New Studies Show Promise In Treating COVID-19 With Cannabis
The preliminary studies in Israel and Georgia indicate that cannabis may lessen the severity of so-called cytokine storms.
Recent studies have shown that some forms of cannabis, particularly cannabidiol (CBD) and terpenes, can treat COVID-19 in some patients. Research has mainly focused on the treatment of "cytokine storms" — a severe immune reaction that can damage the lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
All research is preliminary at this point. Experts from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute recently argued in a paper published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity that such research is needed because earlier studies have shown CBD can treat COVID-19 patients.
CBD "has shown beneficial anti-inflammatory effects in pre-clinical models of various chronic inflammatory diseases," the researchers write. New studies have started to find out if this also holds true with treating the coronavirus.
Israeli study investigates the efficacy of cannabis terpenes.
In Israel, two cannabis research and development firms, Eybna and CannaSoul, have launched a study to determine whether cannabis terpenes can effectively treat COVID-19 infections. This study also focuses on the treatment of cytokine storms.
These storms contribute to fever, cough, and muscle pain symptoms, leading to high blood pressure, lung damage, ARDS, and organ failure. The body creates these storms from a severe immune reaction in which too many cytokines are released into the bloodstream too quickly.
"Accumulating evidence shows that many COVID-19 patients die because of the increase in the production of the inflammatory cytokine molecules, rather than the virus itself," according to the Jerusalem Post, which reported on the new study.
Initial results have proven promising. Israeli researchers report that cannabis terpenes have shown significant anti-inflammatory activity. Combining a unique blend of terpenes with CBD has proven more effective than CBD alone or the commonly used treatment of Dexamethasone.
A study in the United States also shows CBD reduces cytokine storms.
At the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, researchers have "early evidence" that CBD may help patients with coronavirus-related respiratory distress avoid "extreme interventions like mechanical ventilation as well as death from acute respiratory distress syndrome," according to Science Daily.
Dr. Jack Yu, a physician-scientist and co-author of the study, said the research so far shows pure CBD can help lungs recover from the inflammation caused by a cytokine storm and restore healthier oxygen levels.
Between 30 percent and 50 percent of people who require ventilation do not survive, making the quest to find a better treatment for lung inflammation, a key to reducing deaths related to the virus.
As these studies continue, the FDA also has given the green light for a phase-1 clinical study using a synthetic cannabis product called ARDS-003. This injectable drug binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system like cannabis does, and may also reduce lung inflammation. The study is expected to start in September.