Can CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, reduce Covid-19 hospitalization and mortality rates? That’s the finding of a study recently published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Researchers from the Dental College of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia previously had determined that CBD, the second-most prevalent chemical compound in the cannabis sativa plant, lowers inflammation and damage in the lungs from adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
This follow-up study determined if CBD could do the same for Covid-19, which in severe cases, creates a hyperactive immune response called a cytokine storm. Cytokines are proteins that are vital for intracellular communication and the regulation of the immune response. If the spike protein of the coronavirus enters the ACE-2 receptor of a cell, the virus can quickly make copies of itself and essentially hack the genetic code of healthy cells. If the immune response is not balanced, a cytokine storm attacks everything in sight, including healthy cells and tissue.
Cytokine storms result in damage to the air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) and the tiny capillaries. A hyperactive immune response to Covid-19 can also cause severely low levels of oxygen in the blood as well as swelling in the lungs and deep scarring of the lung tissue.
CBD, the researchers concluded in a study on mice, activates the levels of a specific protein called apelin, which may prevent or mitigate severe Covid-19 symptoms. Previously, the researchers had discovered that the more apelin was expressed in the blood of their rodent test subjects, the lower the levels of inflammation and blood pressure. In fact, after mice were administered a substance that induced ARDS, the rodents had close to zero apelin.
After given CBD, however, the mice experienced a sharp rise in apelin activation, to the tune of 20 times more. Apelin normally counteracts the harmful effects of high blood pressure and low blood oxygen levels. However, with ARDS, that’s not the case; apelin did neither. CBD, on the other hand, seemed to help stimulate apelin.
The researchers note that while the findings are promising, the effects of CBD are associative, not a direct causation. In other words, more research is needed.
CBD indirectly stimulates the vast internal signaling system of the body known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS helps regulate the body’s homeostasis mechanisms. When the body achieves a state of homeostasis, it means the body’s myriad systems are balanced. The researchers also noted that THC, the most prevalent of compounds in marijuana and the one that makes users feel high, also decreases the risk of cytokine storms.
The CBD used in the study was an isolate extract from an Irish company. CBD isolate contains no THC. CBD derived from commercial hemp is legal in all 50 U.S. states provided that the THC content does not exceed 0.3%.