Due to the absence of effective antiviral drugs and vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be one of the most difficult challenges faced by healthcare systems across the globe. Various research studies have shown that cytokine storms, resulting in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), are one of the leading causes of deaths in severe COVID-19 cases. Amid the struggle to find a suitable treatment, scientists have discovered that cannabidiol or CBD might act as a therapeutic agent against COVID-19.
In a recent study, published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine on 15 October 2020, it was concluded that CBD may help in decreasing and reversing the lung damage caused due to COVID-19 infection. CBD is a key ingredient derived from the cannabis plant, which is known to reduce pain and inflammation.
COVID-19 virus and cytokine storm
Whenever any foreign microorganism attacks the body, the immune system gets activated and deploys cytokines (inflammatory cells) against the microorganism, resulting in inflammation at the site of the fight. But when the immune system becomes hyperactive, it releases cytokines in large numbers, leading to hyper inflammation. This is also known as a cytokine storm and can result in cell death and organ damage.
Due to this overactive immune system, the lungs fail to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide and also become inefficient at providing oxygen to the body. This helps the virus multiply at a rapid rate in the lungs, thus resulting in respiratory conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
ARDS is a type of respiratory failure, where fluid builds up in the alveoli (tiny air sacs) of the lungs.
CBD reduces and reverses the damage caused by COVID-19 induced ARDS
In July 2020, scientists from the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia designed a safe and relatively inexpensive model which duplicates the lung damage caused by ARDS. The model was formed with the help of synthetic analog (artificial compound) of double-stranded RNA called POLY (I:C).
Generally, in our body, the double-stranded DNA carries genetic information, while the single-stranded RNA helps make certain proteins. However, in the case of coronavirus, the double-stranded RNA carries the genetic material and hijacks the cells of our body to multiply itself.
In the study, the scientists gave the dose of POLY (I:C) to the mice once a day intranasally, for three days. These mice showed classic signs of ARDS (difficulty breathing, low blood pressure) along with an overactive immune response.
Then these mice were given a shot of CBD in their abdomen, two hours after the second day of receiving POLY (I:C) and then again on Day 4 and Day 6.
It was found that CBD improved the clinical symptoms instantly. Furthermore, it improved the levels of oxygen significantly and reduced the levels of inflammation-promoting cytokines. Detailed examination showed that CBD reversed the damage caused to the lungs, such as tissue overgrowth, scarring and swelling, partially or totally.
CBD reduces lung damage by increasing the levels of apelin
In a recent study, the same group of scientists also discovered the reason behind the effectiveness of CBD in reducing lung damage.
The study stated that during the viral infection, the levels of apelin reduced significantly. Apelin is a peptide, which is made by cells of the heart, lung, brain, fat tissue and blood. It works along with ACE-2 in maintaining blood pressure and also reduces inflammation. Generally, in the case of ARDS, apelin should have increased in the areas of the lungs which showed high inflammation, thus improving blood and oxygen flow. However, in the afore-mentioned ARDS model, apelin levels dropped close to zero in the lungs and blood.
But when the scientists gave CBD to the mice, apelin levels increased by 20 times. It was further noted that with the increase in the levels of apelin, lung function improved significantly.
With these studies, the scientists concluded that CBD can be helpful in treating and reversing the damage caused to the lungs due to COVID-19. However, further research needs to be done to confirm and utilise these findings.
For more information, read our article on Hemp seed oil.
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