Tracking the Research: Cannabis & COVID-19
- NEW Research (2022)
- CBD, CBG, and CBN Research
- Whole Plant Research
- THC Research
Continuous research is our greatest hope to offer natural treatment options for Covid. Along with traditional drug treatment trials, scientists worldwide are exploring the role that cannabis has to play in preventing or diminishing the disease's worst symptoms.
At ACS, we’ve been monitoring the latest studies as they unfold. Every month we update this article with new COVID-19 and cannabis research in hopes of shedding light on the most promising discoveries.
New Clinical Trial Examines Full-Spectrum CBD Treatment for Long-COVID Relief
According to Penn State College of Medicine, more than half of the 236 million COVID survivors will suffer continued symptoms, known as “long COVID,” up to six months after infection.
Long COVID looks different for everyone. Some people experience persistent pain, anxiety, fatigue, and brain fog daily for at least eight weeks. Others feel they’ve recovered and then wake up one month after the infection with the same symptoms. This is a huge problem, for which there is no established treatment protocol.
Bod Pharmaceuticals felt it could target several long COVID symptoms with its cannabis-based medicinal products. As a result, it teamed up with the UK’s independent drug research body, Drug Science UK, to test its concentrated full-spectrum hemp oil as a potential treatment. In January 2022, Bod received clinical trial authorization to test its MediCabilis formula, which contains five key cannabinoids with varying potency levels:
- CBD + CBDA (50 mg/mL)
- CBG (1.5 mg/mL)
- CBC (2 mg/mL)
- CBDV (1 mg/mL_
- Delta-9 THC (no more than 2 mg/L)
The team plans to enroll 30 adult patients in the study and administer their MediCabilis® oil daily over six months. Each participant will self-report the results, assessing their symptom relief via a smartphone app. Results are expected by December 2022.
“Long-COVID shares symptoms with disorders that medical cannabis has been proved to treat. So this new study could be an exciting and important step for both patients and for our wider understanding of these medicines. Long-COVID is a problem in many different countries, our hope is that this UK-based research will lead to help for patients all over the world," said Drug Science Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Professor David Nutt.
Researchers Recommend Clinical Trials for CBD to Prevent COVID-19
“We don’t want people running out taking random cannabinoids,” said Marsha Rosner of the University of Chicago, who is the senior author of the Science Advances study, in a recent article on The Hill.
But Rosner and her team, who recently published a study in Science Advances, suggest that highly concentrated CBD inhibits COVID infection in human lung cells and mice. Researchers think this happens when CBD inhibits viral gene expression while increasing the body’s stress and immune responses. Interestingly, the study found that THC counteracts this reported benefit.
Still, Rosner doesn’t recommend people running out to their local CBD store and buying any old formula. Researchers must still conduct clinical trials to determine the CBD potency required to be effective (if at all).
Assuming scientists can determine the proper dosage, consumers face another problem–mislabeling. In other words, several consumer CBD products do not clearly label how much cannabidiol it contains.
But let’s not put the cart before the horse. For now, researchers and patients have something to celebrate.
“CBD has anti-inflammatory effects, so we thought that maybe it would stop the second phase of COVID infection involving the immune system, the so-called ‘cytokine storm.’ Surprisingly, it directly inhibited viral replication in lung cells,” said Marsha Rosner, PhD.
CBD, CBG, and CBN Research
Lab Study Shows CBDA and CBGA
A recent in vitro (lab) study published by Oregon State University and the Oregon Health & Science University reported that CBDA and CBGA prevented Covid-19 from reproducing and spreading. These minor cannabinoids are the raw forms of CBD and CBG, which can be derived from federally legal hemp.
The researchers found that of hemp’s hundreds of compounds, CBDA and CBGA, in particular, inhibited the COVID protein from hijacking human cells. Additionally, they reduced viral infections (in a petri dish) at high potency levels by 50%.
While the results are encouraging, this study was not performed on human patients. The Oregon researchers ran CBDA and CBGAs properties through a computer model that matched them against Covid-19 in a commonly used computer model.
After seeing the initial results, the team mixed live COVID samples with CBDA, CBGA, or a neutral control. And after a day, the scientists found that the virus moved at a significantly lower rate in the cannabinoid samples compared to the control.
These findings provide baseline evidence, which will hopefully spur further research on mice, and eventually humans. Additionally, THCA showed the same anti-COVID potential in the computer model. But due to THCA’s federally illicit status, scientists could not test the compound in the same way. THCA may be just as effective, but until federal rules change, we may never know.
