What you need to know about CBD and Coronavirus

During this time of uncertainty, people are searching for ways to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19. CBD has multiple scientifically substantiated uses including pain management, psoriasis and skin disorders, and anxiety and depression relief. At this time, no studies have been conducted investigating the effect of CBD on Coronavirus. However, multiple studies have investigated the impact of cannabinoids on other viral infections. 

Recently, claims that CBD can be used to treat Coronavirus have raised questions in the cannabis community. Many people are wondering if CBD can help boost the immune system and therefore reduce your chances of infection. Some medical professionals have suggested that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and or Corticosteroids may be useful in treating COVID-19 patients by reducing inflammation. Although there is no current research on either treatment, these options are being cautiously investigated. Naturally, some wonder if the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are beneficial to fighting Coronavirus infection. 

Former NFL player and owner of a California dispensary, Kyle Turley, was told by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop claiming that CBD is an effective treatment for coronavirus. 

Covid-19 and Viral Infections 

To understand the basis for these claims and questions, it’s important to understand the basics of viral infections. When a person (or another host like the tigers in the Bronx zoo) becomes infected with a virus, a competition begins between the ability of the host to adapt immunity, and the virus to replicate and spread. When a virus is able to out-pace the host immune system, the viral-induced symptoms appear. 

Part of the normal host immune response is inflammation. This inflammation is a dilation to bring more defense cells to the area of infection. Many of the symptoms we feel in response to infection are a sign that our immune system is operating correctly. Viruses are not alive, they use host cells to replicate. Swelling, and killing the cells that viruses have invaded is a way to decrease virus replication. The cells that become infected by the COVID-19 virus dilate and eventually burst, releasing more signals for surrounding cells to dilate. The respiratory failure that is putting patients on ventilators is due to the swelling and death of lung cells responsible for getting oxygen to their blood. 

Inflammation is your first, generalized defense against infection. The production of antibodies takes a number of days to build up. For normal, healthy hosts, inflammation controls the virus until antibodies build up. 

Cannabinoids are profoundly anti-inflammatory, they impair the enzymes which are responsible for inflammatory and cell-autonomous antiviral responses. For some infections, anti-inflammatory drugs give the patient time to build antibodies to fight off the virus. For others, the inflammation is vital to the patient’s survival. 

Patients who have tuberculosis infections experience increased severity of the disease when they use cannabis. Similarly, more serious infections of the nervous system in HIV-infected patients has been attributed to cannabis consumption. 

For patients with COVID-19, the cannabinoid’s reduction in inflammation may give the patients more time with higher lung function so they can build up antibodies. Alternatively, cannabinoid’s reduction in inflammation may reduce your ability to fight an initial infection. 

Coronavirus and Cannabis Studies

Researchers are analyzing the effects of the coronavirus on medicinal cannabis users, one of the vulnerable populations that may be disproportionately affected by the disease. A large portion of medicinal cannabis users are people with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions. These are also many of the same traits that people most vulnerable to COVID-19 share. A University of Miami research team is hoping to document how cannabis users are faring during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

“The global qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, though not uniform, all include individuals with compromised immune systems and other chronic health conditions. Therefore, this is a population that we cannot forget about in our joint effort to ‘flatten the curve,'” said Denise C. Vidot, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and a trained epidemiologist. Vidot is leading the preliminary study, which involves a collaborative group of experts from the School of Nursing and Health Studies, Office of Hemispheric and Global Affairs, and Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

What Can You Do Now? 

Donate plasma if you are healthy, the antibodies and other immune defense molecules in your plasma can be used to help those infected. Keep your immune system healthy, if cannabis use decreases your stress and anxiety or helps you sleep, these are important to support your immune system. Consider switching to smokeless methods of consumption to protect your lung cells during this time.  

If you’re a cannabis user, you can participate in the online portion of the study underway at the University of Miami HERE

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