At first, it was just a nonsensical urban myth that you could prevent Covid-19 with cannabis. A team of scientists in Canada, however, has conducted a study that seems to have found this to be true. The bad news it that rather than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it’s the cannabidiol (CBD) that does the trick. THC gets you stoned, CBD doesn’t.
The story unfolded at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, which has a research licence from Health Canada, the government body that oversees Canada’s federal health policy. Back in April, the study used artificial human 3D tissue models to find that a minimum of 13 cannabis plants contained much CBD and appeared to influence the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2 for short) pathways in the gastrointestinal tract, the kidneys, lung tissue, oral/nasal mucosa and the testes through which Covid-19 gets into the body. The results of the study appeared in the online scientific journal Preprints. They have yet to be peer-reviewed and so are not conclusive.
“We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy”
Interviewed on television, one researcher, Dr Olga Kovalchuk, remarked, “We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy.” Her husband, Igor, a doctor who led the study, compared a cell to a large building. Cannabinoids reduce the number of doors by 73 percent. This could prevent Covid-19. As he told the Calgary Herald, his team’s work might be highly influential: “there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 percent.”
Only 13 out of 400 varieties of cannabis work
Dr Kovalchuk stated on telly that not just any cannabis would do. Only 13 of 400+ varieties of cannabis sativa studied could prevent Covid-19: the ones high in CBD but very low in THC. Her husband added that the team looked at CBD and not THC “because people can take higher doses and not be impaired.”
The team highlighted that there was a need for “further validation in a large-scale analysis and an animal model”, but results did provide hope. When she addressed the Southern Alberta Council of Public Affairs, the female Dr Kovalchuk stated, “The key take-home message is: let’s get fingers crossed.” Cannabis could lower disease susceptibility, making it “a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy.” One way to make use of this benefit of cannabis would be through cannabis mouthwash. The team is looking for more funding in order to continue its sterling efforts because “every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue must be considered.”
In Israel, three clinical trials of CBD are afoot to see whether it repairs cells damaged by Covid-19, being anti-inflammatory. This is treatment and not prevention. Again in Canada, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are exploring cannabis as a vaccine against Covid-19. It looks like cannabis easily beats the drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump that causes serious heart problems but does not treat, never mind prevent, Covid-19.
Header image: Cannabis Reports