We have heard about a multitude of possible treatments, preventative measures, and remedy-hopefuls for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic. These have ranged from basic supplements like Vitamin C and Zinc to existing pharmaceuticals such as Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine . Early on, a report on Fox News suggested that cannabis can help to fortify an immune response to the virus. And this list goes on and on. The list is so long that Wikipedia even has a full-page article dedicated to a list of unproven methods against COVID-19 .
However, now—courtesy of cutting-edge research being conducted at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada—the above cannabis claim can now boast of something the other would-be preventions, remedies, and cures cannot… having some evidence. While it is still too early to make broad, unsupported claims about cannabis being the miracle COVID-killer we are hoping for, these (figurative) Cannabis clouds do seem to possess a modest yet (potentially) hopeful silver-lining. The key comes in the way cannabinoids interact with ACE2 receptors.
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Researchers know that in order for Covid-19 to make a cozy AirBNB out of your unsuspecting body, the virus must first come in contact with an internal “receptor” within your body. In the case of Coronavirus, this receptor is called Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2, for short. ACE2 can be found in lung tissue, inside oral and nasal mucus, in the kidneys, testes, and gastrointestinal tracts. To complete the metaphor, think of ACE2 as the hide-a-key location for your biological AirBNB; without binding to ACE2, Coronavirus cannot get in the front door (let alone, make itself cozy).
Dr. Igor Kovalchuck, Biological Sciences professor at the University of Lethbridge, cannabis researcher and co-founder of Inplanta Biotechnology, leads the study. “The results on COVID-19 came from our studies on arthritis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, and others,” he says.
Instead of focusing on Cannabis strains with high-THC content (THC is the compound found within the cannabis plant that is responsible for the drug’s psychoactive and euphoric effects), researchers at the University of Lethbridge have focused on strains with significant levels of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is the other main chemical found in cannabis, and also the one primarily responsible for the plant’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
Preliminary research suggests that certain chemicals within CBD help to modulate ACE2 levels in the human host, making it more difficult for the virus to find its beloved receptor. As a result, it may be possible to lower the susceptibility to Coronavirus, therefore reducing the overall risk of infection. While the studies still need to undergo peer-review, the results so far look promising. Kovalchuck’s team has developed over 800 new high-CBD strains of cannabis, and among those, identified thirteen extracts which they say modulate ACE2 levels.
“If there’s no ACE2 on tissues, the virus will not enter,” offers Kovalchuck.
In his blog at greenbridgemed.com , Dr. Allan Frankel, MD, a leading advocate for scientifically-backed medicinal cannabis treatment, remains cautiously optimistic about the notorious plant’s ability to block Coronavirus. Dr. Frankel cautions, “there is no strong, solid evidence that cannabis is likely to be directly effective against COVID-19. Although there is an abundance of data verifying that CBD kills many various bacteria, CBD does not at this point show any anti-viral activity.”
Dr. Frankel does believe that patients with asthma or reactive airways can benefit significantly from CBD, regardless of whether they are battling a Coronavirus infection. He also notes CBD’s anxiety-reducing abilities as something that may provide relief to specific individuals. “However,” he warns, “one must be aware that the bulk of CBD tinctures in the marketplace are either hemp-based or manufactured, and sorely lacking in anything other than low-concentrate CBD distillate or isolate. These are all completely void of the many terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids crucial to a true medical-grade whole-plant cannabis tincture. Additionally, for these lesser quality products, the dose would be considerably greater than that of a whole-plant cannabis product.”
In a CBD industry that remains largely unregulated, one way to know for sure that you’re getting a medical-grade, whole-plant (full-spectrum or broad-spectrum) product like the ones recommended by Dr. Frankel is by sourcing your CBD from companies such as Botanicam (botanicam.com). Botanicam has done all of the research and leg-work to assure that all products they offer are genuinely full-spectrum or broad-spectrum, all-natural, gluten, and cruelty-free, and contain no harmful additives. In addition, all products sold by Botanicam have been independently tested by third-party laboratories, with individual batch test-results available for every product. Freely available test results provide full-transparency into what goes into (and doesn’t go into) every product sold by Botanicam, including the total amounts of each compound.
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An Article By David Glassner
After over a decade as Marketing Director for Sony Pictures, David Glassner switched gears to join MedMen—one of the original seed-to-sale, multi-state operators working within the emerging industrial Cannabis space—as their Senior Technical Writer. David now consults throughout the cannabis space writing marketing materials, technical documents, policies, and procedures.