Since the widespread of COVID, scientists, researchers and medical practitioners have been on an expedited search for a cure or preventative measure for the virus. Many avenues have been explored and vaccine rollouts began in 2020. However, studies and research still continued to find alternative methods that could help support vaccines. This was especially to help those who don't have access to vaccines.
In a recent study published in the Science Advances journal, it was found that oral doses of prescription Cannabidiol (CBD) helped alleviate symptoms of COVID. CBD has been increasingly used for a number of therapeutic benefits. These include treatments for relieving pain as well as symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia and even cancer and the side effects of traditional cancer treatments.
Its non-psychoactive properties make CBD a top choice among patients as an alternative to traditional medication. According to CBD statistics in America, 22% of people who use CBD products said that they help supplement or replace over-the-counter drugs. Although it should be noted that the drug has not been declared a replacement for the COVID vaccine. The public is still encouraged to get their shots.
Research and studies are still ongoing as to the strengths and limits of CBD as a treatment and preventative of COVID. Clinical trials are being encouraged to explore this further, but here's everything we know so far.
What results does the study on oral CBD as a COVID preventative show?
CBD is commonly used to treat inflammation. With this in mind, the researchers initially set out to study CBD's reaction to COVID in hopes of it reducing inflammation caused by the virus. They were hoping that the doses of CBD would help reduce inflammation in the lungs and immune system. This second phase of infection is also known as the cytokine storm.
However, the researchers were pleasantly surprised when they found that CBD directly inhibited the virus's cells from replicating. They conducted a test where human lung cells were treated with a dose of CBD and then two hours later, exposed to the virus. The researchers noted that the cells couldn't replicate themselves with a concentration of CBD above a specific threshold. They also found that the CBD had to be pure and not mixed with any other compounds. A test with a combination of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant was done, as well as a test of THC alone. The combination resulted in preventing the CBD from suppressing the replication of the virus cells, and the THC alone had zero effect on replication.
The research notes that the virus's cells were still able to enter the healthy cells. But the test on the lung cells showed that the high concentration of CBD was able to activate the healthy cells' stress responses. This activation contributed to the generation of interferons, a type of protein cell that is an antiviral.
The study also found that patients taking high concentration doses of oral CBD tested positive for COVID at lower rates than those who weren't taking oral CBD. Researchers first tested the hypothesis that the oral CBD dose would prevent infection of the nasal and lung passages in the laboratory. They pretreated mice one week before infection with the virus. The results showed that the infection was suppressed. This provided enough support to encourage clinical trials of CBD in humans.
The National COVID Cohort Collaborative conducted a review of 1,212 patients who had a medication record of taking CBD. The CBD they were on was pharmaceutical-grade and in the form of the tablet Epidiolex, which is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD treatment for epilepsy. The data collected from the review was hopeful. Those taking Epidiolex were 35% to 52% less likely to suffer from a COVID infection.
There are signs that CBD can help suppress infection at early and even later stages of exposure. It was 95-99% effective at suppressing infection 2-6 hours after exposure to the virus and moderately effective after 15 hours of exposure. Further testing was done on patients who took CBD on the same day as their COVID tests. The outcome was that only 4.9% of people tested positive among those that took the drug, while the rate was higher for those who didn't take the drug at 9%. This showed a more pronounced effect of the potential of CBD in suppressing COVID.
The study showed important data that could contribute towards the critical fight to end the two-year-long pandemics. As CBD is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, its potentially antiviral properties are a well-celebrated discovery.
How did the concentrated CBD help alleviate or prevent symptoms of COVID in the study?
To understand what effect CBD has on COVID patients, let's first take a look at how the virus affects the body. When the virus is exposed to the healthy cells in your body, it enters these healthy cells and starts making copies of itself. These copies keep multiplying and can spread throughout the body, causing infection. The COVID-19 virus cells contain spiky surface proteins. These proteins latch themselves onto healthy cells, especially in the lungs, and may eventually start killing the healthy cells. The virus can also lead to inflammation of the lungs and nasal passages.
CBD, on the other hand, has anti-inflammatory properties. This was a leading reason that drove the study. Researchers were investigating if CBD would have anti-inflammatory effects on infected lung cells when they discovered that CBD could block COVID cells from replicating.
CBD and its metabolite, which is the end-product after the chemical reaction in the body has occurred, 7-OH-CBD, was able to block the expression of the spike protein. Because the reaction occurs with a specific compound, other composites of cannabinoids don't have the same effect.
