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COVID-19 And Cannabis: What's The Latest In Treatment?

Israeli researchers are using cannabis treatment to down-regulate the inflammation storm before patients develop severe lung inflammation.

This story originally appeared on The Fresh Toast

With the widespread impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s health and the rising need for readily available therapies, alternative treatment sources are being studied with enthusiasm.  There is increasing interest in the possible beneficial role of cannabis in the cycle of care and therapy treatments.

BNBB Studio/Getty Images via The Fresh Toast

Israeli researchers from the Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, are looking at this possible connection. Dr. Igal Louria-Hayon says the focus currently is just how much cannabis influences the inflammation.

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“We began to understand that cannabinoids take part in the communication network of cells in the immune system. While working full force on these findings, the corona[virus] outbreak suddenly broke,” Dr. Louria-Hayon said. “As we are situated in one of the biggest hospitals in Israel, naturally, our team became part of the worldwide efforts to fight the pandemic.”

When the body recognizes a new invader, such as when a large number of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory “communication molecules” called cytokines, then more white blood cells are activated and regulate the inflammation process, Dr. Louria-Haydon said.

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The Israeli researchers believe that cannabis may affect the cytokine storm, which occurs during COVID-19 disease. Their research goal is to apply cannabis treatment to down-regulate the inflammation storm before patients develop severe lung inflammation, he explained. The center aims to treat the inflammatory “storm” as it develops before the patient ever reaches the ventilator stage.

Drug Trial Planned for Synthetic Cannabinoid COVID-19 TreatmentPhoto by Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

There are thousands of different cannabinoids, even within one type of cannabis plant. So, not every cannabinoid would have the inherent anti-inflammatory properties, the Israeli researchers explained. The researchers use a complex based on more than 100 types of strains and cannabinoids which target and treat the inflammation. Similarly, the researchers understand that more than 20 different cells are involved in the inflammation process.

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“Based on its 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.

In May 2020, the Israeli government had given its blessing to the exportation of its medical cannabis products abroad. Some 60,000 Israelis use medical cannabis as a treatment (under exclusive license), with an estimated 25 tons of medical cannabis consumed per year.