Oral CBD Receives Investigational New Drug Approval
Update: Cardiol Therapeutics recently announced the enrollment of its first patient into their phase II/III outcomes trial in high-risk patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The trial is a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study designed to assess the safety and efficacy of CardiolRX in preventing cardiovascular complications in hospitalized patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The trial is currently enrolling patients at hospital centers in the U.S. under an Investigational New Drug (IND) approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Researchers expect it to provide invaluable clinical data about the therapeutic potential of CardiolRX in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, including acute myocarditis and heart failure. In short, Cardiol Therapeutics' pure and potent oral CBD formula received Investigational New Drug approval and its phase II trial is underway!
CBD Reduces the Incidence of SARS-CoV-2
Researchers from the University of Chicago in Illinois recently conducted a study that showed compounds in the cannabis plant could inhibit infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus in human lung cells. Marsha Rosner and colleagues found that cannabidiol (CBD) and its metabolite 7-OH-CBD potently blocked SARS-CoV-2 replication in lung cells.
They found that CBD inhibits viral gene expression and reverses many of the effects the coronavirus had on host gene transcription. CBD also induces the expression of interferons, which are cell signal proteins made by host cells when the virus first invades.
Additionally, researchers reported that the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was almost an order of magnitude smaller in the group of patients taking CBD than the patients who hadn’t been taking CBD (1.2% compared to 12.2%)The paper is currently in peer review but can be accessed in a pre-print version here.
CBN and CVN May Treat Long-Haul COVID Symptoms
This study published in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics looked at treatment strategies to address post-COVID Symptoms. Things like physical fatigue, inflammation, mental abnormalities, and organ damage are arising as post-COVID symptoms in patients known as long-haulers, and treatments for these types of lingering symptoms are still unknown.
Researchers targeted human proteins, specifically Interleukin-6, ACE2, Transmembrane serine protease, and NRP1, which are known to be damaged vid Covid-19 proteins.
Indrani Sarkar and her team performed docking and simulation studies. They found that Cannabivarin (CVN) and Cannabidiol (CBD) from the cannabis plant can bind to central nervous system (CNS) proteins that are related to post-COVID symptoms.
Indrani's team observed that when these cannabinoids bind to the CNS proteins, they can downregulate them, which is beneficial in post-COVID treatment strategies. As a result, they concluded that cannabis has the potential to become an important therapeutic plant in the fight against lingering post-COVID symptoms.
Successful Results using CBD With Steroids for COVID-19
In another Israeli clinical trial, Rabin Medical Center announced plans to begin administering CBD along with standard steroids to ten COVID-19 patients currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. Doctors are hoping that CBD will enhance the effectiveness of steroids for those in life-threatening conditions. Rabin Medical Center is partnering with Stero Biotechs and Mor Research Application in hopes of providing a quick, safe and effective path to recovery for patients all around the world.
If the results are positive, the trial may expand to 40 additional patients.
June 2020 update
Following the announcement of this clinical trial, a fortunate chain of events sparked a change in plans for this clinical trial. The Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva ran out of patients and several Israeli medical centers closed their coronavirus wards as the number of patients significantly waned. As a result, Stero is now turning its attention toward Europe who is still seeing surging cases in many countries. While COVID is now a key element in their research, it was not the main focus of their trial.
First and foremost, Stero hopes to determine if CBD can enhance the effects of corticosteroids for autoimmune illnesses such as lupus and Crohn’s disease. Now since corticosteroids have also been shown recently to reduce the risk of the hyperimmune system response that leads to death in nearly 70% of COVID cases, Stero seeks to understand that potential as well.
In fact a recent UK trial showed that specific corticosteroid dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third. If CBD could support this proven therapy, theoretically thousands of more lives could be saved.
In the 4-month trial, Stereo will give patients 300 mg a day–10 times the amount generally used by consumers as a daily wellness supplement. Stero cautions readers NOT to experiment with this dose at home.
May 2021 update
Stero Biotechs reports initial results in the clinical trial on Cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of Severe and Critical COVID-19 Pulmonary Infection. Dr. Moshe Yeshurun and Dr. Ilya Kagan conducted a pilot clinical trial to explore the efficacy and safety of CBD in reducing inflammatory processes that harm patients with critical COVID-19 infection. They feel their preliminary data are encouraging as they have found CBD to be beneficial on a number of inflammatory markers.
