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CBD & COVID-19: What we know

CBD & COVID-19: What we know

It’s been just over a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. The virus swiftly swept across the world, forcing governments to implement national and local lockdowns, as well as social restrictions, which are still in place for the majority of nations.


After what has been quite a glooming year, light can finally be seen at the end of tunnel. With vaccines developed, tested and now distributed to the public, nations such as the US, the UK and Israel have vaccinated over 50% of their populations, and are beginning to ease restrictions, bringing life back to something close to what we use recognise as normal life. 

Despite this positive news, the COVID-19 is something that will probably be around for a while. Just like other viruses, we are going to need to adapt and learn how to live with it. The solution to a pandemic isn’t just developing vaccines, but also treatments. Simple everyday non-prescription drugs have been suggested, such as acetaminophen, antihistamines, vitamin c supplements and much more are being tested. If you ask me (even though I’m about as useful as a monkey when it comes to medicine), treatments and drugs that mitigate symptoms of the virus should the priority over vaccines, because evidently, not all nations can afford vaccines and some nations are having shortages in supplies or not even expected to receive any vaccine shipments until 2023, like some countries in South America.

So, what can CBD do? Unfortunately, after several CBD producers and vendors tried to claim their products could mitigate the symptoms of or even treat COVID-19, the FDA and the WHO issued warnings, as they considered the sale and promotion of products with unsubstantiated claims of treating COVID-19 to be a threat to public health. To be fair, they probably had a point. But regardless, a lot of research has continued to look at the potential use of CBD, and cannabis in general, for treating and mitigating the symptoms of the virus.

Back in June, two Canadian researchers, Olga and Igor Kovalchuck, had reportedly been developing and testing a novel cannabis strain for years, but the goal was to create a strain that helps combat cancer and inflammation. After the pandemic was announced, they started to focus on how the strain might help the body fight COVID-19. You can find their work published here:

“Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract,” reads the study. “Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.”

STEO Biotechs, a clinical-stage company based in Israel, is supporting a clinical study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of STERO’s CBD solution for treating patient cytokine storms in severe stages of COVID-19. STERO has extensive experience working with CBD-based drug development from previous trials performed in over 150 patients with Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), Steroid-Dependent Crohn’s Disease, Chronic Urticaria, and more; searching for effective ways of reducing or eliminating patients’ dependence on steroids, as well as helping patients who are refractory to steroids to respond to them.

They have found some evidence that indicates several high-CBD extracts can inhibit viral cell entry and spread by decreasing angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor levels, a receptor expressed in lung tissue and the oral and nasal mucosa that SARS-CoV-2 uses for entry into a human host. It’s important to note that this data is from in vitro studies only, meaning it is not conclusive and requires further large-scale validation and clinical studies.

Esposito et al. (2020) looked at CBD’s potential in limiting the severity and progression of COVID-19. The study brought forward three hypothesis (a) High-cannabidiol Cannabis sativa extracts are able to down-regulate the expression of the two key receptors for SARS-CoV2 in several models of human epithelia, (b) cannabidiol exerts a wide range of immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects and it can mitigate the uncontrolled cytokine production responsible for acute lung injury, (c) being a PPARγ agonist, it can display a direct antiviral activity and (d) PPARγ agonists are regulators of fibroblast/myofibroblast activation and can inhibit the development of pulmonary fibrosis, thus ameliorating lung function in recovered patients.

O’Sullivan, Stevenson and Laviolette (2021) went down a different road, as they examined the effects of CBD on COVID-19-related anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There study concluded that the known CBD features make it an attractive novel therapeutic option in COVID-related PTSS that merits investigation and testing through appropriately designed randomised controlled trials.

Just to make it clear, I am NOT suggesting that you should take CBD to treat or mitigate the symptoms of COVID-19, I am only expressing my curiosity. Clearly, further clinical studies are necessary to prove the suitability of CBD for the treatment of COVID-19. If one day CBD is shown to be suitable against the virus, perhaps that will be the day the cannabis plant will finally receive the credibility it deserves.

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