For some, it may sound like a dream come true: Could cannabis (marijuana) really be the answer to COVID-19 infections? To others, the research sounds like a prank. However, despite the scrutiny the cannabis plant often receives, it does have medical uses. Recent research suggests certain compounds of the cannabis plant have the potential of reducing deadly lung inflammation in COVID-19 patients.
Inflammation and the Immune System
When the white blood cells in our body detect harmful or foreign stimuli, our body’s immune system starts working to protect us. Our immune response includes inflammation, which increases blood flow—and thus the number of white blood cells—near the threat. Damaged cells also release cytokines, a type of chemical that acts as a beacon, calling in resources to help with the fight.
Our immune reaction does the same when it encounters COVID-19—or at least, it tries to. However, when the deadly virus settles in the lungs, it seems to block cytokine release. Additionally, it triggers the creation of a multitude of inflammatory proteins that affect the lung tissues. By the time cytokines bring in help, it makes things worse: The lungs, already inflamed and hosting dead or dying cells, are only further clogged by the new immune cells that come to help. This is the reason COVID-19 makes it exceptionally hard for some patients to breathe.
Cannabinoids and Inflammation
Cannabinoids, which are naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis Sativa plant, were already known to help with inflammation before COVID-19 hit. You may have heard of CBD—full name Cannabidiol—being pitched as a potential treatment for multiple ailments. The reason? It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A Michigan State University professor of pharmacology and toxicology is currently working with biopharmaceutical company GB Sciences to develop a drug that uses cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory properties to protect the lungs without slowing down the immune system. The team is still searching for the right combination of cannabinoids—there are over 120 in cannabis—that are most effective. Researchers are hopeful they will be able to create a drug that can help people recover from COVID-19 while the pandemic is still raging, and perhaps be adapted to other uses in the future.
No Answers, But a Growing Hope
With the vaccine rollout, Americans are already imagining a return to the workplaces and social events we were forced to surrender during the pandemic. These recent cannabinoid findings also contribute to the hope for a better future. While the vaccines are highly effective, our population will always contain unvaccinated people, whether for medical or other reasons. A drug that could potentially bring people back from the brink during a serious COVID-19 infection would be a game-changer when it came to treatment.
Given the topic of this article, our team feels compelled to specify nothing has been proven so far—and while the scientists behind the project are optimistic, they are not claiming cannabis can or should be used as a treatment for COVID-19. In fact, smoking can harm the lungs, making serious illness more likely. Any medication created with cannabinoids would contain only the relevant—and non-psychoactive—substances from the cannabis plant. Still, given Michigan’s significant “cannabusiness” sector, this discovery could mean good things for our future.
Grewal Law PLLC is your resource on cannabis law. Call us at (888) 211-5798 to see how we can help you.
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not contain medical advice. All information on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Although we strive to be accurate in all our content, you should always speak to your physician or another healthcare provider if you have questions about any medical condition or treatment including those related to COVID-19.