THC in Cannabis Could Help Prevent Lethal COVID-19 Complications

Soft Secrets
06 Oct 2020
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel, deadly coronavirus, the science community has been racing to find drugs and work on vaccines to help save lives, thus containing the global health crisis. Medical cannabis has not been omitted from research. In fact, the number of studies endorsing the potentials of cannabis in treating the new insidious disease has been exponentially growing.  Researchers at the University of South Carolina have recently revealed the preliminary results of a study on animal models, saying that THC could prevent the harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and its enterotoxin, SEB, according to Forbes.  The research, which has been published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, further suggests that THC could significantly increase healthy bacteria in the lungs. The encouraging evidence has been obtained from tests on mice, and the team is looking forward to health professionals to proceed with trials involving humans.  To be clear, none of this means that if you are infected with COVID-19, you should self-medicate with cannabis. 

How does coronavirus work?

The COVID-19 causing coronavirus's main artillery is its army of prickly proteins that protrude from its surface. The proteins attach to healthy cells receptors, primarily receptors on the lungs, called ACE2. The sneaky viral proteins hijack the lungs via the ACE2 receptors, infecting healthy cells inside the oxygen-producing organ.
medical cannabis
Wearing masks is one of the most widely adopted measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Overall, the virus affects the whole respiratory system as it moves and replicates all over the nose, mouth, throat, and, ultimately, the lungs. Compared to other viruses like the seasonal cold, the novel coronavirus is more capable of progressing to the lungs' ACE2 receptors. In more serious cases, the viral infection it causes leads to severe inflammation of the lungs. While most people will recover from the disease after enduring symptoms such as fever and cough, every 1 in 5 infected persons may develop a more severe infection, the consequences of which can be fatal. It takes around a week after symptoms commence, for patients with a serious condition to start showing shortness of breath, which may lead to ARDS. ARDS may be fatal for some patients and leaves lasting pulmonary scarring among those who recover. In worse cases, the virus spreads to other organs such as the kidneys. It's incredibly dangerous for people who previously had existent heart issues or conditions such as diabetes.

Can medical cannabis help?

The cannabis plant has different chemicals, better known as cannabinoids. The most famous in medicine cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which is effectively used to treat various conditions that range from pain relief to rare forms of epilepsy.  According to researchers, CBD holds huge potentials to treat viral infections like COVID-19, especially when the cannabinoid is combined with other cannabinoids as well as terpenes. 
medical cannabis
Medical cannabis is available in dispensaries upon presenting a MMJ card which you can obtain after passing an evaluation with a doctor.
A study published last summer suggested that a CBD formulation containing a specific group of terpenes boosts the medicinal qualities of the cannabinoid. Such a formulation is twice as effective as Dexamethasone, a common corticosteroid treatment for inflammation, reports Health Europa. According to sources, the particular terpene formulation has the potentials to tackle cytokines inflammatory syndrome observed in COVID-19 patients. The inflammatory response is known as a cytokine storm where white blood cells release an acute number of inflammatory cytokines, which can lead to organ failure and death.

How THC might help?

THC actually suppresses the immune response, so using it early on in infection might make a patient suffering from COVID-19 worse rather than better. However, as the University of South Carolina research suggested, timely use of THC may generate much sought after results. "Δ9Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient found in Cannabis sativa, has been shown to act as a potent anti-inflammatory agent," wrote the researchers in the Frontiers of Pharmacology abstract. According to the researchers, THC can be used to block life-threatening complications such as ARDS, the process of which prompts the activation of too many immune cells, which leads to cytokine storm and severe injury of the lungs. "THC acted through CB2 receptors as [a] pharmacological inhibitor of CB2 receptors blocked the anti-inflammatory effects. THC-treated mice showed significant alterations in the expression of miRNA (miRs) in the lung-infiltrated mononuclear cells (MNCs)," the study reports.
medical cannabis
Despite finds for using cannabis to help COVID-19 patients are encouraging, the plant has not been made an approved treatment for the virus.

What other research says?

As research efforts have been mounting in the last couple of months, intriguing aspects of how medical cannabis can tackle a notorious disease such as COVID-19 have been revealed. The studies on THC and CBD and their potentials to help patients is just part of it. For instance, research has further demonstrated that cannabis plant extracts can tackle the systematic effects of COVID-19, which alters the blood coagulation in many patients who end up in the ICU. These patients frequently develop blood clots in the lungs and blood vessels, and some of these clots are known to cause stroke, if not immediately, then several weeks or months after the disease has gone. Cannabis extracts have been reportedly demonstrated to reduce blood coagulation in animal models, so there are good chances that medical cannabis may help manage any such consequences. Earlier this year, a Canadian team of scientists worked on cannabis strains that may increase resistance to the virus, identifying 13 variants of CBD/THC balance that have the potentials to modulate ACE2 levels. The varieties are high in CBD, or balanced CBD/THC, the researchers said.  A lot of the research on how to treat COVID-19 has sourced from previous research on treating various diseases, including cancer, arthritis, and Crohn's disease. While several drugs have been tried and tested whether they work on COVID-19 patients, medical cannabis has not found itself on the list of virus approved treatments. An issue might be the lack of funding for more research, which in some countries is the consequence of misconceptions on cannabis that linger among politicians and the general public. There's also fear that people will self-medicate with just any form of cannabis.  Overall, medical cannabis has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep, and help pain management. It can also help treat various conditions or at least its symptoms, including Crohn's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, and cancer.
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