The Covid-19 pandemic has caused millions of deaths and has brought the world to a halting stop. India has now become a major hotspot with new strains of virus evolving in different states making it difficult for healthcare officials to contain the spread of the virus. In these difficult times, people have resorted to all sorts of remedy from “Dadi ka kadha” to Remdisvir injections. While everyone has their own view on fighting Covid-19 one thing we all can agree upon is good immunity and a positive mindset can help us win over Covid-19, and like they say prevention is better than cure hence do wear a mask and follow social distancing norms to avoid the spread of Covid-19. With that said let us now take a look at some new research that suggests how Cannabis can be a possible cure for Covid-19.
Covid and Cytokine storm
The greatest mystery about the coronavirus is its mild effect on most people but turns fatal in some cases. Scientists have discovered that a deranged immune system might be causing more damage than the virus itself. Mukesh Kumar, PhD, virologist and immunologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta is studying the virus in his high-security laboratory by infecting animal cells with the live virus. According to his observation the virus is very quick in copying itself once it infects a cell, this puts a lot of stress on the cell and it starts sending SOS signals. “When any cell senses that there is something foreign, that there is something bad happening, the immediate response of the cell is to kill itself,” he says, “It’s a protective mechanism so it doesn’t spread to other cells.” Certain types of cytokines are associated with cell death and when a lot of cells are doing that one can lose a lot of tissue. A cytokine storm is a condition where the body sees an extreme increase in proinflammatory cytokines which is when the body starts attacking its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting the virus. Cytokine storms have been also seen in patients suffering from cancer and autoimmune disorder like Arthritis.
Increased level of cytokines protein has been found in the sickest of Covid-19patients and the degradation of tissue starts in the lungs. As the tissues break down the air sacs start getting filled with fluid and causes pneumonia and also lowers the oxygen absorption capacity. “Basically, most of your cells will die because of the cytokine storm. It eats away at the lung. They cannot recover,” Kumar says. “It seems to play a role in death in a large number of cases.”
Cannabis, the oldest medicinal plant has been known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and pain-relieving properties. It has over a hundred different cannabinoids out of which CBD and THC are the prominent ones. These cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system which is responsible for maintaining balance in our body by controlling all physiological functions of our body like mood, appetite, metabolism, inflammation, and immune response, etc. CBD or cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive qualities, helping to calm down an overactive immune response. The Endocannabinoid system plays a big role in regulating the immune response and CBD interacts with the ECS helping the body regain homeostasis or balance.
Cannabis in the early stages of COVID-19 infection
Whenever our immune system detects infection cytokines are released into the bloodstream to fight the infected or damaged cell. Researchers from STERO Biotechs, Israel says that cytokines are the first line of defense in immune response and suppressing them at an early stage of Covid-19is, not a good idea since the patient needs a robust immune system to fight the virus. Therefore, they caution against the use of cannabinoids at the early stages of Covid-19. However, they have some evidence that CBD extracts might inhibit the entry and spread of Covid-19by downregulating the host cell receptor levels angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). This receptor is expressed in lung tissue and the oral and nasal mucosa that SARS-CoV-2 virus uses for entry into a human host.
Another study by researchers from the University of Lethbridge and Pathway Rx Inc., Canada fount cannabis extracts helped in down-regulation of ACE2 gene expression. The researchers tested 23 different types of cannabis extracts in artificial 3D human models of the oral, airway, and intestinal tissues. Their study concludes that 13 of these extracts were able to downregulate the ACE2 levels. “the down-regulation of ACE2 levels in gateway tissues may thus be a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility,” said Kovalchuk and colleagues.
Cannabis in the late stages of COVID-19 infection with cytokine storms
Various research has shown cytokine storm to cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is a primary cause of death in severe Covid-19 patients. Researchers from STERO Biotechs, Israel said that “Endocannabinoids produced in the respiratory system and cannabinoid-induced bronchial dilation suggest a significant therapeutic potential for cannabinoids in the treatment of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19-induced ARDS”. They found that CBD can help suppress a hyperactive immune system and also improves levels of apelin, a peptide made by cells of the heart, lung, brain, fat tissue, and blood that works in reducing inflammation. CBD has also shown to partially or totally reversed the damage caused to the lungs, scarring, and swelling.
Possible ways cannabis can help manage Covid-19
- CBD has been shown to suppress the host cell receptor levels ACE2 inhibiting the entry of Covid-19 virus.
- Cannabis can help downregulate a hyperactive immune system which leads to cytokine storm in severe Covid-19 cases.
- CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to reduce cytokine storm in other illnesses.
- Covid patients generally suffer from body aches, sore throat, and headaches. Cannabis can be helpful for such conditions as multiple studies have proven cannabis to be effective at pain management.
- CBD can help provide relief from the stress and anxiety of getting diagnosed with Covid. Stress and anxiety not just take a toll on your mental health but also puts pressure on the already venerable Endocannabinoid system (ECS). Having a positive mindset will help the ECS to have a better immune response against the disease.
Although multiple studies are suggesting the use of cannabis can provide relief to Covid-19 patients we do not encourage the use of any substance for the treatment of Covid-19 which are not listed by the ICMR. Further in-depth and concrete research is needed to solidify the claims made by other researchers. The purpose of this article is to create awareness and encourage more discussion and research on the subject.