CANNABIS, CBD, & COVID-19
What science says about CBD as an anti-viral agent.
You’ve probably seen the flurry of news reports proclaiming that “cannabis compounds may stop COVID-19 infection”.
Few companies are more committed to exploring the curative potential of cannabinoids that can potentially treat COVID-19. In March 2020, Care By Design’s Tiffany Devitt co-authored this article with Martin Lee at Project CBD where they speculated that if COVID’s lethality was the result of a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm, as Science Daily reported, then cannabidiol might help because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
With the worldwide death toll from the coronavirus rising exponentially, The Lancet drew attention to “accumulating evidence” that indicates “patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome.”
Characterized by intense immune overreaction in the lungs, this little-understood syndrome can sicken and kill infected individuals. Respiratory distress is the leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 cases. The critically ill who survive intensive care may suffer long-term lung damage, resulting in functional impairment and reduced quality of life.
Science Daily reports that a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm, involving a surge of immune cells gone haywire, was likely the primary cause of death in several viral outbreaks, including the 1918-20 “Spanish flu” pandemic (which killed more than 50 million people) and, more recently, the H1N1 swine flu and the so-called bird flu.
CAN CANNABIS CALM A CYTOKINE STORM?
Several laboratory studies indicate that cannabinoid compounds – in particular, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – are immunosuppressants. This would explain why medical cannabis is beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.
WHAT ARE CYTOKINES?
Secreted by immune cells, cytokines are a group of proteins that regulate inflammatory responses to disease and infection. There are both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Overproduction or excess secretion of pro-inflammatory messenger molecules can trigger a dangerous cytokine storm and other aberrant conditions. A cytokine is known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa), for example, is produced in excess in rheumatoid arthritis, a painful, autoimmune disease that afflicts 1.3 million Americans.
The interaction between cytokines, immune cells, and the endogenous cannabinoid system plays an important role in neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. It’s well documented that stimulation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor by THC and its endogenous counterparts can suppress inflammation.
Cannabinoid receptor signaling confers therapeutic effects by down regulating inflammatory cytokine expression. Although cannabidiol has little direct binding affinity for the CB2 receptor, CBD also acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, reducing cytokine production and inhibiting immune cell function.
Benefits and Effects of THCA
THCA offers a range of useful medicinal applications. The therapeutic value of THCA has been somewhat overlooked in favor of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCa is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis, which exists in abundant quantities in the living plant. THCA is not psychoactive—it does not activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain. In order to make psychoactive THC from THCA, one needs to heat it. This can be done by smoking or vaporizing raw flower, baking edibles, or heating cannabis in a process known as decarboxylation.
THCA benefits include anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, anti-tumor, neuroprotective, and anti-emetic properties. Other medicinal avenues supported by patient studies include insomnia, muscle spasms, and pain relief. THCA exhibits anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX-1, COX-2), and modulates immune activity through metabolic pathways other than CB1 and CB2. It can also act as a potent neuroprotectant by activating Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) pathways, it is beneficial in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease and may, along with other non-THC cannabinoids, inhibit prostate cancer growth. It can also help to stimulate the appetite in patients suffering from cachexia and anorexia nervosa. Most impressively, research shows that THCA helps to slow the proliferation of cancerous cells.
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