- Most of the extracts that researchers have narrowed down are predominantly CBD.
- No conclusive evidence is available yet to prove that cannabis can protect from COVID-19.
As the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, consumers across the country went to their local dispensaries to prepare for their social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Even today, there are dispensaries everywhere dealing with limited stock as a result, which could be due to the immense stress caused by this illness. While there is still a substantial social stigma that goes along with smoking this flower, new research suggests that there may be inherent benefits that no one could’ve predicted – protection from COVID-19.
Taking part in regular smoking sessions won’t exactly stop someone from contracting the coronavirus, but new results discovered by Canadian scientists at the University of Lethbridge suggest that it could help. Ultimately, the goal of their recent study was to find out if the use of cannabis was effective in preventing the virus from residing in the lungs, intestines, and oral cavity. While the study began with a total of 400 cannabis strains, the current work has narrowed down the selection to about a dozen that have the potential to offer a defense against coronavirus.
The researchers developed the 400 strains to create Sativa lines and extracts, and the resulting compounds were high in CBD specifically. This concentration was intentional, as CBD has been known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Rather than testing on human directly, the researchers created artificial human 3D models so they could map out the way that the strains could influence the possibility of infection in the oral, airway, and intestinal tissues. More specifically, they zeroed in on the way each of their extracts changed the ACE2 protein, an enzyme that has been linked to the susceptibility of infection.
Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, a biological scientist and the lead researcher for this study at the University of Lethbridge, commented that there’s a few of the strains that have reduced the ability of the virus to infect. He noted,
“A number of them have reduced the number of these (virus) receptors by 73 percent, the chance of it getting in is much lower. If they can reduce the number of receptors, there’s much less chance of getting infected.”
In total, the researchers discovered 13 different CBD extracts through their study that could change the levels in ACE2 enzymes. Inherently, with less of this protein, the coronavirus strain has less of the chance to attach itself, reducing the risk of disease. Some of these strains were also able to down-regulate TMPRSS2, a serine protease and another protein associated with contracting COVID-19.
One of the issues with this research is the current lack of peer review, which takes months to complete. Since these results are only recent, there’s no conclusive evidence that cannabis is a cure-all and defense against coronavirus, especially considering that there’s yet to be a perfected balance of THC and CBD. There are many different compounds found in a cannabis extract, and further study will be essential to finding the solution.
If additional research is performed and these studies are peer-reviewed, Dr. Kovalchuk states that the remedy may be used as a mouthwash, inhalant, gel caps, or gargle. All the public can do is wait and see what happens next.