Let’s get this quick disclaimer out of the way: presently, there are no FDA-approved products for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, CBD included.
However, CBD’s potential to ameliorate the severity of COVID-19 symptoms has been the subject of research studies since the outset of the pandemic.
For example, this past June, a hypothesis co-written by five Italian researchers as well as one each from Spain and China was published In the British Journal of Pharmacology. The researchers theorize that CBD has the potential to limit the severity and progression of Covid-19 because of four main reasons:
- CBD extracts have already been shown in the lining of human lung cells to down‐regulate the expression of two key receptors that the novel coronavirus penetrates in order to make copies of itself, the well-publicized ACE-2 receptor as well as TMPRSS2.
- CBD offers a wide range of effects that modulate the immune system. It also supports healthy inflammation levels. By doing so, it can prevent or mitigate an overactive immune response called a cytokine storm.
- CBD possesses antiviral activity.
- CBD protects against viral replication by acting as a PPARγ agonist. As such, CBD regulates the activation of the most common form of connective tissue in the lungs and other organs called fibroblasts. Thus, CBD can inhibit the development of pulmonary fibrosis (deep scarring of the lung tissue).
“We hope our hypothesis, corroborated by preclinical evidence, will inspire further targeted studies to test cannabidiol as a support drug against the COVID‐19 pandemic,” the researchers conclude in their hypothesis.
More recently, a study conducted on mice conducted by researchers at The Dental College of Georgia was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and supports CBD’s therapeutic potential for Covid-19 patients.
The researchers were following up on a study they had previously performed, which showed that CBD can lower inflammation and prevent lung damage caused by adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS symptoms are a hallmark of severe Covid-19 infection.
In the experiment group, mice were administered a synthetic analog of double stranded RNA (dsRNA), which created severe symptoms that mimic Covid-19 infection: low oxygen saturation; lymphopenia (low levels of infection-fighting white blood cells); excess production of pro‐inflammatory cytokines and destruction of lung tissue.
One experimental group of mice were given CBD isolate at a dose of 5 mg/kg of body weight. The experiment group was given CBD two hours after receiving the Covid-19 viral-like inducer, and every other day for a total of 3 doses.
The rodents’ blood oxygen saturation was measured once daily for the duration of the study. If you’re a vegan or animal-rights activist, skip this next sentence…
The mice were then euthanized on day nine of the study. (RIP, murine martyrs.) Blood and lung tissue were then analyzed. The results showed that the mice treated with CBD experienced a return to normal levels of infection-fighting T cells and neutrophils (white blood cells that heal damaged tissues). Moreover, CBD-treated mice also demonstrated enhanced expression of a protein in the blood called apelin.
Apelin induces a significant vasodilator response, which means it opens up the blood vessels, allowing for greater blood flow and oxygen to enter vital organs such as the lung and heart. After the mice developed symptoms comparable to adult respiratory distress syndrome, the levels of apelin in the mice were near zero. But the mice who were given CBD after developing ARDS-like symptoms experienced a 20 times increase in apelin expression.
The researchers suggested that apelin may play an important part in stimulating the protective effects of endocannabinoid signalling within the body. Of course, more research is needed to draw any definitive conclusions.