So many scientists and doctors have been on the path of finding a cure and a more effective vaccine than those already available in the market. Many self-proclaimed experts suggest a number of remedies to help combat the virus. Taking a step in the same direction, an immunologist found the most severe cases of COVID-19 and what caused it, he thought of using Cannabis as a treatment for Covid.
Not just any cannabis, but the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD). Babak Baban, who is an associate dean of research at the University of Augusta’s Dental College of Georgia, is an immunologist who had previously researched the effects that CBD has on other medical conditions associated with inflammation, like melanoma, chronic wounds, and Alzheimer’s.
Cannabis: Not just a high
Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis. The most used and known cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, (THC) (Delta9-THC or Delta8-THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis where Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major constituent of the plant. They contain distinct chemical classes: the classical cannabinoids structurally related to THC, the nonclassical cannabinoids.
Cannabis Sativa is used for medical purposes as it has anti-inflammatory activity. It is used for treating nausea which can appear due to chemotherapy, spasticity, and neuropathic pain. The therapeutic effects of cannabinoids like THC and CBD have been known for a long time. It is no longer a substance that only hippies use to get high.
Your Immune System Needs to Chill
In the summer of 2020, Baban and his team started studying the effects of CBD on cytokine storms and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), the side effects which are causing numerous deaths by a coronavirus. Cytokines are a group of proteins, peptides, or glycoproteins that are released by specific cells of the immune system. A Cytokine storm occurs when various inflammatory cytokines are produced more than the normal rate. These overproduced cytokines cause more immune cells to be deposited at the site of injury which leads to organ damage.
Baban says, “We don’t have many good treatments for viruses, not like we do for infections.” The only tool that we have is our own immune system which is why immunity from viruses is called “cellular immunity.” Baban says that our immune systems are pretty strong but if it gets overloaded, it can do more harm than good. “That’s when we need something that gives the immune system a break. And we know that’s something CBD is useful for,” he says.
Proven Results, that Warrant Further Research
It was found that some of the people who contracted COVID-19 developed cytokine storms or ARDS, and these people are very likely to have serious and sometimes fatal outcomes. Right now, the treatment for cytokine storms is often steroids, which can prove effective but has side effects. This is why using CBD as a treatment in the future, can prove to be more efficient.
Our bodies attack and neutralize pathogens like viruses and bacteria by a process called inflammation. In this situation, when the body detects a foreign pathogen, it releases special cells called macrophages to destroy the viruses. Macrophages are a group of white blood cells called leukocytes that can sometimes contain antigens to T-cells and start an inflammatory response by releasing cytokines.
Many of the researchers have confirmed that CBD is a very good treatment for cytokine storms and ARDS and more research needs to be done before starting clinical trials. While trials are yet to be done, CBD has been useful in treating ulcerative colitis, inflammatory response and has shown promising results. Lab-tested, medical-grade CBD is relatively safe and has minimum side effects compared to other pharmaceuticals, and is also approved for children with intractable epilepsy.
The Food and Drug Association has discovered that most of the CBD products sold at local medicals don’t always have the required amount of CBD and can contain some questionable ingredients. The medical-grade CBD may help in treating Covid-19
The Negotiator in a Shootout
When a person suffers from the SARS-COV-2 virus and is asymptomatic or has mild Covid, the macrophages gather at the infected area and eat it up. The body recognizes that this process is not a daily occurrence and therefore, in order to help fight the virus, antigens are released to the T-cells. The B-cells in the body warn the antibodies so that other cells can also identify the virus and destroy it.
Baban says that when a person has a severe case of Covid, the immune system overreacts and releases too many pro-inflammatory cytokines which cause a cytokine storm. This storm makes it difficult for the lungs to remove the carbon dioxide in the body and to provide sufficient oxygen. He explains this with an analogy about police and a “bad guy”. According to this analogy, the bad guy breaks into a place and the cytokines (the police) call for backup. “The place is surrounded by police in SWAT gear and still they-re calling for more and more backup- when what you actually need is to step back and diffuse the situation,” Baban says. This is why Baban and many other scientists studying cannabis think that CBD would be helpful in interacting with the endocannabinoid system and, in turn, the immune system.
Modulating the immune system is the quality of CBD which made researchers in the United States, Israel, and Canada, investigate the use of CBD in calming the cytokine storms and ARDS since the beginning of the pandemic.
When an experiment was conducted on mice by inducing it with a treatment called Poly (I: C), which created cytokine storm and respiratory distress in the mice it was observed by Baban that all that occurred in a human body while having COVID, occurred in the mice as well. The mice were then injected with CBD and within three to four hours, the condition of the mice improved.
Baban said, “The oxygen came back very quickly, monocytes and neutrophils started approaching normal levels, as did proinflammatory cytokines, and lung structure improved.” If this isn’t good news, we don’t know what is. It was observed that in every case, the damage caused in the mice who received CBD was either partially or totally reversed.
Cannabis is still a taboo in the popular culture and there is a negative connotation attached to the people that use it. But ongoing research has been proving for quite some time, as to how baseless these prejudices are.
If CBD is proven to be effective in the treatment of COVID 19 or any other illness for that matter as preliminary research suggests, then we need to rethink our stance on the plant and the institutions need to correct their course.