Cannabis shows promise blocking coronavirus infection, claims Canadian researcher
Over the last several months, scientists around the world have been working to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Until a vaccine is available, however, other scientists are searching for a treatment that could provide short-term protection from the virus, or help improve patient outcomes and recovery.
Drugs such as Remdesivir, the antiviral Avigan, or a cocktail of drugs used to treat other diseases, have all shown promise in fighting against the contagious and deadly virus. But there might be an unlikely hero in the battle against COVID-19: cannabis.
Cannabis Blocks Coronavirus
Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, have found that cannabis extracts are showing potential in making people more resistant to COVID-19.
Olga and Igor Kovalchuk have sifted through four hundred cannabis strains, and have zeroed in on twelve that appear to make it more difficult for the virus to take hold in human cells, by reducing the number of COVID-19 receptors by as much as 73 percent.
“If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected,” explained Igor Kovalchuk .
He says to imagine the cell being like a large building.
“Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70 percent, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it.”
The pair of scientists have been working with the drug for the last five years, studying varieties from around the world, creating hybrids, and developing extracts that have certain therapeutic properties.
“There’s a lot of documented information about cannabis in cancer, cannabis in inflammation, anxiety, obesity and what not,” said Igor. “When COVID-19 started, Olga had the idea to revisit our data, and see if we can utilize it for COVID.”
They began examining the special receptors that the virus uses to enter the body, and have now submitted a research paper studying the effects of medical marijuana on COVID-19. It is still unclear as to what the best ratio between THC and CBD is in order to effectively block the virus, but it is generally the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD that show the most promise.
“It will take a long time to find what the active ingredient is — there may be many,” said Igor. “We focus more on the higher CBD because people can take higher doses and not be impaired.”
The study is using 3D human tissue models to find ways to stop the virus from taking root in the lungs, intestines, and oral cavity. If their work is successful, there are many possible uses for it, including mouthwash, gargle, inhalants, or gel caps.
Don’t Run to Your Local Dispensary
The Kovalchuks have not tested the effects of smoking marijuana on COVID-19, but they warn that you will not find any of the extracts they have tested at your local weed shop. The extracts they have tested also have a very low concentration of THC, so users will not experience a high.The scientists say that it is a completely natural product that does not produce any adverse side effects, and they stress that their data is based on human tissue models.
More Testing Is Needed
Cannabis would be a much less expensive treatment option for many people, however, clinical trials need to be conducted before the treatment can become available to the public. Finding funding for these trials, however, has proven to be a barrier. They have clinicians who are willing to work with them, however many cannabis businesses do not have the funds to support the trials.
Given the current situation, the scientists are very eager to begin testing.
“The extracts of our most successful and novel high CBD C sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy,” said Igor. “Given the current dire and rapidly evolving epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.”
With more than four million cases worldwide and over 286 thousand deaths, the world is in desperate need of some kind of therapy or treatment while we wait for a vaccine.
“We need to bring it to the people,” said Olga. “We need to fight the beast.”