The metabolism of CBD occurs in the intestine and the liver. The compound and the metabolite are also active ingredients in the treatment of epilepsy, and so Epidiolex was chosen as the dose of CBD concentrate to test as a therapeutic treatment to inhibit COVID infections in humans.
When the virus enters the healthy cells, it causes changes to their state. A stress response is then activated to suppress these changes. This stress response releases proteins that work to try and get the cell back to homeostasis, a physiological stable state. If the stress response is unable to remedy the changes occurring in the healthy cell, it will die. The study noted that the stress response proteins were activated when CBD was induced.
It also noted that CBD assisted in the generation of interferons. These are one of the first innate immune responses from healthy cells when exposed to pathogens. COVID cells suppress the signalling of interferons and this is how they're able to take over healthy cells. CBD was able to lower the effectiveness of COVID cells from suppressing interferons through blocking viral replication and up-regulating interferons.
Think of it like this: the healthy cells try to fumigate their house against an infestation but they're unsuccessful. CBD is introduced as backup and together they're able to effectively fumigate and protect the house from the infestation. This process suggests that CBD could also be used for broader antiviral applications and not just COVID.
What kind of CBD can be used as a preventative measure?
When CBD is isolated from the cannabis sativa plant, other cannabinoids are typically extracted with it. After extraction, it can be consumed in combination with these other cannabinoids from the plant. There may be a very small amount of unavoidable cannabinoids that can still be found after isolation. This is why the study set out to determine whether these other compounds enrich the effects of suppressing infection or not.
The researchers tested the concentration of the CBD using quantitative Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). They compared the use of compounds that were at least 97% pure CBD and no more than 1% other extracts with other doses of CBD mixed with higher amounts of co-occurring extracts. However, they found the high purity and specially formulated dose of 97% CBD to be most effective. THC alone had no effect on the virus while adding it to CBD resulted in it preventing the CBD from blocking replication.
Therefore, the study’s findings concluded that consuming commercially available products with varying additives, potency and quality can prevent COVID or suppress infection.
The researchers also iterated that their findings are not meant to encourage people to smoke weed with hopes that it will cure them or offer protection.
CBD and COVID variants
As the virus continued to spread globally, many of its variants began to develop as well. In the search for a treatment, it was apparent that solutions would need to work for other strains of the virus. Upon further investigation, the researchers of the CBD study found that the drug was able to have the same effect on three COVID variants as it did on the original strain.
A variant occurs when the genes of the virus change. This could be a change in the structure of the spike protein as it mutates. As a result of this mutation, our antibodies do not recognise the new virus cells, even if they've been exposed to older variants before, and how to combat them.
But, because CBD inhibits viral replication, it is still effective against COVID variants. The generation of interferons suggests that CBD boosts the immune response of healthy cells. Going back to the fumigation analogy, even though the infestation might look different in a new scenario, CBD will still be able to provide backup and help the healthy cells fumigate their house.
The study also noted that CBD had the same effect in two other types of cells , showing potential for CBD as treatment in other viral infections.
Can CBD substitute for the vaccine?
Although the results from the study show promise, CBD is not meant to be a replacement for the vaccine. Instead, it should be seen as a supplement to the vaccine and a pathway to struggle to end the pandemic.
The study is also setting out to encourage human clinical trials to further investigate and determine the dosage of purified CBD that might work. The research team suggests that what should be done with their results is to hold trials as was done with the vaccine in preventative and early stage treatment after patients have tested positive for COVID. This will help determine the efficacy of CBD in the real world.
The study has shown promise and potential for supplementary solutions to reducing the infection rate of COVID. The application of CBD in blocking the replication of spike proteins found in COVID cells has also paved the way for further possible use in suppressing other types of viruses.
More research is still needed and clinical trials to be conducted in order to find optimal delivery options for treatment and correct dosages. A better set of data will give scientists and medical practitioners a better understanding of the role CBD can play in treatments. These early stages are critical in finding new ways to combat the virus and give hope for a better and healthier future.
In conjunction with the vaccine, CBD could potentially be a good solution to ending the pandemic. The success of CBD in being effective at suppressing other variants of the virus is also a strong indication of the broader antiviral applications it can be used for.
Though commercial CBD products don't have the high concentration used in the study and cannot help treat COVID at the same rate, there are a number of other therapeutic benefits they possess. These include alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia and helping with pain relief. Visit our store to find the right solution for you.