There is ongoing research into medicinal cannabis for treatment of coronavirus
But what do we know thus far?
From Project CBD:
Given the conflicting data on the impact of cannabinioids on immune function, medical scientists are reevaluating their ideas about inflammation and immunosuppression. As Mary Biles reported for Project CBD: “A new wave of research and mounting anecdotal evidence points towards cannabinoids having an adaptive, immunomodulating effect, rather than just suppressing immune activity.”
Read the rest at Project CBD
Can weed prevent the coronavirus?
Strictly speaking, we don’t have much evidence suggesting that cannabis can prevent a coronavirus infection.
In fact, smoking cannabis may make people more susceptible to infection. Dr. Donald Tashkin, a UCLA professor who has extensively studied cannabis’ effects on the lungs, previously found evidence that cannabis smoking temporarily increases the symptoms of bronchitis such as inflammation in the lungs, coughing, and phlegm production. While these effects were much less serious than those found for tobacco, Tashkin told the Los Angeles Times in April that “smoking anything increases risk.”
All the doctors we spoke with agreed that avoiding smoking is a good idea right now. “In general, I would suggest much less smoking,” advises Dr. Frank Lucido, a GP and cannabis clinician. “Since COVID-19 deaths are respiratory deaths, it’s best to avoid even cannabis smoke in this case.”
Still, if you are a patient using cannabis medicinally, and don’t find other methods of using cannabis effective, don’t panic.
“Some people need to smoke or vape it and they shouldn’t feel bad about it,” explains Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a physician, and instructor at Harvard Medical School.
He says it’s best to stop smoking, but not at the expense of your other medical needs.
Read the rest at Leafly
From the Stranger
An interview with Dr. Sunil Aggarwal about COVID-19, respiratory illness, and whether it’s safe to consume cannabis
It has been reported that tobacco smokers are at greater risk of death from this coronavirus than non-smokers. Do you know if there is any data about cannabis smokers and COVID-19?
I haven’t seen anything. But certainly we know that smoking with cannabis, regularly heavy users can have more chronic bronchial irritation, and may be more susceptible to bronchitis. The term is called “pulmonary toilet”—like, how effective is your bronchial system at clearing and getting rid of mucus, viruses, bacteria, debris? There might be a little less sturdy function in people who have chronic exposure to smoke. But there’s no relationship to cannabis smoking and development or COPD or lung cancer. That’s been definitively found in large studies—
Yes. Yes, Dr. Tashkin at UCLA has shown that nicely. It’s mentioned in a couple epidemiological studies. And then also there’s been some nice data lung function in a study called the CARDIA study that was done published out of UCSF. It was a multi-center large study that studied peoples’ lung function for years, and actually, people who used cannabis had a little bit improved pulmonary dynamics. Like, ability to blow air faster. Some of those dynamics were improved in cannabis users in a large study that was published a number of years ago. But that may not help you in fighting COVID-19. But it could be a question if your bronchial irritation might impair pulmonary toilet. In general, doing everything we can to improve your lung function with a virus that causes severe acute respiratory distress syndrome is important.
I’m still wrapping my head around the phrase “pulmonary toilet.”
[Laughs.] Yeah, I’m sure your readers will enjoy that.
So you do acknowledge that smoking cannabis might be a bad idea right now considering this is a respiratory illness?
In general, smoke, anything that irritates your lungs, in general, if you can minimize that with non-smoke delivery, that’s probably better for your lungs. What’s the threshold where it causes excessive irritation or inflammation? It’s going to vary from person to person. And it’s also the dose and the degree. But I can say there’s a relationship between regular cannabis use and bronchial irritation.
If I smoke a bong regularly, after six months or a year I notice tar builds up in it at every joint all throughout the device—is that tar also going into my lungs?
You know, you are getting exposed to soot. But the difference between your device and your body is your body is alive and has all sorts of internal cleaning systems, so it processes things. They don’t just hang out there, these particles. They get processed. As long as your system is healthy, you’re able to clear things.
And are tobacco smoke and cannabis smoke different in terms of how they affect you?
There’s some data that said that some of the toxins called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are made as combustion byproducts, or things like benzopyrene that are also found in tobacco smoke—those chemicals get cleared from the lungs after smoke exposure gets into the bloodstream. But then it has to get through a conversion process in the liver where it gets turned into a more carcinogenic compound, but it turns out the enzymes that do that are inhibited by cannabinoids. So there could be some pharmacological protective actions of the cannabinoids in protecting against some of the impacts of the smoke on the body’s health. There’s a whole article called “Cannabis and Tobacco Smoke Are Not Equally Carcinogenic” that was published in the Harm Reduction Journal ten or fifteen years ago by Dr. Robert Milimede. These are not simple questions. It’s very complicated. But in general, if your system gets overwhelmed, and your pulmonary toilet is not functioning, you can get some irritation.
Read the entire interview with Dr Aggarwal here
By Dr. Reggie Gaudino, Chief Science Adviser, New Frontier Data, and Ken Kovash, Cannabis Genetics Specialist, G.I. Grow Biomedical Farm
Amid the swirl of information or misinformation being aired and shared regarding the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been discussion about whether cannabinoids — mostly CBD — has the capacity to kill the virus or stop its contagion.
Is there any truth to such claims? If not, what leads people to make or repeat them?
