Initial studies of cannabidiol’s impact of classic symptoms of lung damage in severe cases of COVID-19 provide a promising indication of the cannabinoid’s use for relieving symptoms in patients. It appears that cannabidiol (CBD) may be mostly effective at calming the immune system when the response becomes more harmful than helpful, something that doctors are seeing all too often in severe COVID-19 cases.
Researchers developed a mice model of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a “major killer in severe cases of some respiratory viral infections” that certainly includes COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, also known as the “novel coronavirus” or just “coronavirus.” The model was creating using the unique double-stranded viral RNA known to carry the genetic material required for the coronavirus to target and infection human cells.
The model replicates the classic symptoms of ARDS, importantly including a phenomenon known as “cytokine storm,” which typically describes the overreactive response of the immune system that creates “friendly fire” in infected lungs. Overwhelming the lungs then leads to the need for mechanical ventilation that’s become a common aspect of severe COVID-19 cases. Researchers estimate that 30 to 50 percent of patients who end up needing mechanical ventilation ultimately don’t make it.
While the immune response is vital in defending the human body against coronavirus infection, for some patients there comes a tipping point where the immune response does more harm than good. It is at this point that the study researchers believe CBD could help.
Researchers gave CBD doses to mice models mimicking severe COVID-19 symptoms in such a way as to imitate the typical treatment given to humans seeking medical care as a result of those symptoms, such as shortness of breath. Researchers then observed a variety of measurable changes in certain factors associated with the cytokine storm:
CBD is a phytocannabinoid, not dissimilar from endocannabinoids that occur naturally in the human body, such as anandamide and 2-AG. The interactions between cannabinoids – whether from plants (“phyto”) or from inside the body (“endo”) – with cannabinoid receptors is fundamental aspect of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a regulatory system responsible for balancing homeostasis in the body, with important connections to immunity, digestion, and the nervous system.
It seems that the timing of CBD dosing is extremely important for research going forward. If provided too early in the infection process, CBD may prevent the immune system from adequately protecting the body from a coronavirus infection. Going forward, researchers are going to continue studies with CBD to examine effects on other parts of the body affected by COVID-19, including the brain, heart, and digestive system.