Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an acute resolved disease that shook the world with its mortality rate of ~ 3.7%. It is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The leading cause of COVID-19 mortality is respiratory failure due to acute respiratory distress syndrome.
The way this disease progresses is often characterized by a two-phase immune response. The first phase is to eliminate the virus and to prevent disease from progressing to a more severe stage. Therefore, having an increased immune response during this first stage is critical.
The second phase is usually associated with a cytokine storm syndrome which is virally-induced. In the cytokine storm syndrome levels of several small proteins that play an important role in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells ( cytokines) are elevated. Lung cells release several cytokines including IL-6 and IL-8 having a proinflammatory effect.
Effect of Cannabis on COVID-19
Cannabis sativa L. has been one of the oldest medicinal plants cultivated for 10,000 years for several agricultural, industrial & pharmaceutical applications. Cannabis has several chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have exhibited numerous potential benefits against various physical and psychological illnesses & disorders.
Why Cannabis may benefit COVID-19 patients:
- Cannabinoids exhibit anti-inflammatory effects
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in the hemp plant. Cannabinoids like CBGA, CBDA and CBD help control the cytokine, which further helps reduce inflammation of lungs - a common symptom in COVID-19 patients.
- Cannabinoids have an immunosuppressive effect
The body’s immune system helps fight off infections that cause illness. But during infections like COVID-19, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. Cannabis is a natural Immunosuppressant that may help to slow down this response.
- Cannabis may help prevent the spread of COVID-19
Cannabinoid acids - CBGA, and CBDA bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, disrupting the process the virus uses to infect people. This helps keep the infection in control.
- Cannabis may help with comorbid illnesses
COVID-19 is a physical disease, however, it has affected people mentally as well. Numerous people suffering from COVID-19 reported to suffer extreme mental distress, anxiety & depression. This further affected the patients diet, sleep cycle and interpersonal relationships.
CBD is a cannabinoid that has shown promising results against mental disorders by maintaining homeostasis & calming the mind.
Everything said, further evidence-based clinical studies are still needed to determine the efficacy and safe dosage of cannabis extracts for treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Pharmacological research coupled with rapidly evolving genome-based biotechnology will further facilitate exploring cannabis plants for tremendous potential in drug-discovery.