That’s the question disease experts from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are encouraging scientists to explore, as coronavirus infections continue to devastate the world — the United States, in particular.
The authors of a peer-reviewed article for the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity state there is currently no scientific evidence showing that cannabis can effectively treat COVID-19. Therefore, researchers should begin studying the treatment potential of the plant immediately, the study’s authors write.
The article points out that “CBD has shown beneficial anti-inflammatory effects in pre-clinical models of various chronic inflammatory diseases.” The authors also note that CBD can increase the production of infection-fighting proteins released by humans and animals, and can also help quell anxiety in patients undergoing coronavirus treatment.
Talking to CBS News, Emily Earlenbaugh of the firm Mindful Cannabis Consulting said COVID-19 is known to cause a phenomenon called “cykotine storm” in patients — a condition when the body produces too many cykotines, which are naturally occuring immune system mechanisms that create inflammation to fight off infection.
The effects of excess cykotines, however, can include fever spikes, nausea, extreme fatigue, and even death caused by organ failure. Earlenbaugh pointed out that previous research indicates that CBD is an IL-6 cykotine inhibitor, meaning that it might be effective in slowing down or reducing the activity (and, thus, severity) of cytokine storm.
“CBD has very few side effects,” Earlenbaugh said, “so it's something that's being looked at as a much more mild treatment that still has a lot of anti-inflammatory powers.”
Earlenbaugh explains that we are still pretty far away from studying the impact of cannabis on COVID-19 in humans subjects, however. So, she cautions against rushing to cannabis as a treatment for coronavirus until scientists can come up with definitive findings.
“[A] reason for caution,” Earlenbaugh said, “is that cytokines are important in fighting off infections. So, we don't want to reduce them as a preventative measure or in early stages of the infection."
She notes that some researchers have even warned against using cannabis early on in the infection stages, as it could cause negative side effects. So, while the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis could, in theory, be effective in treating COVID-19, more research must be done.