Covid-19 has turned our world upside down. While public health experts, political officials, doctors, and scientists grapple with the novel coronavirus, we lay-people are left with the feeling that our health is out of our control. And while it’s true that the mysteries of Covid-19 are still being unraveled, there is an aspect of our health that we may have some control over, and that is our immune system.
Even simple cells like bacteria have immune systems, comprised of biological structures and processes that help to protect it against disease. The immune systems of humans are a bit more complicated, not only targeting viruses, pathogens, and other invaders but also working to maintain the body’s homeostasis - which keeps bodily systems stable despite changes in the outside environment. Reciprocally, maintaining homeostasis can boost the immune system’s ability to protect us from viruses and harmful bacteria.
Our bodies need our help and cooperation to build and maintain a strong immune system, and here are some things we can do to assist:
Maintaining a consistent exercise routine
Nutritious and unprocessed foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables
Moderate sun exposure for the absorption of Vitamin D, ideally 30 minutes a day for several days a week
Sleep for six to nine hours (four to five uninterrupted sleep cycles)
Hydrate! Aim for eight cups of water per day (unsweetened herbal teas are good too)
Eat your Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, kale, broccoli, kiwi, and many other plants
Spending time outdoors in a forest, park, or beach once a week
Breathing exercises/techniques (ex. Wim Hoff, Deep Breathing)
Immune System & the Endocannabinoid System
Another lesser-known physiological system that plays a role in our health is the endocannabinoid system (ECS) - a cell-signaling system that regulates many bodily functions and processes, like sleep, mood, and memory. We decided to look into research from around the world about how the ECS could help the immune system work at its optimal functionality, and here’s what we learned:
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, THC and CBG, as well as Terpenes such as Caryophyllene & Myrcene interact with the endocannabinoid receptors already present throughout our body. So far, the two most researched ECS receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
A study, by researchers at the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology in Michigan State University, conducted on mice and rats found that the CB2 receptor is the predominant cannabinoid receptor in the immune system and is expressed on T cells, which actively participate in the immune response.
Immune Boosting and Antiviral Properties of Terpenes
A thorough research review, titled “Much More Than a Pleasant Scent: A Review on Essential Oils Supporting the Immune System” was recently done by the scientists at the University of Pecs in Hungary. The researchers concluded that when citrus essential oils [limonene as the predominant terpene] were administered olfactorily to those on antidepressants, that the dosage of antidepressant could be reduced. In this study researchers also discovered that some cell values suggested that the fragrance helped to create a restoring effect on immune function.
A separate study, done by scientists at The Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Taiwan, found that when pregnant women received a full body massage with lavender essential oil [linalool as the predominant terpene], that a key indicator showed that their immune response was higher immediately after massage.
Back in 2011, scientists at Northeast Forestry University in China studied the effects of Pinene on the Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which is a part of the coronaviarus family. Pinene is a well-known terpene not only found in cannabis but in pine trees, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Not only does pinene deliver its well-known, rich smell, but research shows that it may play a role in helping to reduce the effects of IBV. Researchers found that both alpha and beta-pinene could be a source of anti-IBV ingredients that could be utilized in the pharmaceutical industry.
You may recall another member of the coronavirus family; the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS became an epidemic that created high anxiety internationally in 2002-2003 because of its high infection and death rate. Researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, at the University of Calabria studied a group of plants that exhibited antiviral activity. In this case, the terpenes alpha-pinene and beta-myrcene revealed antiviral activity against SARS.
A comprehensive review of existing studies, done by researchers at Islamic University of Science and Technology in India, concluded that essential oils possess antibacterial, antifungal, and even antiviral activity. For example, clove and oregano showed activity against the polio virus, while thyme, eucalyptus, and tea tree showed antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus in vitro. Caryophyllene, a terpene found in black pepper, basil, and oregano, was listed as perhaps the best antiviral agent.
We have also reviewed an international study, headed by the Department of Molecular and Medical Virology, Ruhr-University Bochum of Germany, on the potential antiviral properties of curcumin. Here is an excerpt from this research report: “The search for novel anti-infectives is one of the most important challenges in natural product research, as diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi are influencing the human society all over the world. Natural compounds are a continuing source of novel anti-infectives. [...] Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that curcumin is active against different viruses, bacteria and fungi, including even highly pathogenic, emerging and multi-drug-resistant strains.”
At Lock & Key Remedies, we always reference ongoing international research when developing our products, hence you will find many of the ingredients referenced above in our labels and in our lab tests. We look forward to more research being done on how plant-derived ingredients can keep us healthy.
In the meanwhile, please stay safe and healthy by doing everything you can to keep your immune system in top shape.