A new research study has found evidence that CBD can help fight off the virus responsible for COVID, preventing the spread of infection and helping infected individuals recover.
Several preliminary research studies have already suggested that CBD or other cannabinoids could help protect the lungs from COVID infections. A team of researchers from the University of Chicago tested this hypothesis by treating human lung cells with a variety of cannabinoids and then exposing them to SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID.
This new study, which has been pre-released in the BioRXIV journal while awaiting peer review, reports that CBD inhibited the expression of specific genes within the coronavirus cells, preventing them from spreading. The researchers also report that CBD was able to reverse the hyperinflammatory response that this virus creates in the lungs. This excessive inflammation, commonly known as a “cytokine storm,” is one of the leading causes of death in patients hospitalized with COVID.
Interestingly, CBD was the only cannabinoid that was effectively able to fight off the COVID virus. Researchers found that a combination of THC and CBD was also far less effective at fighting the virus than CBD alone. This suggests that high-THC cannabis flower and full-spectrum pot extracts would not be able to combat the virus, although these compounds may help with other aspects of COVID recovery.
The study authors also conducted an observational study to determine whether the antiviral effects of CBD existed outside of the laboratory. For this test, the researchers used data from 93,000 patients who had taken COVID tests at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Out of all of these patients, 82 were taking Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD medication. Only 1.2 percent of the patients who were taking prescription CBD contracted COVID, compared to 12.2 percent of the patients who were not taking cannabinoids.
“Our results suggest that CBD can block SARS-CoV-2 infection at early stages of infection, and CBD administration is associated with a lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans,” the study authors wrote. “The substantial reduction in SARS-CoV-2 infection risk of approximately an order of magnitude in patients who took FDA-approved CBD highlights the potential efficacy of this drug in combating SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Researchers also tested whether cannabis compounds could stop the spread of mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), another coronavirus that is similar to SARS-CoV-2. Once again, the researchers found that CBD inhibited the replication of this virus, but other cannabinoids did not. These results suggest that CBD could also potentially be used to fight off pathogenic viruses that could cause future pandemics.
The results of this study are highly promising, but only represent the first step in a growing field of research. The study authors caution that “carefully designed placebo-controlled clinical trials” using very specific formulations of CBD must be conducted before researchers can conclude that this cannabinoid can effectively fight COVID.