There may be a correlation between CBD and preventing COVID-19 infections – pending further research.
Encouragingly, more than 7.3 billion vaccine doses have also been administered in just under 12 months, with 52% of the world’s population receiving at least one dose so far.
However no one treatment is fully effective, so there’ll always be a need to take wide-ranging preventative measures to reduce the risk of infection while the pandemic is ongoing.
Several medical research studies since the pandemic began have explored whether cannabinoids – of which there are at least 113 in the Cannabis sativa plant – could treat COVID-19.
One of the most interesting is a recent study by Nguyen LC, Yang D, Nicolaescu V, et al. focused on CBD, also known as cannabidiol.
Entitled Cannabidiol Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 Replication and Promotes the Host Innate Immune Response, it’s a 2021 preprint aiming to answer an intriguing question…
Could CBD prevent COVID-19 infections?
In this article we’ve provided a summary of the results and what this means for CBD and coronavirus in the future.
What happened in the study?
The research took place at the University of Chicago Medical Center and involved 93,000 patients.
They were first tested for COVID-19, with 10% testing positive.
Approximately 400 of the 93,000 patients had some form of cannabinoid in their medical record. This could include CBD, another cannabinoid, or a combination of cannabinoids.
Only 5.7% of these 400 or so patients tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 10% of the overall 93,000 sample.
Interestingly, only 1.2% tested positive of the 85 patients taking CBD specifically, but no other cannabinoid – compared to 7.1% of the 113 patients taking other cannabinoids.
However, to check whether factors such as age, sex, race and so on could have contributed towards the results, the researchers went one step further.
The study involved matching 82 patients who had been prescribed medically approved CBD called Epidiolex before COVID-19 testing, to patients who showed no history of taking any cannabinoids but had similar characteristics such as age, gender and records of other medications in the two years before COVID-19 testing.
Again, only 1.2% of the 82 patients taking CBD tested positive for COVID-19 (the same as in the previous phase), compared to 12.2% amongst the other non-CBD taking 82 patients.
Could CBD prevent COVID-19 infections?
These results suggest there is a correlation between using CBD and a decreased risk of COVID-19 positivity, at the early stages of infection.
Explanations for this include:
- Interferon pathway induction – interferons are potential COVID-19 treatments
- Cytokine activation suppression – to prevent cytokine storms in the lungs
- CBD demonstrating antiviral properties and protecting against overactive immune systems
Furthermore, the researchers believe CBD would also be effective against virus variants.
They also note how, if CBD is considered as a potential means of preventing COVID-19 in the future, it has several advantages.
It is widely available through legal means, can be taken in different ways and does not require an injection from a medical professional.
However, something which would need to be addressed is the disparity in quality across the CBD market.
Some brands are, whether intentionally or not, mislabelling their products in the UK.
When buying CBD products we always recommend only buying from providers with a good reputation and checking their third-party lab certificates.
Regarding CBD and coronavirus, potential issues caused by mislabelling could include products:
- Containing less cannabidiol than advertised and not enough to be effective
- Not containing any cannabidiol at all in some cases
- Containing THC
In terms of CBD and coronavirus, the researchers also point out that THC may weaken cannabidiol’s antiviral effectiveness against COVID-19.
As mentioned earlier, patients taking other cannabinoids, which may have included the cannabinoid THC, were more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those taking CBD only.
Could CBD protect against other viruses?
The study also raises the possibility of CBD being used to treat other new viruses which may come into existence in the future.
According to the report:
“The ability of CBD to inhibit replication of MHV raises the possibility that CBD may have efficacy against new pathogenic viruses arising in the future.”
MHV refers to mouse hepatitis virus. In an earlier phase of the study, the researchers found that CBD can also suppress MHV, which is a ‘betacoronavirus’.
CBD and coronavirus – more research required
To truly determine whether CBD could treat COVID-19, or any other pathogenic viruses, the researchers recommend further studies.
Recommendations for further research include:
- Testing the best method for patients to take CBD
- Defining the required CBD concentrations and formulations
- Placebo-controlled clinical trials instead of preclinical studies based on animals
They “strongly caution” against assuming that CBD, in its current formulations, is already an effective preventative or treatment for COVID-19, until results can be analysed from further, thorough, randomised clinical trials.
Cannabinoids other than CBD and coronavirus – new research
While research is still in early stages, other compounds in cannabis could potentially also help prevent coronavirus infections.
Recently, a promising study has suggested that other cannabinoids could also be effective in preventing COVID infections.
Researchers affiliated with Oregon State university found that two cannabinoid acids found in hemp varietals of cannabis – CBDA and CBGA – could bind to the COVID spike protein.
This protein is key to helping the virus fuse with human cells and cause infection. By binding to the spike these cannabinoids, it is said, can block the virus’s entry to cells and prevent illness.
Researchers admitted that the concentration of cannabinoids needed to stop infection was high. However, the required doses do seem possible, as these compounds are bioavailable and have a long history of safe use in humans.
They were also equally effective against two different COVID variants – showing exciting possibilities for the use of cannabinoids in fighting COVID-19.
Summary: CBD and coronavirus
According to the study’s results, patients taking CBD are potentially much less likely to test positive for COVID-19.
The researchers have hypothesised therefore that CBD could perhaps help prevent infection from COVID-19.
Intriguingly, they also raise the possibility of CBD being effective to treat other pathogenic viruses.
Before any of this can be officially recognised though, more research is required.