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As of May 24, 2020, more than a million Americans have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and the death toll from COVID-19, the disease it causes, is rapidly closing in on 100,000 lives lost.

Understandably, researchers are frantically searching for medicines that could mitigate the symptoms, lower their duration, and reduce the infection rate. Barring a vaccine (which may take up to 18 months to become widely available) a plant-derived compound may play a vital role in reducing COVID19 lethality! And that is the non-intoxicating compound from cannabis: Cannabidiol, widely known as CBD. 

There have been 4 separate studies released in May 2020, addressing the potential effects that CBD may have on fighting COVID19. 

Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, found that CBD plays a role in down-regulating gene expression in ACE2 receptors. This is meaningful because these receptors are on the outer surfaces of cell membranes in the lungs and kidneys, where COVID19 appears to take hold. When coronavirus enters the body, it infiltrates bodily systems via ACE2 receptors. Like a peg into a hole, the spikes on the coronavirus bind into ACE2. The researchers concluded that interfering with this binding process utilizing CBD may impair the virus’ entry and provide some protection against infection. 

Researchers have been investigating CBD’s ability to modify the body’s response to inflammation for several decades. Back in 2014, researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil concluded “CBD administered therapeutically, i.e. during an ongoing inflammatory process, has a potent anti-inflammatory effect and also improves the lung function in mice submitted to [toxin]-induced acute lung injury. Therefore the present and previous data suggest that in the future cannabidiol might become a useful therapeutic tool for the attenuation and treatment of inflammatory lung diseases.” 

This year, the focus of research has shifted to see how CBD’s anti-inflammatory powers can help specifically against COVID19.

When infections are present in the body, proteins called cytokines are released to fight the infection by triggering inflammation. However, the immune system can overreact and release a hyper-inflammatory response called a “cytokine storm,” overwhelming the lungs. 

Researchers specializing in infectious diseases & chronic viral illnesses from McGill University Health Centre, in Montreal, Canada have come to a conclusion that 

“as SARS-CoV2 induces significant damage through pro-inflammatory cytokine storm mediated by macrophages and other immune cells and based on the fact that CBD has broad anti-inflammatory properties, CBD might represent as a potential anti-inflammatory therapeutic approach against SARS-CoV2-induced inflammation.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center also indicate that CBD may down-regulate the cytokine response and decrease inflammation, allowing the body to respond with a more appropriate amount of inflammation to the SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

Another very recent research report put together collectively by 10 prominent US-based Universities, including Ohio State, Brown, and Yale also concludes that CBD may be helpful in relieving COVID19 symptoms. Interestingly, besides via oral ingestion, they are considering CBD oils in the form of vapor inhalation to potentially be the most effective delivery method: 

“Oral ingestion would be the logical delivery method. However, an oil-based product may be suitable as the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for direct inhalation therapy (e.g., utilization in handheld aerosol inhalers or by nebulized vapor inhalation, which may be augmented with oxygen). API formulation incipient propellants often use natural oil components. Such a formulation would offer a convenient treatment method through delivery to the lungs.”

Beyond CBD’s potential to impair COVID19’s attachment to ACE2, the University of Lethbridge researchers are assessing terpenes, another group of plant-derived compounds that have been shown to act synergistically with CBD. As we have addressed in our Boosting Your Immune System post, there is research from around the world that shows that terpenes such as Pinene, Myrcene and b-Caryophyllene have been effective in suppressing prior coronaviruses such as the original SARS and the Infectious Bronchitis Virus(IBV). 

Last but not least, CBD may be helpful to lower the stress associated with the changes in life caused by the global pandemic.

All this preliminary research is very exciting, as it indicates that plant-derived extracts may potentially have the antidotes to COVID19 and other coronaviruses. All of the researchers agree that more research is necessary, including clinical surveys to better understand what kind of methods and dosing is necessary to potentially achieve positive effects.