The researchers emphasize that they are working with a relatively low number of patients, so they have yet to reach conclusive evidence. But the clinical and laboratory results so far justify working on a randomized controlled study to compare the outcome of patients with and without CBD treatment.
This ongoing clinical trial commenced at the beginning of 2021 after receiving approval and has currently recruited 11 patients out of the planned amount of up to 20. The study focuses on how COVID-19 patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can benefit from 14-28 day treatment cycles with a similar length follow-up.
Study Shows Cannabis Can Prevent COVID From Entering Cells
Canadian researchers recently conducted a study to see whether cannabis extracts can help reduce the host cell receptor levels that SARS-CoV-2 clings on to while entering the body. Researchers at the University of Lethbridge developed hundreds of new Cannabis Sativa cultivars and tested 23 extracts on artificial human models of intestinal, oral, and airway tissues.
The study found that 13 high-CBD extracts were able to downregulate the expression of the SARS-CoV-2 host cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
While the most effective extracts require more large-scale testing, the study is crucial for future research on the effect of cannabis for COVID-19. Researchers believe that downregulating the ACE2 levels in the gateway tissues might be a feasible way to decrease susceptibility to the disease.
Phase II/III Study of a CBD Medication for COVID
Worldwide Clinical Trials, a major contract research organization involved with COVID-19 trials, announced it will conduct phase II/III studies of CardiolRx, an ultra-pure, extra-strength cannabidiol formula that is THC-free and taken orally. Cardiol released the results of its phase I study in December, which assessed the safety of CardiolRx in adults, showing it to be well-tolerated, with no adverse effects reported.
Phase II and III, which will include 422 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, are designed to further investigate the safety and effectiveness of CardiolRx, this time with a primary focus on COVID-19 patients who have a prior history or are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Cardiol hopes the findings will provide invaluable data about CardiolRx’s potential to offer therapeutic treatment for inflammatory heart disease and heart failure thanks to the cannabinoids in its formula, which have been shown to offer anti-inflammatory effects and could reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular complications.
March 2021 update
Cardiol Therapeutics announced in late January the formation of a Data Safe Monitoring Committee (DSMC) and a Clinical Endpoint Committee (CEP) for the phase II/III outcomes trial in high-risk patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The DSMC includes independent experts who will assess patient safety data and critical efficacy endpoints of the trial.
To do this, they may review unblinded study information during the trial. After reviewing the data, the DSMC will advise on recommendations for protocol modifications if there are safety concerns.
The DSMC will also conduct an interim analysis to determine if there are enough patients in the study to achieve statistical significance or if they need to enroll more people in the trial. In short, this study is moving along with patient safety at top of mind!
Development of CBD Sol-Gel Nasal Spray Underway
A few months ago, PreveCeutical Medical Inc. announced its partnership with UniQuest Pty Ltd. to apply its cannabinoid sol-gel technology to a new nasal spray product. This product would be intended as a potential treatment for COVID-19. While making this announcement, the company said it was not making direct claims that the spray can eliminate, cure or contain the deadly virus.
PreveCeutical said it would provide the CBD extract, which could potentially prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting nasal mucosa tissue. The University of Queensland team said it was responsible for transforming the CBD extract into a formulation that could be used with a nasal spray device. This project is set for completion in October.
Upon completion, PreveCeutical announced it would execute pre-clinical testing and seek government approval to bring the treatment to market.
November 2020 update
PreveCeutical received notification that its proposal to bring a sol-gel COVID-19 spray to market will not be receiving further consideration under Canada’s National Medical Research Strategy. However, PreveCeutical does have alternatives to pursue new support for the treatment program and the project is still scheduled for completion at the end of October 2020. The company plans to use additional findings and data from the project’s final report to submit a revised application and is working to secure funds from other sources.
Because treatment under this program will be a self-administered, over-the-counter system, PreveCeutical anticipates that the required regulatory approval process will be much quicker than if it was a prescription drug. This could potentially give patients a COVID-19 relief option while clinical trials and vaccine research are underway.
