Can the cannabis plant unlock beneficial therapy for patients who have contracted the Novel COVID-19 coronavirus? That is what researchers at the University of Texas and the University of Nebraska are looking into right now, as they request funds for clinical research of CBD in an effort to reduce the fatality rate of COVID-19.
Cannabinoids have been researched extensively, with some studies demonstrating the ability of CBD and THC to reduce inflammation. Some patients who use CBD and THC infused medical cannabis for health conditions like chronic pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and other symptoms do realize wellness benefits and relief of symptoms.
If cannabinoids could be proven as an effective way to reduce the inflammation caused by the COVID-19 virus, it could help reduce many of the viral symptoms that become life-threatening for a percentage of the population who contract the virus.
The reason that COVID-19 has such a high fatality rate for infected patients is the result of the inflammatory response that the new strain of coronavirus triggers within the human body. This is the first time that human immune systems have interacted with this virus, and without a previous viral precedent, the reaction to the infection is proving deadly for individuals who have pre-existing health conditions.
An immune-compromised patient can have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to this dangerous inflammatory response. Individuals with cancer, diabetes, lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, or pulmonary heart conditions are at greater risk because they already have severe chronic inflammation.
For patients who are immune-compromised, the invading virus adds fuel to the inflammatory fire creating a flood of cytokines, which are secreted by cells. The cytokine response can be compared to an emergency alarm response; it overwhelms the body’s ability to fight off the infection while causing other complications.
The natural defensive response of the immune system for these patients is to escalate inflammation with the objective of triggering white blood cells and other defenses to eliminate the virus. Sometimes the increased inflammation has the opposite effect, creating additional symptoms that escalate the impact of the COVID-19 virus to life-threatening levels.
The problem is that the additional inflammation coupled with pre-existing inflammatory conditions is overwhelming and potentially fatal. The inflammatory response is not limited to the respiratory system. Recent clinical studies of healthy children who have contracted the Novel COVID-19 coronavirus have detected increased diagnoses of Multi-System Inflammatory Disease (MIS-C).
Healthy children diagnosed with MIS-C can experience inflammation of the heart, gastrointestinal system, brain, and kidneys. A high percentage of children who develop this condition after exposure to the COVID-19 virus do recover with medical care. In rare instances, MIS-C may be fatal for children.
Adults in some recent COVID-19 clinical studies have also developed a life-threatening inflammation of the brain, called Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM). It is a rare but often fatal neurological disorder that can result in delirium, nerve damage, and stroke. Instances of ADEM have increased significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis.
One of the most promising discussions about the potential of CBD and cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic is the possibility that cannabinoids could offer some protection against infection. By controlling inflammation within the body and preventing the release of excessive cytokines, cannabinoids could help reduce the escalation of the virus and life-threatening complications.
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which regulates many functions that include appetite, pain, and immune system response. The use of cannabinoids can help reduce endocannabinoid receptor activity, which reduces inflammation.
It is the alarmed inflammatory response of the body that creates severe congestion and fluid within the lungs, consistent with a very severe acute pneumonia diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 that present with respiratory issues are faced with a dual-threat; the inflammation brought by the coronavirus, and the additional inflammation caused by the body’s immune system response.
If cannabinoids could reduce inflammation, COVID-19 infected patients may be able to avoid some of the most life-threatening problems triggered by the virus, including fluid in the lungs that makes breathing extremely difficult without the use of a respirator.
Some clinical researchers are also looking into an existing THC and CBD combination oral spray called Sativex, which is licensed for use in Europe and other countries for the treatment of pain. An inhaled version of Sativex may help patients who have contracted the coronavirus. A clinical study of Sativex was conducted in the United States to evaluate the therapeutic potential for patients with MS and other degenerative muscle disorders.
This article was previously published by Forbes.
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