Cannabinoids' Effects on COVID-19
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Researchers at the University of Chicago and the Oregon State recommend clinical trials for CBD against COVID-19—but what does that actually mean for you and the hemp industry? Here's what to know.
So what's happening?
Two major studies were recently published outlining some potential effects of cannabinoids like CBD against the replicating effects of COVID-19.
After extensive study, researchers at the University of Chicago found that out of 1,212 epilepsy patients taking medically prescribed CBD, the patients consuming CBD were testing positive for COVID-19 at significantly lower rates than similar patient demographics who were not. For this reason, they wanted to take a closer look at CBD to see how it affects the immune system.
"CBD has anti-inflammatory effects, so we thought that maybe it would stop the second phase of COVID infection involving the immune system, the so-called 'cytokine storm,'" said Marsha Rosner, Charles B. Huggins Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research and a senior author of the study.¹ "Surprisingly, it directly inhibited viral replication in lung cells."
The researchers at the University of Chicago now believe that clinical trials should be pushed to better determine whether CBD may be a viable option for preventing or treating the early stages of COVID-19. While the animal model study showed that CBD didn't prevent people from getting COVID, it showed that it could potentially inhibit its ability to replicate—especially in the lungs.
Later, a second study was published by Oregon State University.² The study found that CBDa and CBGa may bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking the virus's primary pathway to infect people and reducing the risk of infection.
Van Breemen, the lead researcher on the study, said "These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and many hemp extracts. They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2."
COVID-19 is a dangerous virus since it suppresses the immune system and masquerades itself to appear less threatening to the immune system, like many other viruses.³ In cases of people who experience more severe symptoms from the virus, the immune system generally doesn’t understand what it's dealing with it’s until too late. It then triggers a response to the virus that causes the body more harm than good.
Even with the vaccine, people can still get infected. This is why researchers have been putting more time into finding ways to prevent the virus from replicating after infection rather than only trying to prevent infection in the first place.
Both studies found that people using hemp and CBD products reported positive COVID-19 test results less frequently than those who weren't, which spurred them to research the effect of the cannabinoids against the virus.
Each study found that CBD didn't prevent the virus from entering cells, but it could be effective at preventing the virus from replicating early in the infection cycle—and up to 6 hours after the virus has already infected the cell.
This could be a potential breakthrough in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. With clinical trials on the way, there is potential for the hemp industry to produce medicines against the virus, leading to thousands of dollars in revenue and even more jobs in the industry. This may make it easier for the average person to fight the virus and recover, as well as help reduce the dangers of spreading it.
Which CBD products might help against COVID-19?
The COVID-blocking effects of CBD have only been demonstrated in animal models while using high-purity, specially formulated CBD in specific situations. Both studies cautioned against using commercial CBD products to prevent COVID-19, due to the fact there is just too much variation in additives and potencies from the doses in the studies to guarantee results. Further study is needed to determine which CBD products may help prevent COVID-19 infection/replication.
However, based on the data we have, it appears CBDa and CBGa are the most promising cannabinoids against the virus.⁴ CBDa and CBGa can be found in higher concentrations in specially formulated, full spectrum CBD products. Full spectrum CBD edibles, tinctures, and capsules may also be safer than vaping or smoking, which could have adverse effects on the heart and lungs.
While more study is still needed to solidify these findings, clinical trials are on the way—with the potential for these hemp-derived compounds to help reduce the dangers of coronavirus. Even if these findings may require more research, their potential impact on the future looks promising.⁵