December 2020 update
PreveCeutical Medical has successfully developed a proprietary Sol-Gel formula, called SARS-CoV-2 Sol-Gel, infused with a high CBD strain that can be self-administered using a Sol-Gel nasal spray device. Nasal delivery allows for a more concentrated dose and is a better-targeted delivery method versus oral formulas, which can become diluted by the body’s metabolism. The Sol-Gel nasal formula is ready for preclinical evaluations to assess its ability to treat COVID-19 symptoms, and the company intends to move to clinical trials as quickly as possible.
While PreveCeutical Medical is not making any claims that its nasal product can cure COVID-19 at this time, the company does point to two peer-reviewed papers that say CBD strains could have potential benefits to treat the SARS-CoV-2 infection, which causes COVID-19.
Canadian Pharma Discovers a New Mechanism of Action of CBD in the Body, Opening Doors for Various Therapies
Akseera Pharma, a Canadian startup is planning to begin clinical trials and manufacturing CBD as a treatment for cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) linked to side effects of COVID-19 drug therapies. If left untreated, arrhythmias can lead to cardiac arrest and other serious heart conditions. In March, Akseera launched a subsidiary company to begin the manufacturing and research process.
According to Manit Patel, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of the company, if all goes well they may be launching CBD for COVID-19 before the end of the year. In a recent interview on Money Control, Akseera’s President and Co-Founder Shreema Merchants said, “Some of the repurposed drugs like hydroxychloroquine are found to cause arrhythmia in certain cases–a lethal side-effect that CBD can rescue. We found ourselves in a very obvious position to help make COVID treatment safer and affordable, and accessible to patients with comorbidities,” Merchants said.
November 2020 update
Shreema’s research revealed CBD can reduce the number of arrhythmias when given prior to an episode and they wanted to understand why. Through further analysis, they discovered CBD interacts with sodium ion channels in the body and can prevent arrhythmias when taken as a daily dosage.
This mechanism of action is very different from what the team expected. While most research focuses on the interaction between CBD and receptors of the endocannabinoid system, sodium ion channels have not been explored.
Based on this affinity, Shreema believes they will discover additional therapeutic benefits of CBD beyond arrhythmias by looking at other ion channels in the body.
Research Shows CBD-Infused Exosomes as a Targeted COVID-19 Therapy
On April 17, InnoCan Pharma announced a sponsorship research agreement with Ramot Tel Aviv University to study CBD as a cell therapy treatment for COVID-19. In a first-of-its-kind study, the Israeli team will inject CBD into exosomes–cells that transport proteins and genetic information to other cells–and use them to target organs damaged by a coronavirus.
Researchers hypothesized that CBD’s known anti-inflammatory powers will help repair damage in the body and particularly the infected lung cells. Researchers also believed therapy could target diseases of the Central Nervous System (CNS), which may provide treatments for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The extensive research, funded by InnoCan, cost about $450,000 in the first stage alone. The terms of the agreement gave InnoCan exclusive rights to Ramon’s technology to develop the CBD-based cell therapy treatment.
November 2020 update
In October 2020, Innocan Pharma announced the publication of two scientific articles supporting its approach of using CBD-loaded exosomes for the treatment of COVID-19. The first paper outlines that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their exosomes have potential therapeutic functions in handling the coronavirus. Specifically, exosomes have the ability to help patients clear problematic alveolar fluid and promote tissue recovery of the skin, heart, and blood vessels by secreting protective material.
The second paper, an animal study on mice, demonstrated that CBD can significantly reverse the lung damage and adverse symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome by increasing levels of apelin, a peptide in the body that helps to mitigate the effects of an immune injury.
Using Iccocan’s liposomal CBD treatment on over 35 mice, the study also found that significant amounts of CBD remained in the mice’s blood 21 days after a single injection. This prolonged release can allow the endocannabinoid system to regulate apelin over a longer period of time, and continue to limit excessive lung inflammation.
Taskforce in Congo Studying CBG Preventative Treatment
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi recently formed a Corona Task Force to research local solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following his call for help, King King Organics–a pharmaceutical-grade cannabis cultivation and extraction company–stepped up to research plant-based ingredients and offer one of its existing cannabinoid-based products to treat current patients.
KKOG’s “Immunite” product contains CBG along with essential vitamins A, B, C, D, B6, and Chlorophyll. The company touts Immunite as a potential preventative treatment to strengthen the immune system and manage symptoms of respiratory tract infections and inflammation.
According to Mr. Rene Joseph, the CEO of KKOG in a recent press release, “Immunite is a significant breakthrough that could help in limiting severe COVID-19 infections on the continent of Africa, we are grateful to have had the assistance of the president of Congo as well as all the Ministers who have supported in making our work happen.”
