CBD & COVID-19
I’m sure you’ve heard the media tell you to avoid ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil and other NSAID right now, but why? You may have read something about a “cytokine storm.” What is the world is a cytokine storm you ask?
Why a cytokine storm happens is not very understood. It is characterized by an intense immune overreaction in the lungs and can be fatal. The leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 cases is respiratory distress, and for those who survive, it can cause long term lung damage, resulting in impaired quality of life.
In acute, viral induced respiratory distress, treatments such as steroids are not a good idea because it can exacerbate COVID-19 associated lung issues. Science Daily (1) noted that a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm was likely the main cause of death in other viral outbreaks like the swine flu and Spanish Flu of the early 1900’s.
What are Cytokines?
Cytokines are a specific group of proteins secreted by our immune cells and they regulate the inflammatory response to viruses, disease, and infection. When there is an overproduction of these proteins, it can trigger the dangerous “cytokine storm.” For example, a cytokine known as tumor necrosis factor is excessively produced in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
The interaction between immune cells, cytokines, and the ECS (endocannabinoid system) play a very important role in neurodegeneration and neuro-inflammation. It has been very well documented that the stimulation of CB2 CBD receptors can help suppress inflammation. The important cannabinoid receptor signaling confers the therapeutic effects by slowing down the inflammatory cytokine response. According to Mediators of Inflammation(2), CBD acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, inhibiting immune cell function and reducing cytokine production.
Is it Possible that CBD could calm a cytokine storm?
Unfortunately, because of the cannabis and hemp prohibition in the US, and the federal government interfering with CBD research, there is so much that we don’t know about the health benefits of CBD. If the federal government would allow more research on CBD, maybe scientist could study the potential benefits of CBD being an antiviral remedy.We know that our bodies have cannabinoid receptors everywhere. Cannabinoid receptors include CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are predominately expressed in the brain and CB2 receptors are found on the cells of the immune system. Because both CB1 and CBD2 receptors have been found on immune cells, it has been suggested that cannabinoids play an important role in immune system regulation. Documented lab studies have shown that CBD and THC act as an immunosuppressant, which would explain why CBD is so beneficial to those with chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. Another study showed that cannabinoids can downregulate cytokine production and upregulate T-cells which helps to suppress the inflammatory responses. Due to the findings of various scientific studies, it makes us wonder, could CBD actually help to calm a cytokine storm? Because there is no much that we still don’t understand about CBD and the immune system, it hard to know for sure.
Can CBD help reduce the mortality in COVID-19?
Again, due to the federal stranglehold on CBD research, there is only a handful of studies declaring benefits of CBD and viral infections. It is unfortunate that the government is preventing more research on potential natural treatment of viral infections, especially when the world is in the middle of a pandemic crisis. According to an online journal, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research,the authors discussed an in vitro study that suggested CBD has a direct antiviral effect against Hepatitis C, which is very promising. However, due to the lack of studies and government backing of CBD research, supporting evidence is scant. There are thousands of people all over the world taking CBD regularly for various viral related illnesses with promising results and outcomes. As an owner of a CBD wellness center, I have personally seen the positive outcomes and remarkable results with my own clientele battling chronic and acute viral illness. The authors also cited another clinical study, which discovered that CBD reduced neuro-inflammation in virus induced multiple sclerosis, but is this because CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory rather than a direct antiviral? Similarly, those with Herpes and Shingles have had relief of symptoms using CBD, but again, is this because of the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of CBD? There are several clinical trials being done outside of the US with CBD and various viral infections and organ transplant rejection, but CBD has yet to be tested as a remedy for COVID-19 and cytokine storm. This is unfortunate, because if it could help those suffering with COVID-19, it could potentially decrease the mortality rate.
Conflicting Data and Lack of Research
Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding, clinical trials, and research in the US, there is a lack of data and evidence on using CBD to treat viral infections. Because of this lack of data, medical providers are skeptical to recommend or suggest CBD to their patients. Our hopes are that one day the government will open their eyes to the potential benefits of CBD as a mainstream treatment instead of putting all of their eggs in the Big Pharma basket.
Because of the lack of evidence and research and the push for pharmaceutical companies to find an anti-viral to treat COVID-19, unfortunately there will not be any studies done with CBD as a treatment of COVID-19. This is sad for CBD supporters because there is so many promising studies that have been done. The best thing we can do right now is to help contain the spread of the virus by following government and health authority guidelines and keeping our immune system strong.
- Scripps Research Institute. “Deadly immune ‘storm’ caused by emergent flu infections.” ScienceDaily, 27 February 2014. <sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227142250.htm>.
- Vuolo F, Petronilho F, Sonai B, Ritter C, Hallak JE, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Dal-Pizzol F. Evaluation of Serum Cytokines Levels and the Role of Cannabidiol Treatment in Animal Model of Asthma. Mediators Inflamm. 2015;2015:538670. doi: 10.1155/2015/538670. Epub 2015 May 25. PubMed PMID: 26101464; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4458548.
Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder S, Hegde V, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. doi: 4155/fmc.09.93. 2009 Oct; 1(7): 1333-1349.
- Biles, Mary. Cannabis and the Immune System. Project CBD. May 18, 2019. https://www.projectcbd.org/science/cannabis-and-immune-system
- Jean-Gilles L, Gran B, Constantinescu CS. Interaction between cytokines, cannabinoids and the nervous system. Immunobiology. 2010 Aug;215(8):606-10. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2009.12.006. Epub 2010 Jan 4. Review. PubMed PMID: 20153076.
- Lowe HI, Toyang NJ, McLaughlin W. Potential of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017 Jan-Mar;9(1):116-118. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.199780. PubMed PMID: 28250664; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5330095.
IACM: Statement of the Board on current corona virus pandemic and the use of cannabinoids, March 25, 2020. http://www.cannabis-med.org/english/bulletin/ww_en_db_cannabis_artikel.p…