How afraid should I be? How seriously should I take the media coverage? Could substances present in cannabis help me through Covid-19? Can other natural substances and freely available drugs help me? We’ve probably all asked ourselves such questions…
Anything new and unknown evokes fear, anxiety and sometimes even panic. On the other hand, if we learn the risks as well as means of protection, we’ll all have a better chance of safeguarding our health and remaining calm.
Where’s the danger?
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 attacks the human body and causes Covid-19, which primarily means impaired immunity. The cells of the immune system stop working properly, leading in rare cases to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The anti-inflammatory effect of THC has been demonstrated in mice.
The symptoms of ARDS include severe shortness of breath and rapid breathing due to low oxygen content in the blood. There is an increased incidence of sepsis (a response to infection) and a high concentration of inflammatory markers in the blood. Patients with these markers often develop double pneumonia, sometimes requiring mechanical lung ventilation. The virus also produces proteins in the body that can, so to say, cleave an iron molecule from the hemoglobin in red blood cells. Red blood cells thus lose their ability to transport oxygen from the lungs.
Can cannabinoids help?
Cannabis can help with Covid-19 – but could also be harmful if delivered by smoking. Smoke contains toxic particles (such as tar) which themselves cause inflammation in lung tissue. Such substances can generally worsen the course of Covid-19.
Smoking aside, current research suggests that terpenes and CBD could be more effective in treating inflammation than corticosteroids. A clinical study was conducted in Israel to find out whether co-administration of CBD would increase the efficacy of steroids administered to patients with Covid-19 infection. CBD treatment turned out to increase the effectiveness of steroids in critically ill patients.
One of the factors that causes death in Covid-19 patients is the “cytokine storm”, resulting from an inadequate immune response. Cytokines are proteins that are part of the normal immune response to infection. They can both suppress and increase the immune response – inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect of THC has been demonstrated in an animal model (mice). This cannabinoid also suppressed the cytokine storm in mice.
Be that as it may, smoking does not help one overcome Covid-19. And the results of experiments on mice cannot be projected onto humans. Whether THC can help people with Covid-19 can only be confirmed objectively by a randomized controlled trial – a clinical scientific study. There would certainly be plenty of volunteers. Nonetheless, it would take a long time before the authorities would allow such a study.
What about other natural substances?
Vitamin C in high doses can help with Covid-19. Mouthwashes containing essential oils and other disinfectants have antiviral effects. Of course, mouthwashes are not a cure, but they can effectively reduce the viral load. However, I certainly do not recommend drinking mouthwash.
A special nebulizer could also be used to inhale CBD or THC, thus eliminating the pitfalls of smoking.
In China, Covid-19 is treated via traditional Chinese medicine – for example, the herbal mixtures Sang Ju Yin and Yu Ping Feng San. There was also a clinical study on the effects of extracts from these plants. The study showed that the duration of the disease was shorter, and the clinical manifestations of Covid-19 were milder.
Another natural substance with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties is propolis, the fragrant substance produced by the honeybee, a mixture of plant resin, beeswax and saliva. Propolis was used in ancient Egypt and Greece. A clinical trial of propolis extract for treating Covid-19 patients was conducted in Brazil. The treatment was evaluated as safe and beneficial and was associated with a reduction in the length of the hospital stay.
Hypertonic saline solution (sold in pharmacies) administered by inhalation also has antiviral effects, it supports the defensive activity of white blood cells and therefore could help against Covid-19. If a device called a nebulizer (a device that produces droplets micrometers in size) were used, the inhalation of microdroplets of a hypertonic saline solution could alleviate the symptoms of Covid-19 much more effectively than a nasal spray. A special nebulizer could also be used to inhale CBD or THC, thus eliminating the pitfalls of smoking.
This pandemic has been a challenge for medicine and pharmacology, but time is on our side. Several vaccines have already been made available globally and the results are very promising. In addition, there are drugs that work directly on Covid-19. One of the effective methods of treatment is the injection of convalescent plasma from cured Covid-19 patients. Large pharmaceutical companies have already started isolating hyperimmune globulins from convalescent plasma.
What is absolutely essential – and something everyone can do themselves – is to observe the basics of good hygiene. I believe that common sense will prevail. The coming months still won’t be easy, and caution will be necessary.
Text: Jiri Pastera
Author is a pharmacist.
Source: Cannabis Therapy Vol. 2
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