Lab Study Shows CBD May Help Avert Lung Destruction in COVID-19
While this isn’t a brand-new study, we had to include it due to the evidence it presents. In July 2020, researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia performed laboratory studies that indicate pure CBD can help the lungs recover from the excessive inflammation caused by COVID-19. A synthetic double-stranded RNA called POLY (I:C), enabled the findings. POLY (I:C) represents a new and safe way to replicate lung damage caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome.
During the study, mice received three doses of POLY (I:C) in the nasal passageway, followed by shots of CBD for a total of three days to mimic the time a human would begin to experience trouble breathing and likely seek medical care. Researchers measured lung function after CBD treatment, noting that oxygen levels went up, while temperatures and inflammation levels went down.
Based on the success of the study, researchers plan to look at other organs impacted by COVID-19 next.
Study Shows CBD Can Relieve Anxiety Related to COVID-19
Beyond CBD’s ability to potentially alleviate severe COVID-19 symptoms, and block entry points for COVID-19, researchers also cite a study on Ebola disease patients in which CBD was suggested as a supplementary treatment.
They say patients recovering from COVID-19 may undergo similar mental and social stressors due to residual chronic inflammation and autoimmune responses. This indicates that randomized clinical trials to test how CBD can alleviate anxiety and fear associated with COVID-19 may be beneficial.
Whole Plant Research
Study Shows People Turned to Cannabis During the Pandemic
A new national study looking at the stressors of COVID-19 and American's drive to use medical cannabis found a positive correlation between the demand for cannabis and the number of COVID-19 cases. The research team included Veriheal, a healthcare enterprise, in partnership with graduate researchers from the London School of Economics, University of Maryland, and the University of Southern California.
From January 2020 to March 2021, researchers investigated cannabis interest and adoption by the desired effect across sex, region, and age, related to COVID cases reported by the COVID-19 CDC data tracker. Data was collected from Veriheal's telemedicine platform surveys, where prospective cannabis patients can connect to state-certified cannabis medical professionals and assist in the medical cannabis card application process.
Key findings from the study show that 55% of cannabis patients used the plant to feel 'happy.' They also found that the desire of patients to feel 'happy' through cannabis use increased 46% over the past year.
"The researchers were surprised to find that in addition to COVID-19, disturbing national events like riots, protests, and elections greatly influenced the demand for medical cannabis. They found that millennials are the most motivated of the age groups to obtain medical cannabis during the COVID case spikes, followed by generation X and generation Z."
Medical cannabis has traditionally been viewed as an alternative treatment for relieving physical pain and chronic ailments," said Maha Haq, CEO of CREA and graduate student at the University of Maryland's School of Pharmacy. "Most people are actually looking to the plant to ease psychological stressors, often related to external social upheaval, is an incredibly important discovery that helps medical professionals better understand evolving consumer relationships with cannabis, and from there, improve the quality of their treatment and related mental healthcare programs."
Plant-Based Anti-Inflammatory for COVID-19 Treatment
MGC said that it now has sufficient production capacity to complete its first delivery of the anti-inflammatory product, worth around US$425,000. A recent clinical trial of 50 COVID-19 patients across three hospitals in Israel and India showed all patients who received standard care along with MGC Pharma’s trademarked supplement, ArtemiC, recovered after 15 days of treatment. Additionally, prior to recovering, the patients did not develop severe conditions that required ICU treatment, additional oxygen, or medical ventilation.
MGC Pharma believes the success of its clinical trial will open markets for the supplement, which already has commercial deals in Israel, Russia, and Eastern Europe. While the supplement’s initial formula doesn’t contain cannabinoids, MGC Pharma announced plans to add these natural compounds to the ingredient list in time for phase III clinical trials that could happen in the first half of 2021. Phase III would involve up to 250 patients and investigate the supplement’s effects on various diseases related to cytokine storms, including COVID-19, the flu, and inflammatory bowel, and autoimmune diseases.
In the phase III trial, MGC Pharma hopes to incorporate ingredients such as phytocannabinoids to market ArtemiC as a polypharmaceutical product in the long-term.
