So here we are, a few months after the first COVID-19 case was officially diagnosed, and this disease has pretty much taken over every aspect of our lives. It’s constantly in the news, most of the world is on some level of lockdown, and people are looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.
Although the origin of this particular viral strain has recently come into question, what we do know is that COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, a family of viruses that include other upper respiratory infections like MERS and SARS. Coronaviruses have existed for thousands of years and are common among humans and many animal species. Common symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
As of now, there is no official course of action for managing COVID-19 patients. Many people are given antivirals, put on respirators, and subjected to other invasive and possibly dangerous treatment methods. Are there any natural alternatives? Could cannabidiol (CBD) be used to treat and possibly prevent COVID-19? That’s exactly what researchers in Israel are working to discover.
The Relationship Between Cannabis and Viruses
Let me start by saying that, just because no documented evidence exists doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. That said, there is no published research on the effects of cannabinoids on viral infections, but quite a bit of anecdotal evidence exists. According to Dr. Shawn Meirovici, a naturopathic doctor from Toronto: “The cannabinoids THC and CBD have been shown to have pain-relieving, sleep-inducing, and anti-inflammatory properties. So, on your sick day when you’re wrapped in a blanket cannabis may help reduce body aches, ease inflammation of the airways, and increase relaxation to help you sleep.”
He also suggested that cannabis may also have “antipyretic or fever-reducing properties, due to its ability to suppress the immune system.” There is one thing to take note of though, and that the fact that some preliminary research suggests CBD, and THC, might actually hinder the immune system’s ability to fight certain infections.
It’s well known that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. However, slightly lesser known is the fact that inflammation is a vital response to infection that isolates affected areas and prevents toxins from spreading throughout the body. Reducing the body’s inflammatory immune response can actually prolong the time that it takes for a pathogen to run its course. The same applies to fevers, they are yet another necessary immune response.
I know this directly contradicts other information regarding CBD and immunity, but this is exactly why more large-scale research is so desperately needed. “The research has been primarily in vitro or in rats; there hasn’t been any studies on humans to date,” added Dr. Meirovici.
CBD Exosomes for Treating COVID-19
InnoCan Pharma, an Israeli company that specializes in developing cannabinoid-based medications has recently formed a partnership with Ramot, the technology transfer arm of Tel Aviv University. Together, they’re working on a novel treatment for COVID-19 using exosomes loaded with CBD (cannabidiol).
Exosomes are small particles that are created when stem cells get multiplied. They can act as “homing missiles” by targeting specific organs that have been damaged. They also play an important role in cell-to-cell communications.
According to a study conducted in 2018, “Exosomes mediate intercellular transfer of functional proteins, lipids, and RNAs. Exosomes and several viruses share similar structural and molecular characteristics. Explanation: It has been documented that viral hijacking exploits the exosomal pathway and mimics cellular protein trafficking.”
“Exosomes released from virus-infected cells contain a variety of viral and host cellular factors that are able to modify recipient host cell responses,” the text continued. “Recent studies have demonstrated that exosomes are crucial components in the pathogenesis of virus infection. Exosomes also allow the host to produce effective immunity against pathogens by activating antiviral mechanisms and transporting antiviral factors between adjacent cells.”
The two groups, led by Professor Daniel Offen who specializes in neuroscience and exosome technology, will collaborate on a novel, exosome-based therapy that targets “central nervous system (CNS) indications and COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus”, they said in a statement.
More About CBD for COVID-19
According to a press release: “CBD-loaded exosomes hold the potential to provide a highly synergistic effect of anti-inflammatory properties and help in the recovery of infected lung cells. When cell healing properties of the exosomes are combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, it is expected to reach this high synergetic effect, according to InnoCan.
“InnoCan has agreed to fund the research in the aggregate amount of about $450,000 in the first stage. The product will be administered by inhalation, InnoCan said, and will be tested against a variety of lung infections. The research results may also be beneficial to additional treatments for Central Nerve System ( CNS ) indications, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease.
“The agreement gives InnoCan the option to receive an exclusive global royalty-bearing license to Ramot’s background tech and the research results to allow InnoCan to develop and manufacture this potential treatment for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. If InnoCan decides to exercise this option, the two companies have agreed to negotiate the license agreement, according to predefined commercial terms outlined in the agreement.”
A lot of research still needs to be conducted on the use of CBD for COVID-19, and it’s hard to say how soon we will see this put into practice. For a medication to be safe and effective, it needs to be studied very extensively. Trials need to be conducted, first in animal models and then humans, and that can take anywhere from months to years.