Researchers in at least three countries are conducting studies to see if cannabis can be used as a treatment for coronavirus.
Last week, it was announced that the Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation Center in Haifa, Israel, is preparing to start clinical trials on patients with COVID-19. The focus of the study at this time will be to examine if cannabis can reduce the inflammation process.
“Based on experimental data, we hypothesize that cannabis may affect the cytokine storm which occurs during COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Louria-Hayon, the lead researcher on the project.
Cytokines are “communication molecules” released by white blood cells when they feel there’s an invasion in the body. A flood of them can result in severe inflammation which can lead to death.
“We hope that by decoding the cannabinoid activity mechanisms during the inflammatory storms, we can treat COVID-19 patients where conventional drugs have failed,” he said.
Although the studies in Israel are the most recent, this is not the first time the medical community has looked to cannabis as a possible treatment for coronavirus. In May, it was reported that Canadian scientists believe they have found strong strains of cannabis that might prevent or treat COVID-19 infections.
Researchers at the University of Lethbridge did a study in April which showed that at least 13 cannabis plants, which were high in CBD, seemingly affected the ACE2 pathways. These are the receptors that coronavirus uses to access the body. “We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy,“ said Olga Kovalchuk, one of the researchers.
Igor Kovalchuk, Olga’s husband and also a researcher on the study, suggested cannabis treatment could reduce the virus entry points by up to 70 percent.
At the University of Maryland School of Medicine, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, Ciaran Skerry, is investigating whether CBD has an antiviral effect on cells infected with COVID-19. He and his team are using a CBD formula to observe interactions between the cannabis compound and the virus. This study is building on the work of the aforementioned Canadian research.
Finally, in Florida, the University of Miami is studying the effects of coronavirus on medicinal cannabis users. The research team has stated that a large portion of medical cannabis users have compromised immune systems in one way or another. They want to document how this portion of the population is doing as the pandemic reaches its peak in the United States.
To date, there are more than 9,000,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide.