokines targeted, inflammation may be brought down, ending the respiratory distress and preventing further damage. The results from Augusta University’s study backed this theory.
To perform this study, researchers used mice that were given a treatment called Poly (I:C) which artificially induced ARDS, recreating the symptoms seen in severe cases of COVID-19. Thus, creating the “cytokine storm.” Blood oxygen saturation was reduced by 10%. The storm also produced structural damages to the lungs of the mice subjects. With the mice experiencing these symptoms and respiratory distress, they were then given CBD. The results after getting CBD proved that it could be a powerful tool in treating ARDS.
The authors reported, “These symptoms were totally or partially reversed and returned to the level and condition of normal after treatment with CBD,” (1).
Mice that were treated with CBD experienced reduced expression of IL-6, which is an important factor for cytokine storms, as well as lowered levels of other proinflammatory cytokines. CBD treatment aided in reversing inflammatory indices and partially reestablishing homeostasis. Another exciting find of the study was that mice who received the CBD treatment also showed increases in lymphocyte levels in their blood, which are vital white blood cells that help fight off infections. Researchers of the study believe that CBD could play an immunotherapeutic role in treating other severe respiratory viral infections similar to COVID-19.
“The current data support the notion that the anti-inflammatory function of CBD may reduce cytokine storm and mitigate the effects of exaggerated inflammation” the authors explain (1). Further adding that, “considering all potential regulatory effects of CBD as well as the vast distribution of endocannabinoid system in the body, it is plausible that CBD may be used as a therapeutic candidate in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions including COVID-19 and other virus-induced ARDS.”
With this being an early study, more research needs to be performed, particularly on human subjects with COVID-19 related ARDS to validate and expand this therapeutic strategy. This evidence on the additional health benefits of CBD provides hope in the uncharted waters of not only COVID-19 but other illnesses as well, hopefully ending the stigma of this enlightening cannabis plant.