The short answer is that as of now, there is no cure, treatment, or vaccine for the COVID-19 disease from the coronavirus. Does that mean that cannabinoids are completely ineffective against the virus specifically, or against viruses in general? What about things like bacteria and fungus?
First things first: Cannabinoids have been found to be potent antimicrobials, meaning they work well against many types of bacteria and fungus, with the main “killer app” (pun intended) being the demonstration that cannabinoids can fight superbugs like MRSA and many common fungal infections including Candida. It is a well-known concept that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years and is recently supported by modern science and medicine. Second, cannabinoids do help certain types of viral infections. So, everything’s good, right?
Well, no. Unfortunately, a little knowledge is dangerous, and decades of prohibition of foundational investigative research on Cannabis and cannabinoids have bred some misleading assumptions, including some topics covered elsewhere:
- Is CBD an Anti-Viral for Coronavirus, SARS, MERS, and Influenza?
- Is CBD an Anti-Viral Agent for Coronavirus, Influenza, MERS, and SARS Plus Key Antiviral Supplements?
- FALSE: Cannabis ‘kills coronavirus’
Alas, bits and pieces of otherwise very valid cannabis science can be taken out of context and presented in ways that make people jump to conclusions or on bandwagons claiming that cannabinoids are able to cure every variety of illnesses, including the very unfortunate and scary Covid-19 disease. Conversely, relying on incomplete or bad information could potentially prove to be harmful or even lethal if followed as fact.
The truth is that cannabinoids and terpenes are potent small molecules that act by binding and signaling through the G-coupled master protein receptors (GCPR). The GCPR network includes hundreds of receptors that interact to modulate intracellular cascade signaling networks that are responsible for promoting cellular homeostasis or balance. Cannabinoids, terpenes, and hundreds of other phytochemicals interact through the network, triggering different interactions, via the second messenger (or cascade) system, which elicit responses from the pathways that control a number of different important functions in cells. One such function is a buzzword these days: Apoptosis (i.e., programmed cell death) is how our bodies turn over old cells, kill cancer cells, and use other cells such as macrophages and other killer cells to capture invading cells, viruses, or antigens and render them as non-harmful/nonpathogenic.
There are a host of second messenger systems (e.g., cAMP, AKT, AMPK, Mapk, NF-kappaB, notch, tgfB, etc.), each of which has many control proteins that then respond to trigger or affect other pathways/proteins to achieve the necessary outcome. One of these key pathways is tied to inflammation (of which we know CBD is extremely beneficial): as previously alluded to, apoptosis is involved in anything that is necessary to kill diseased cells, including microbial or virally infected cells. While providing a complete review of cannabinoids and second messenger signaling is beyond the scope of this brief article, suffice it to say that cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system are like the proverbial “one ring to rule them all”: The endocannabinoid system, through cannabinoids (plant or endo), interact with every other system in the body via second messenger signaling to bring everything into balance.
So, if cannabinoids do work, what is the issue?
Part of the problem is that in some cases specific cannabinoids can in fact help against certain types of viruses, at least in vitro. Some studies have forwarded claims of efficacy in mice or monkeys. Unfortunately, no such studies have been allowed on humans, and the number of viruses studied were small and very specific to types of viruses that are not the novel coronavirus now causing casualties and concern. The viruses that have been studied include mouse hepatitis C (a betacorona virus), human and simian immunodeficiency virus (HIV or SIV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), and influenza viruses. The silver lining is that certain cannabinoids were in fact found able to inhibit the replication of a betacorona virus (MHV) in vitro, so that should motivate further investigation.
The issue remains that there just is not sufficient information. CBD helps with some viruses, but not all. CBD helps reduce inflammation. Some viruses need and cause systemic inflammation in the process of taking over the hosts and easing their transmission to the next set of cells for infection. For those viruses that need and cause inflammation, CBD may indeed help reduce the severity of infection. Is coronavirus a virus that causes or needs systemic inflammation? The answers are not yet clearly known.
Cannabinoids can also be immunosuppressive. Unfortunately, use of CBD or another cannabinoid which reduces inflammation against a virus that doesn’t need inflammation as a mode of host invasion causes a degree of immunosuppression in the host, ergo making any chances of beating the virus worse. That is a vital problem. So, without further study and understanding of the full route of infection, or more understanding of each and every pathway that cannabinoids trigger (including immunosuppression or inhibition of inflammation) — much less all the potential cross interactions — it is premature and potentially hazardous to assume that all cannabinoids will work the same way and achieve the desired effect, based on the premise that someone might have shown a connection in a petri plate or a monkey that a certain cannabinoid is effective against a certain type of virus.
CBD also has been shown to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes, which exist in the liver and are responsible for metabolizing up to 60% of currently prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. Combined with the fact that many people do not tell their medical practitioners about their use of cannabinoids, and adding pharmaceuticals that may be prescribed by doctors, the potential to have compounds working at odds with each other increases significantly.
Cannabis is an amazing plant, and it is highly likely that methods can be found to trigger the systems as intended, to achieve desired effects; it is also likely that potent antivirals can be found. Cannabis has potential for products effective against viruses, and the very short list of data presented here should be encouraging toward a call for increased cannabis/cannabinoid research on many different medical fronts. That is especially true in the U.S., whose researchers have been hamstrung by cruel restrictions against researching some of the most fascinating set of molecular assets to present themselves to modern medicine. Science just needs to keep looking for answers and follow the proper route toward new drug discovery and evaluation of new medicines.