CBD-rich hemp extract prevents COVID-19 infection?

The findings of the study, published on 19 April 2020 on Preprints.org, indicate that CBD-rich hemp extract modulates the function of ACE2 receptors. ACE2 receptors are a specific 'gateway' for coronavirus through which these viruses enter cells.

The study in question was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Canada and was conducted under licence and supervision of the Department of Health Canada.

Scientific team composition: Bo Wang, Anna Kovalchuk, Dongping Li, Yaroslav Ilnytskyy, Igor Kovalchuk and Olga Kovalchuk.

The research work was conducted with a view to finding new methods of preventing and treating COVID-19 infection.

Read in: 4 minute(s)

Update: 30.06.2021

How does the COVID-19 infection prevention mechanism work?

The modulation of ACE2 receptors by Cannabis Sativa hemp extracts is based on the effect of these preparations on gene expression and the level (amount) of ACE2 enzymes on the cell surface. Preliminary data also indicated an effect of hemp extracts with CBD on the amount of TPRSS2 enzymes, another key protein for SARS-CoV2 entry into cells.

Importantly, most ACE2 enzymes are found in lung tissue, nasal and oral mucous membranes, kidneys, testes and the gastrointestinal tract.

The researchers indicated that further large-scale studies are necessary and that the results so far are very promising in the context of supplementation to support the therapy and treatment of patients with previously approved methods.

The described mechanism of action may mean that the use of appropriate CBD hemp extracts can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

However, it cannot rule it out because it is likely that coronavirus variants can also enter cells via other routes, i.e. via receptors other than ACE2.

CBD extract - which varieties have been used?

This was not disclosed by the researchers. Probably due to safeguarding their scientific and life interests. The conclusions indicate that approximately 800 varieties of cannabis Sativa were studied, from which the scientists prepared the extracts used during the laboratory tests.

Of the prepared extracts, as many as 13 with high CBD content showed the modulatory properties mentioned above.

What we know for sure today is that supplements rich in cannabinoids including CBD show strong anti-inflammatory properties (CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and consequently preparations that contain it have such properties). It was this characteristic of cannabidiol that was the main reason why scientists decided to subject CBD-rich strains to testing for their use in the treatment of a viral infection known as COVID-19.

As Olga Kovalchuk points out on the Harvard.edu website, the effectiveness of hemp ectract in blocking cell access for viruses was as high as 70%. She described it vividly as follows:

"Imagine that human cells are buildings with many doors. Cannabinoids reduce by about 70% the number of available doors, and this means that access to the inside of the cell is made much more difficult."

Confirmation of these revelations in further studies including clinical trials will give a clear signal that cannabinoid supplementation helps maintain health by increasing resistance to infection.

If blocking access of viruses and bacteria to the inside of cells does not mean higher immunity, minimising the risk of infection and supporting the maintenance of the body's health, then what would the mechanism of action have to be for this to be the case?

What don't we know about the sources of extracts' effectiveness against COVID-19?

coronavirus and cbd extract

Firstly, and as I have already mentioned, we do not know which specific varieties have been identified as potentially the most effective. High CBD content is found in many Cannabis Sativa varieties.

Secondly, we know nothing about the method that was used to prepare the CBD extracts. Supercritical CO2 extraction is widely acknowledged to be the best method available, but whether this was the one used by the Canadian researchers we do not know today. CBD extract is the essence of plant cannabinoids and is added, for example, to hemp seed oil to form a preparation known as cbd hemp oil or simply cbd oil.

Thirdly, the conclusions do not mention the content and possible role of terpenes, which, as we know, also exhibit health-promoting properties and whose co-occurrence in the plant and extracts is related to the occurrence of synergistic effects.

Fourthly, we know nothing about the levels of other cannabinoids e.g. THC in the extracts tested. 'High CBD content' is mentioned, while the levels of other exogenous plant cannabinoids have been kept silent at this stage. This, too, has to do with the synergistic effect - cannabinoids in a group act differently than each of them individually.

Fifthly, we do not know what concentration CBD and other compounds (cannabinoids, terpenes) had the extracts used in the studies or what quantities would be effective for human studies.

Sixth, as I mentioned earlier, we do not know if ACE2 receptors are the only route for viral variants into the cell. Probably not.

Other studies indicating the antiviral efficacy of CBD (including against SARS-CoV-2)

An in vitro study published on NCBI on 10 March 2021, so just over three months ago, confirms the antiviral efficacy of cannabidiol. This study used CBD from three different suppliers applied to live human lung cells prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We know for sure that these cells are equipped with ACE-2 receptors, which, as I mentioned, provide a site for the virus to enter the cell.

CBD was effective in inhibiting virus replication showing a stronger antiviral effect than the other two chemicals used in the study for comparison.

Incidentally, it was possible to see that the growth of other viruses was blocked, which demonstrates the even broader antiviral potential of cannabidiol.

What is particularly interesting the highest efficacy had CBD of origin in 100% natural from a formulation in which the other cannabinoids (including THC) were present at concentrations below 1% (sample C in the graphic below). Obviously, all standards for an accurate comparative analysis were maintained.

It is worth noting that the antiviral efficacy of cannabidiol was demonstrated with zero it and its companion cell toxicity. The only caveat the researchers pointed out in their conclusions was the issue of combining CBD with THC in a 1:1 ratio, which reduced the antiviral efficacy of CBD.

This means that ordinary intoxicating recreational cannabis, in which the predominant cannabinoid is THC, may have no antiviral effect at all.

Antiviral properties of cbd against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses

The researchers highlighted the convenience of cannabinoids compared to other antiviral drugs considered to be effective. They also stressed the need for further studies this time in vivo to confirm the efficacy of CBD in living organisms.

What does this research mean for cbd oil users?

In the light of the above scientific reports, it can be concluded that the use of certain cbd oils, i.e. supplementation with plant cannabinoids from hemp sativa, can minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection. CBD hemp oils are, of course, CBD extract combined with a carrier oil.

More broadly, cannabinoids and extracts CBD can increase the body's overall resistance to infection by blocking the 'door' by which pathogens enter cells.

Larger-scale clinical trials are still needed to unequivocally confirm what already seems almost certain. In science as in science - at any moment there could be a twist and new information that changes the way we view the opportunity that lies ahead.

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Wang, B.; Kovalchuk, A.; Li, D.; Ilnytskyy, Y.; Kovalchuk, I.; Kovalchuk, O. In Search of Preventative Strategies: Novel Anti-Inflammatory High-CBD Cannabis Sativa Extracts Modulate ACE2 Expression in COVID-19 Gateway Tissues. Preprints 2020, 2020040315 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0315.v1).

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