Worldwide, COVID-19 research is being expedited to meet the widespread need for viable treatments. Recent media attention has centered on the antiviral known as remdesivir, but at least three cannabis-based treatments are also under investigation. While it’s important to remember that no form of cannabis can be used on its own to treat COVID-19, there are some potential benefits to CBD in combination with more traditional therapies.
All three trials are taking place in Israel, which has been a world leader in medical marijuana research since 1964, when the Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam first identified the molecule we now know as THC.
Building on CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, researchers from Tel Aviv University are developing a new technology that attaches CBD to exosomes—which are essentially small structures that form when cells multiply. When patients inhale the CBD-enhanced exosomes, researchers and cannabis tech company InnoCan Pharma seek to determine the therapeutic benefit for a variety of lung infections, including the novel coronavirus.
A second institution in Tel Aviv is also interested in CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential for helping treat COVID-19. Researchers at Ichilov Medical Center are investigating whether CBD can reduce the numbers of inflammatory markers called cytokines, which are prevalent in patients with COVID-19. In animal models, CBD has previously been shown to modulate cytokine-specific inflammation.
And a third study, this one at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, looks to combine CBD and steroid treatments in a small, initial trial of ten hospitalized COVID-19 patients. This research builds on a patent held by Stero Biotechs for a potentially therapeutic blend of steroids and CBD.
It’s hoped that CBD will enhance the efficacy of steroid treatments given to hospitalized COVID-19 patients so that the dose and side effects of those steroids can be reduced. If the first phase goes well, researchers will expand the treatment to an additional 40 COVID-19 patients.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is known to treat certain seizure disorders, and is frequently used in anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Research is underway to determine a wide range of other possible medical benefits from this cannabinoid.