COVID-19 is spreading globally, there is no sign of a slowing, and vaccines are still several months away.  In light of this, many healthcare practitioners finding a cure but still masks and social distancing are the most effective preventive solution. Many practitioners take one step back to see the role of medicinal cannabis in helping to decrease the severity of the COVID-19 symptoms and gained a lot of popularity. 

Researchers around the world are studying how cannabis could be treating and preventing COVID-19. Early studies suggest, medical cannabis can potentially treat COVID-19 symptoms. Although early research indicates promise, a safe and efficient treatment but is too early to be considered.

How coronavirus attack cells?

COVID-19 uses its spiking surface protein to attach to the receptors in healthy cells, particularly in the lungs. The viral proteins attach with the receptors ACE2 and once the coronavirus has entered, it gets hold of healthy cells. Finally, some healthy cells would be destroyed. The lower airways have more ACE2 receptors than the rest of the breathing tract, COVID-19 could be gone deeper than other viruses. The virus makes it hard for people to respire when entering the lungs, particularly if it leads to pneumonia. The symptoms end with fevers and cough in about 80% of people. Infection can become very severe in immunocompromised patients.

Is medicinal cannabis helpful in COVID-19?

Cannabinoids like CBD are considered to be healthy and have many properties that can be useful to treat some medical symptoms. CBD has great potential to treat symptoms such as COVID-19 in conjunction with other cannabinoids and terpenes and appropriate clinical intervention. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, can act as a vasorelaxant, and can relieve pain. Cannabis extracts have also been shown to decrease blood coagulation, as many of the systemic side effects of COVID-19 are known to appear due to altered coagulation.

Current researches on cannabis for COVID-19 treatment

Very limited research has been done on the use and scope of cannabis in the prevention of COVID-19. 

  • However, a single study of cannabis from research companies Pathway RX and Swy Inc. and the University of Leth Bridge in Alberta, Canada, is exploring the possibility of integrating CBD into oral solutions such as mouthwashes and oral washings. Studies have found that during the progression of COVID-19, ACE2 levels change and thus the ability to modulate these levels becomes especially important as ACE2 is essential for lung function in SARS virus animal models.

In the COVID-19 study, the cytokine storm syndrome was significantly involved in the release of too many cytokine proteins in the body. These proteins would invade the lungs and overload the immune system with hyperinflammation. Early evidence has shown that CBD and THC can be helpful in the treatment of patients whose bodies have pathogenic inflammatory responses. 

  • Many studies in this area are based on the potential of cannabinoids and terpenes to reduce inflammation without suppressing the immune system’s reaction. Early results of a study carried out by Terpene manufacturer Eybna and the cannabis research-development company Canna Soul Analytics both from Israel show that the combination of terpenes and cannabinoids used for reducing COVID-19 inflammation is up to twice the efficacy of corticosteroid dexamethasone. 

  • The development of a potential cell therapy treatment using exosomes loaded with CBD to treat COVID-19 patients is also a new approach currently being explored in Israel.  This technology aims to target both centralized and COVID-19 coronavirus indications of the nervous system. CBD- loaded exosomes may have a highly synergistic effect of anti-inflammatory qualities through the targeting of certain organs such as infected lung cells. 

  • Tetra Bio-Pharma, a Canadian biopharmaceutical company, is another Canadian effort to develop and discover drug products derived from cannabinoids. In particular, their synthetic cannabinoid PPP003 drug, the active molecule will be examined in the hope that it reduces inflammation and overactivity in the immune system that can lead to asepticism and lead to better clinical outcomes.

  • A small clinical trial this month was also scheduled to begin another Israeli cannabis research company, Stero Biotechs, to examine the effective treatment of CBD-steroids in 10 COVID-19 patients at the Rabin Medical Center in the press release issued on 19 Apr.

Previous research on cannabis as coronavirus treatment

This isn’t the first-time cannabis has been investigated as a prevention and treatment strategy for a coronavirus. Earlier research has looked at the drug’s effect on SARS-CoV, the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which caused an outbreak in 2003. In a 2007 study, researchers from China examined the antiviral properties of cannabis against SARS-CoV. They looked at 221 phytocompounds, finding that “specific abietane-type diterpenoids and lignoids exhibit strong anti-SARS-CoV effects.”

Risks associated with cannabis use in COVID-19

Increase consumption of cannabis to avoid and treat the COVID-19 infection, you can use a large grain of salt to take these early findings. Smoking more cannabis is likely to make people more vulnerable to infection. As for those who ask if edibles or oils are a better option, there is also no evidence to show that these products work against COVID-19. 

With current cannabis research as a prevention and treatment approach of COVID-19 still in its early stages, we will probably have some time before we get a definitive response as to whether such drugs are safe and reliable. Although it will probably be frustrating for those who want a answer.

References

  • Coronavirus: what happens when you get infected? WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/lung/coronavirus-covid-19-affects-body#1.
  • C. Coetzee, R.-A. Levendal, M. van de Venter, C.L. Frost. Anticoagulant effects of a cannabis extract in an obese rat model. Phytomedicine 14 (2007) 333–337.
  • Kander, T. Coagulation disorder in COVID-19. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S2352-3026(20)30217-9.
  • Vidot, Denise C., et al. “The COVID-19 cannabis health study: Results from an epidemiologic assessment of adults who use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the United States.” Journal of Addictive Diseases (2020): 1-11.
  • Esposito, Giuseppe, et al. “The potential of cannabidiol in the COVID‐19 pandemic: a hypothesis letter.” British Journal of Pharmacology (2020).
  • Wang, B.; Kovalchuk, A.; Li, D.; Ilnytskyy, Y.; Kovalchuk, I.; Kovalchuk, O. In search of preventative strategies: novel anti-inflammatory high-CBD Cannabis Sativa extracts modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 gateway tissues. Preprints 2020, 2020040315 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0315.v1).
  • Mabou Tagne A, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, et al. Cannabidiol for viral diseases: hype or hope? Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020;5:121–131.
  • InnoCan Pharma collaborates with Tel Aviv University to develop a new revolutionary approach to treat the COVID-19 coronavirus with exosomes-loaded CBD. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/innocan-pharma-collaborates-tel-aviv-204600158.html.