CBD Oil for Covid Recovery?

Despite the best efforts of individuals and medical professionals, SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate at a rapid rate, highlighting the need for novel preventative strategies and treatment options. 

With its long history of treating or assisting with a plethora of medical conditions, the potential usefulness of medical cannabis in preventing or reducing symptoms in the treatment of Covid-19 has been speculated about since early 2020.

Speculation has transformed into hypotheses, and now we are seeing new studies and trials into cannabinoids and Covid, considering if assisting with Covid or Covid recovery may be a new item on the list of CBD oil benefits

For many the preliminary revelations that medical cannabis could help doesn’t come as a shock. Surprised or not, let’s delve into some of the most recent insights surrounding cannabis and Covid. 

Potentials of cannabis for covid

Previous to the emergence of Covid, cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor cannabinoids had been studied for their antiviral activity. Specifically, CBD was shown to inhibit the viral replication of Hepatitis C in vitro.

It is well established Covid causes widespread inflammation and can hobble the capacity of the immune system to effectively mount a response. This is where researchers think cannabis comes in.

By reducing inflammation, protecting cells from oxidative damage and supporting the immune system (in cahoots with the Endocannabinoid System), medical cannabis could have a role in preventing or reducing the severity of Covid infection. 

Real-world data: CBD could lower risk of COVID infection

A paper published on the 20th of January 2022 indicates patients taking CBD had a substantially lower incidence of Covid infection.

A total of 1,212 patients that were taking an FDA approved, high-quality CBD product for seizure-related conditions were compared against patients not taking CBD, but who had a similar medical history and demographic backgrounds. 

The analysis revealed that there was an association with significantly lower positive Covid test results in the CBD group.

When broken down into individuals who were likely taking 100mg/mL of CBD at the time of their Covid test, the results showed even greater statistical power; where 4.9% out of 531 CBD patients contracted Covid, compared with 9% out of 531 controls.

When commenting on what this could mean, Marsha Rosner, one of the study’s authors said, “A clinical trial is necessary to determine whether CBD is really effective at preventing or suppressing SARS-CoV-2 infection, but we think this may have potential as a prophylactic treatment”.

Could CBD help prevent or treat Covid?

The same article also assessed a wide range of activities of CBD against Covid. To determine its effects researchers pretreated human lung cells with CBD for 2 hours and then introduced Covid virus.

They found above a specific dose CBD inhibited the ability of SARS-COV-2 to replicate. This held true across the original wild-type strain and three variants of concern (𝛼, 𝛽 and 𝛾).

Supporting this, another finding showed that CBD encourages the body’s own immune response. Covid hijacks the immune system reducing the function of a key player early in the immune response – interferons. 

Treating cells with CBD up-regulated interferon signalling pathways and other intracellular immune responses that inhibited viral replication. This was also reflected in experimental mice models, where CBD reduced viral load in the lungs by 4.8 fold.

Cannabinoids interfering with Covid

A recently released study identified cannabinoids that block the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into cells. The compounds: cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) are precursors to the better known CBG and CBD.

Live Covid-19 virus was incubated with CBDA and CBGA prior to being injected in to cell lines, 24 hours later they tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and found there to be none.

Other testing indicated this was due to CBDA and CBGA binding to the spike protein on the surface of the virus and inhibiting its entry into the cells. 

The paper ends with the authors noting “the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should create a more challenging environment with which SARS-CoV-2 must contend, reducing the likelihood of escape”.

CBD for post-covid support: using CBD for Long Covid

Long-haul Covid causes distressing and debilitating symptoms for many individuals. Anecdotally medical cannabis has been helpful to some patients with long-covid, but as is often the case in the cannabis arena – clinical research is a few steps behind personal anecdotes.

Two different cannabis compounds, CBD and CVN are being investigated for their ability to reduce inflammation and damage from covid infection, with researchers theorising these cannabinoids could help reduce neurological symptoms associated with long-covid.

Managing stress and anxiety with CBD during the pandemic

As we enter another year of this pandemic, calls for greater mental health support are growing louder each day. A supportive community and the help of mental health professionals is key in managing the long term uncertainty and anxieties many people are facing. 

Again, it is possible for medical cannabis to help here too. Research into the benefits of CBD for easing mental stress is now being targeted towards pandemic related mental health concerns.

A randomised controlled trial from Brazil of healthcare professionals working directly with patients in the last half of 2020. Physicians, nurses and physical therapy workers were given 150mg of CBD twice per day, or a placebo. 

After 28 days of treatment CBD reduced symptoms of burnout and emotional exhaustion compared to the placebo.

These results are promising, but it’s important to note that some participants experienced side effects, elevated liver enzymes or skin irritation which resolved when CBD was discontinued. 

As with any medicine, side effects are possible. However, by and large, its generally agreed CBD is a safe and well tolerated medicine.

Smoking cannabis doesn’t help covid

There is an important caveat on cannabis and Covid: what has been clear from the beginning is that smoking cannabis is of no benefit to covid.

The damage caused to the lungs by inhaling the combustion by-products from smoking or vaping cannabis negatively impacts covid outcomes, so any future cannabis medicine that could help treat or prevent covid will likely be prescribed as oils, capsules, sprays or other novel delivery systems that won’t negatively impact the lungs.

So, while the latest research into cannabinoids for Covid is exciting, recreational use or smoking cannabis is a caveat not to be confused when assessing the latest research on cannabis for Covid.

More research needed on CBD and Covid 

When taken together, the growing body of research is pointing to CBD as a potential option in the Covid treatment tool box. 

CBD and other minor cannabinoids with promise for treating Covid are unique in their safety profile and lack of intoxicating effects, making them ideal for use in a wide range of people.

Now that there is a foundation of supporting evidence, researchers and clinicians are calling for large-scale, quality trials to see if medical cannabis or CBD formulations can initiate meaningful improvements in the treatment or prevention of Covid-19. Stay tuned, this space is sure to expand rapidly!

If you would like to assess your eligibility for low-dose CBD at CA Connect, please register here now.

Jessica Kindynis BHSc Nat

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