A team of researchers and scientists at the University of Chicago have found evidence that CBD can inhibit COVID-19 in both mice and human cells. However, researchers have warned consumers that over-the-counter CBD products will not offer these levels of protection. Therefore, CBD manufacturers and retailers should be cautious about promoting this benefit, when marketing their products.
Dr. Marsha Rosner, a senior researcher in the study said, “No one in their right mind would have ever thought that it [CBD] blocked viral replication, but that’s what it does.” Since these results, Dr. Rosner’s team have concluded that they now look forward to conducting human clinical trials, focusing on CBD’s effects on COVID-19. According to the team, this is the only way to establish whether or not CBD can actually help inhibit the infection.
So far, this seems like good news, as more treatment options could stand to benefit the world at large. However, CBD enthusiasts and consumers alike shouldn’t expect this benefit from their usual dose of CBD – no matter how high. This is due to the fact that Dr. Rosner and her colleagues use a specially formulated, high-strength dose in their studies; one that isn’t accessible to the general public.
What do the studies say?
In March 2021, Dr. Rosner’s research group published a pre-peer-reviewed study. In this, they hypothesised that epilepsy patients treated with Epidiolex, a prescribed form of CBD, were up to ten times less likely to contract COVID-19. This year, the team expanded on it, publishing a study in the Science Advances journal last week.
Here, they observed a certain pattern in a national sample of medical records. According to the study, patients who took Epidiolex for epilepsy showed a significant negative association with positive COVID tests. Therefore, the group moved to explore how CBD interacted with the virus. Originally, and according to Dr. Rosner, the group thought that CBD interacted with the second phase of COVID, via the immune system. However, the results showed a completely different outcome. “Surprisingly, it directly inhibited viral replication in the cells,” Dr. Rosner said.
Also read: CBD oil for epilepsy: How does it help?
To conduct this experiment, Dr. Rosner’s team treated human lung cells with CBD for two hours. Then, they exposed these cells to the COVID-19 virus, before monitoring the cells for the virus. Here, they were looking for the viral spike protein – the factor that often triggers a positive test result. However, the researchers quickly discovered that when treated with high concentrations of CBD, the compound could inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. So far, this seems to be the case not only for the original strain, but for three separate COVID variants.
Further research showed that CBD did not completely block the virus from entering the system. However, it could function to block replication – a factor that was observed in their study in live animals. Here, researchers pre-treated mice with CBD for a week, before infecting them with COVID-19. They then concluded that CBD was effective at suppressing infection in both the nasal passages and the lungs of the subjects in question.
What happens next?
Despite the positive results, Dr. Rosner’s team knows that one thing is for certain – more research is needed. Human clinical trials will help support these results, and properly establish whether CBD could be an ally in the fight against COVID-19. “We think this may have potential as a prophylactic treatment,” Dr. Rosner said.
However, CBD enthusiasts should err on the side of caution, and not attempt to treat COVID-19 with CBD at home. According to the study results, other, closely related cannabinoids did not have the same power as CBD, when it came to suppressing the infection. Furthermore, scientists mentioned that combining CBD with THC could reduce its efficacy in treating COVID-19. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the team is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to launch clinical trials.
Dr. Rosner highlighted the importance of CBD as a potential treatment, saying, “Determining whether this generally safe, well-tolerated and non-psychoactive cannabinoid might have antiviral effects against COVID-19 is of critical importance.”
You may also like to read: Will Covid-19 lead to cannabis legalisation in the UK?