May 2021 Update
Following the success of its phase II trials in December, MGC Pharmaceutical Ltd announces that its distributor Swiss PharmaCan has increased its initial order for ArtemiC Rescue by 85%. MGC said that it now has sufficient production capacity to complete its first delivery of the anti-inflammatory product, worth around US$425,000. ArtemiC works as an anti-inflammatory that can reduce and prevent the cytokine storms seen in severe COVID-19 patients.
It has proven itself in phase II clinical trials where it was shown to prevent the deterioration of COVID-19 patients and helped them improve faster. It was also found to be safe without adverse drug events. The agreement will give more people access to the product’s therapeutic benefits to ease their suffering.
Swiss PharmaCan holds exclusive rights to distribute ArtemiC worldwide and will focus on countries reporting the largest number of coronavirus cases. The agreement includes a minimum quantity of 40,000 units per quarter.
Research Concludes Terpenes are Better Than CBD Alone
Early results from an ongoing Israeli study show that a combination of CBD with terpenes, compounds that provide the aroma and flavor in cannabis and many other plants, was 2 times more effective at inhibiting cytokine activity than dexamethasone, a corticosteroid treatment found to significantly help hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The study looks at NT-VRL, a proprietary terpene formulation developed by Eybna, which contains 30 individual terpenes that are potential anti-inﬂammatory agents. Researchers tested CBD alone, CBD with NT-VRL, and dexamethasone.
Conducted on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors, the study induced inflammation and performed cytotoxicity tests prior to a cytokine storm experiment to ensure cell viability. The best results came from the combination of CBD and NT-VRL, which was able to inhibit around 90% of the tested cytokines. Dexamethasone was only able to inhibit around 30% of the cytokines, which means combining terpenes with CBD might be twice as effective as the current leading treatment.
May 2021 Update
The natural antiviral compound NT-VRL-1 formula showed to be quite effective against SARS-associated coronaviruses. The antiviral action was ascertained by adding the NT-VRL-1 compound to lung cells before and after inoculation with HCoV-229E, where it was seen to inhibit viral replication. Both NT-VRL-1 and cannabidiol exhibited antiviral effects, and when applied together, the researchers saw a compounding antiviral effect that was more robust than the ones used for controls.
They concluded that NT-VRL-, with or without cannabidiol, can be used as a prevention against coronaviruses in general. Because the lungs are the part of the body most infected by the virus, the researchers think a preventative treatment could go directly into the lungs could be the best way to use the compound as a therapeutic.
Pathway Research Uncovers More Evidence That Cannabis Can Calm Cytokine Storms
A new Canadian study conducted by Pathway Research Inc., the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge shows further evidence that components in the cannabis plant can help calm the cytokine storm that plays a key role in inflammatory disease.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, the term "cytokine storm" has become a mainstream way of describing some of the most severe COVID-19 respiratory symptoms caused by this devastating inflammatory event. According to the research findings, cannabis extracts can curb the chemicals involved in the process.
The study used artificial human skin exposed to UV rays to induce inflammation. The team then used several strains of cannabis to check how efficient they are at reducing inflammation.
The researchers already knew the types of cultivars that had the most anti-inflammatory efficacy when the study began. So they were able to choose strains they thought likely to work the best.
The results point to three specific strains that have a high efficacy in calming the most destructive cytokines relating to inflammation.
While these strains are not yet on the market, the researchers provided the cannabinoid profiles in their report published in the journal Aging. The strains contained different combinations of CBD and THC along with lesser-known cannabinoids and terpenes that the authors believe are crucial to their anti-inflammatory power.
Cannabis Patients Trends During the COVID Pandemic
Led by epidemiologist and professor Denise C Vidot, PhD, the University of Miami (UM) Department of Public Health Sciences is surveying cannabis patients worldwide to analyze the effects of coronavirus on their health and wellbeing. The first goal of the survey is to understand how recent changes in access to medical cannabis could negatively affect their mental and physical health. The second aim is to investigate the sharing of inhaled cannabis products, which could contribute to accelerated coronavirus transmission.
Unfortunately, medical cannabis patients are facing delays in accessing treatment due to the COVID-19-related supply chain and business disruptions. This could have seriously detrimental effects, which is why researchers at UM are looking at data to analyze patterns and trends of patients during the outbreak. The goal is to have every medical cannabis user worldwide complete the anonymous survey, providing details about changes in frequency, dosage, and route of cannabis use, along with any associated changes in mental and physical health.
The survey also asks patients about sharing products such as joints and vapes, in an attempt to analyze how this could contribute to the spread of the disease. This study is set for completion in August 2020.
