Can CBD help in the fight against Covid?
CBD — the trendy cannabis-derived supplement — may help fight Covid infection, a lab study suggests.
A team of researchers from the University of Chicago found that it was able to neutralize the virus and prevent it from multiplying.
The study was done in mice and in human lung cells — so the scientists say there are no guarantees it will work in the real world.
But they are calling for human clinical trials to explore cannabidiol’s potential anti-covid properties.
During the pandemic, a number of drugs showed promise in lab studies that never translated into clinical trials — including hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir.
The Chicago team also used medical-grade CBD and warned people against self-medicating with ready-to-use products, which are often of low purity.
They found that exposing human lung cells to CBD for two hours before Covid greatly inhibited the virus’ ability to replicate for up to six hours.
A team of researchers found CBD. a compound found in cannabis was able to reduce Covid’s ability to replicate in human cells. In this graph, the effectiveness of various compounds in cannabis is plotted by the percentage of Covid spike proteins found in sampled cells. The farther right on the graph the point is, the higher the concentration, and the lower, the fewer virus spike proteins were found in the cells. Of particular note is that a combination of CBD and THC, the psychoactive part of cannabis, actually reduced its effectiveness compared to pure CBD
The researchers also tested the effectiveness of CBD against a number of Covid variants and were found to work against all tested variants. The variants tested were the original strain (black), the beta variant (orange), Alpha (blue) and gamma (green)
Lead author of the study, Professor Marsha Rosner, said the team now wants to conduct human trials to test the effectiveness of CBD against Covid in the real world.
The team then replicated their findings in two other types of human cells and tested the original Wuhan version of the virus, as well as the Alpha, Beta and Gamma Covid variants.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in cannabis that has medical benefits.
It can be prescribed by the NHS for a small list of conditions, including severe epilepsy, vomiting caused by chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis.
The NHS version cannot get you high as it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the chemical in cannabis that has that effect.
But the health service warns that most cannabis-based products that can be bought online are illegal and may contain THC.
And health food stores selling CBD products only contain very small amounts of the chemical, so it’s unclear what effect it has.
The risks of using cannabis products containing THC include psychosis and drug addiction.
The side effects include loss of appetite, diarrhea and nausea.
The new Omicron variant, which has been responsible for an increase in Covid cases in both the UK and the US, was not tested in the study. Neither was the Delta version of the virus.
The study’s lead author, Professor Marsha Rosner, said the result was completely unexpected.
“We just wanted to know if CBD would affect the immune system,” she said.
“Nobody in their right mind would have ever thought that it blocked viral replication, but that’s what it did.”
The researchers originally wanted to investigate whether CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties could help people recover from the aftermath of Covid infection before finding the surprising result.
Further tests on mice showed that pretreating the rodents with CBD suppressed infection in both the lungs and nasal passages of the animals prior to exposure to Covid.
Professor Rosner said: ‘These results provide important support for a clinical trial of CBD in humans, she said.
She added that if proven effective, she would envision CBD as a prophylactic treatment for Covid, something a person would take if they had been exposed to the virus in an effort to reduce their chances of getting sick.
Inspired to investigate further, the team also found that people who took CBD medications to help prevent epilepsy were less likely to contract Covid than the rest of the population.
Analyzing data from a national US study, they found that a cohort of 1,200 patients taking oral CBD medications for epilepsy were less likely to contract Covid compared to their non-medicinal equivalents.
However, the authors have insisted that CBD does not consider the replacement vaccination the “first line of defense” against Covid and have urged the public to continue to follow the advice of public health authorities.
Professor Rosner added that the effect observed in the studies was only for high-purity CBD, generally only available as a prescription drug.
“Going to your corner bakery and buying CBD muffins or gummy bears probably won’t do you any good,” she said.
In a further blow to anyone thinking of smoking marijuana in an effort to fight Covid, the team also found that THC, the part of the cannabis plant with psychoactive properties, actually reduced CBD’s effectiveness against the virus.
Professor Rosner said the team was excited about CBD’s potential to help fight the Covid pandemic, but added that more research needed to be done.