After the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals no longer had to wear masks, isolate upon exposure or get tested, a rush of relief and sense of freedom swept across the nation. Now, the Delta variant is seemingly thwarting our efforts at beating this virus. Cases are up, transmissions between both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals are occurring — lawmakers across the Capitol testing positive reminds us that no one is safe– and concerns over vaccine safety continue to surge. The question of whether we will ever again know a life beyond the pandemic lingers on many lips.
New research still in the early stages suggests that our method of COVID-19 treatment and cure could be too pigeon-holed, and that there are other possible alleviations right in front of us.
CBD — which stands for cannabidiol, one of the many chemicals found in cannabis — showed itself to be a potential inhibitor of COVID-19 after a group of human patients who previously took CBD were observed to have significantly lower infection rates than the general population.
According to the study, CBD must contain 0.3% or less of THC — the abbreviation for the psychoactive element in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol — and is extracted from the plant along with other cannabinoids. When consumed, your body metabolizes CBD into two substances — 7-carboxy-cannabidiol (7-COOH-CBD) and 7-hydroxy-cannabidiol (7-OH-CBD). It is this 7-OH-CBD substance that is the possible key to CBD’s COVID-19 potential. The study highlights that the substance 7-OH-CBD is the active ingredient used in epilepsy treatment and, when it comes to COVID-19, an analysis of blood plasma levels revealed, “CBD itself is not present at the levels needed to effectively inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in people.” It’s the metabolite of 7-OH-CBD that is potent enough to potentially inhibit COVID-19 infection.
The most notable effect of 7-OH-CBD is that it could be blocking the most viral part of COVID-19 — the spike protein. For those that haven’t heard this a trillion times since the pandemic began plaguing the globe — SARS-CoV-2 is the respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 responsible for the coronavirus disease that began to take over in 2019 (hence the terms SAR-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are interchangeable but mean the same thing when used). What gives you ‘the rones,’ as all the kids are calling it, are proteins that bind to enzymes, then in turn alter your RNA and enable a viral replication. Suppressing the enzyme receptor ultimately prevents or lessens the viral pathway through your body.
The researchers pose the interferon signaling pathway to be the mechanism behind CBD’s potential ability to minimize viral infection. The study explains that “interferons are among the earliest innate immune host responses to pathogen exposure.” While the virus curbs the interferon signaling pathway, the substances in CBD activate the interferon receptors, both in the presence and in the absence of COVID-19.
The researchers say the potential for CBD to be a COVID-19 preventative agent could be a game changer.
“The substantial reduction in SARS-CoV-2 infection risk of approximately an order of magnitude in patients who took FDA-approved CBD highlights the potential efficacy of this drug in combating SARS-CoV-2 infection,” they write.
The findings of this study are promising, but don’t get too hyped. Not only is this study in the elementary stages, but the vast variety in quality, amount, side effects and past research of CBD formulations currently available leaves this possible COVID-19 remedy a long way from official consideration and exploration.