March 2021 update
Professor Denise C. Vidot's team completed the study and published the results in the Journal of Addictive Diseases. As part of the study, 1,200 adults reported their medical cannabis use in the past year with an internet-based questionnaire between March and April 2020. The most-reported conditions were mental health (76.7%), pain (43.7%), cardiometabolic (32.9%), respiratory (16.8%), and autoimmune (12.2%) conditions.
Participants with mental health conditions reported an increase in their medical cannabis use by 91% since the beginning of the pandemic, compared with those who did not report mental health conditions. 16% of participants changed their method of cannabis administration from smoking to nonsmoking forms.
The researchers concluded that the majority of medical cannabis users reported at least one preexisting health condition. And over 50% of them reported fear of getting a COVID-19 diagnosis and giving it to someone else, but only some changed from smoking to non-smoking methods of use as a result of transmission fears. The study’s researchers suggest clinicians consider asking their patients about cannabis use, especially those with chronic health conditions.
Study Explores the Connection Between Cannabis Use & COVID-19
While cannabis use may help alleviate severe COVID-19 cases, a study done by researchers at the University of Western Australia found that cannabis use was also correlated to an increased risk of contracting the disease. Dr. Peter Grinspoon, MD, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, points out that this type of study can’t show causation, but he does say there are theoretical reasons that cannabis may be a risk factor for COVID-19, particularly in early or mild cases.
CBD actually suppresses the immune system, which early on, when our immune system needs to be strongest, could lead to a worse infection. Also, smoking cannabis can cause mild, chronic bronchitis, which puts lungs at a disadvantage, and the behaviors associated with cannabis smoking, such as gathering in groups, and sharing joints and pipes, can also spread infection.
Observational Study Shows Vaping May be an Increased COVID Risk Factor
Stanford University research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers and young adults who use e-cigarettes are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and those who both vape and smoke traditional cigarettes are 7 times more likely. The Stanford study included 4,351 people, ages 13-24, who completed online surveys in May.
The theory is that lung damage caused by vaping may make users more susceptible. The virus also might spread through the aerosols they exhale, or by sharing vapes. Users are also more prone to touching their mouths.
Israel Study Explores the Effects of Cannabinoids on White Blood Cells of COVID-19 Patients
In the latest Israeli study, researchers at the Center for Cannabis Research at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa are investigating cannabis as a viable treatment for COVID-19. Campus researchers have been observing the effect of cannabis on 19 severely ill patients and plan to launch the next phase of clinical trials in the upcoming months. The team is investigating the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties as a means to prevent cytokine storms, the inflammatory reaction that causes severe side effects in infected patients.
Data shows the majority of COVID-19 mortality is caused by this uncontrollable inflammatory reaction. Scientists at the Center identified 15 cannabis strains that could effectively prevent cytokine storms through their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system. In a recent press release, the director of the Center, Dr. Igal Louria-Hayon said, “We hope that by decoding the cannabinoid activity mechanism during inflammatory storms, we can treat COVID-19 patients where conventional drugs have failed.”
To conduct the clinical trial, researchers will analyze the effects of cannabinoids on white blood cells using samples from COVID-19 patients. These samples are stored at Rambam’s National Biobank of research specimens. According to Rambam’s director, Dr. Shlomit Yehudai-Reshef, this method will help the team understand how the body responds to the disease, and develop effective vaccines and drugs.
Moreover, these samples will help speed up the process. “We believe that we will be able to accelerate the pace of investigation and move more rapidly to clinical applications, due to access to the National Biobank at Rambam,” he said.
July 2020 update
In an interview with The Fresh Toast, Dr. Louria-Haydon indicated the team is gearing up for the next phase of research.
“Based on the analysis, we will progress to the second clinical experiment where we will treat COVID-19 patients with the candidate strains that presented anti-inflammatory potential on human-derived cells (the first experiment),” Dr. Louria-Haydon said.
Israeli Hospital to Begin Administering Cannabis to COVID-19 Patients in Clinical Trial
Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv announced plans to examine the effects of cannabis on coronavirus patients by administering active plant extracts, such as CBD to those in moderate conditions. Doctors are seeking to capitalize on the plant’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties to ease the symptoms of the disease. The hospital plans to administer treatment to dozens of patients in multiple wards throughout the hospital.
Led by Dr. Barak Cohen, a senior anesthesiologist and head of the corona management at Ichilov, the team of researchers stressed that this is a “novel approach” to treatment that would only incorporate the safe and non-addictive components of cannabis. The study is currently only associated with the hospital and does not have any pharmaceutical or government sponsorship
Research Shows How Smoking Cannabis (and Other Drugs) Could be a Risk Factor for COVID-19
The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced in March that it would provide funding for research on how smoking could negatively affect patient recovery from COVID-19. In its announcement, NIDA specified that it seeks to understand whether or not the most vulnerable populations, including those who smoke tobacco, marijuana, and vapes, are subject to even greater risk. NIDA explained that COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs, which could pose a serious threat to those with a history of smoking.
Additionally, people who use opioids or methamphetamine along with those who suffer from HIV could be especially vulnerable to attacks on the lungs and immune systems. That’s why NIDA is seeking to fund research to determine how drug use–especially smoking–could be a risk factor for the onset and spread of the disease. NIDA will accept applications through March 31, 2021, and will give projects $100,000 per year in funding, but studies must be completed within two years.
Study Reveals How THC May Treat Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
COVID-19 has been known to cause cytokine storms, sending the immune system into overdrive, which can trigger Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is the number one cause of death resulting from COVID-19 respiratory complications.
According to research from the University of South Carolina published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, THC can prevent this deadly side effect, when ARDS is caused by a bacterial toxin known as Staphylococcal enterotoxin. The study’s authors further deduced that THC could be a viable treatment for ARDS caused by COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties. “Collectively, this study suggests that the activation of cannabinoid receptors may serve as a therapeutic modality to treat ARDS associated with COVID-19,” according to the study’s abstract.
Study Uses THC to Treat COVID-Induced Insomnia
In a recent study, more than 30% of healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic in China reported suffering from insomnia. Those who had sleep issues were also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress-based trauma.
A second survey performed by Sleep Standards found that 41% of front-line workers in the U.S. are experiencing insomnia, 27% are suffering from nightmares, and on average all are getting about 5 hours of shut-eye each night. Although the research was performed in China and the US, the results are likely indicative of worldwide suffering.
Could marijuana help alleviate those symptoms? Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate it could. According to a recent study cited by Benzinga, cannabis can be an extremely effective treatment for acute insomnia. Particularly when the cannabis is made up of a blend of THC and CBD. In this study conducted by the University of Western Australia, THC patients reported sleeping more hours, falling asleep faster, and getting back to sleep more easily after waking up in the middle of the night.
“This study represents the most rigorous clinical trial ever undertaken to assess the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis to treat the symptoms of chronic insomnia,” said head researcher Peter Eastwood said in a published statement.
Pre-Clinical Research Shows THC Protects Mice From ARDS
To date, CBD has received most of the headlines for COVID treatment. Here are the reasons: CBD exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Additionally, CBD is non-psychoactive, which is an important factor for young and elderly patients. But CBD is not the only cannabinoid that exhibits anti-inflammatory powers.
This latest study was inspired by the fact that THC binds with CB2 receptors, which are mostly located in the cells of the immune system. When these receptors are activated by THC, they can suppress the dangerous hyperinflammatory response.
This cutting-edge research published in Frontier in Pharmacology shows THC can protect mice from the effects of the hyper-inflammatory response known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARD). ARDS leads to severe lung injury, which is the number one cause of death in COVID patients.
The Bottom Line
The process of creating a vaccine or cannabis-based therapy for COVID-19 is still underway. As of today, we have no human-based clinical studies to warrant claims and the FDA has made that point clear. However, current clinical trials and previous research on the plant’s therapeutic value may assist researchers in the hopes to develop an effective complementary treatment.
At ACS, we strive to provide the latest cannabis news as it unfolds, and we want to hear from you. We are an ISO Accredited, DEA Registered CLIA licensed Laboratory which means we can do human trials and participate in research studies, testing the effects of hemp. The future is in research.
Do you know of a clinical trial we may be missing? Do you need a resource to partner with you on your government-backed study? Contact ACS today.
ACS Laboratory’s testing panel and protocol is compliant with Florida’s Hemp Program. ACS meets federal requirements by testing to the standards of Florida, the strictest state. The compliance panel consists of: Cannabinoid Potency, Pesticides, Residual Solvents (unless its flower), heavy metals, mycotoxins, moisture, microbiology.