The Latest Research on CBD and Covid-19
If there is one constant that has been around us for the last two years, that’s Covid-19. Since the beginning of 2020, the world has been forced to live with a coronavirus that can cause severe lung and organ damage and even death.
Vaccines have helped put a brake on Covid-19’s spread and negative impact on people’s lives. Breakthrough infections are getting more common, however, particularly as the Omicron variant becomes dominant. While vaccinated people seem to escape the worst consequences of SARS-CoV-2, they can still feel ill and uncomfortable.
The scientific community is looking for effective and helpful drugs and medication that could support the body when an infection starts. Given the number of studies confirming CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities , scientists at the University of Chicago performed a series of experiments in Petri dishes with cannabidiol. To their great surprise, they found that CBD could inhibit the reproduction of the virus in cells.
It should be stressed that research is still preliminary and has only been verified in Petri dishes and mice. Assuming that large-scale clinical trials confirm these positive findings in humans, we will have more knowledge regarding CBD’s potential as an effective tool against Covid-19 and, perhaps, other viral infections.
What Did the University of Chicago Scientists Find?
When pathogens such as bacteria and viruses enter the body, they trigger an immune response that includes inflammation. Inflammation is the process by which your body releases white blood cells and activates various mechanisms to protect you from further infection. As part of that response, the immune system sends out its first responders: inflammatory cells and cytokines—substances that stimulate more inflammatory cells.
Covid-19 has been shown to cause a so-called cytokine storm, also called “cytokine storm syndrome” (CSS), in the latter stages of infection . The body’s immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is hyperactive, resulting in an excessive inflammatory reaction. Severely ill patients tend to have a high concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-6, compared to those who are moderately ill. The high level of cytokines also indicates a poor prognosis for COVID-19 .
Previous research  has already indicated that CBD can act like a Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) and prevent the cytokine growth that causes inflammation.
The University of Chicago researchers experimented with CBD because of CBD’s known anti-inflammatory properties. They published their research in January 2022 .
The researchers expected CBD to help regulate the inflammation response and, hopefully, prevent the cytokine storm, thus acting like a typical NSAID. Instead, they came across findings that were highly promising—but in a totally unexpected way.
CBD Can Inhibit the Reproduction of CBD in Cells
The way most viruses work is by replicating themselves in human cells. If they can’t do that, they slowly die out.
Trials on Petri dishes showed that CBD managed to stop the reproduction of the virus in cells.
Interestingly, the findings showed that CBD stopped the virus replication during the early stages of infection. This was unexpected, as the scientists thought CBD would be able to work better at the latter stages of infection.
Intrigued by the initial findings, the scientists repeated the experiment with mice. Even with a low CBD dose, CBD decreased the viral load in the lungs and nasal passages of the infected mice. The infected mice recovered from Covid-19 more easily compared to the untreated mice.
While CBD did not stop the infection, it appears to have inhibited the replication of the virus. That’s a very promising result. If confirmed in humans, it would mean that CBD may help at the very early stages of infection, even within hours.
Other Cannabinoids Can Prevent the Virus from Entering the Cells
Researchers went a step further and tested other cannabinoids for their efficiency against SARS-CoV-2.
Hemp contains hundreds of cannabinoids, of which CBD is the most abundant. However, there are many other cannabinoids like CBDA, CBCA, CBG, CBN, and THC. Each of these has its own potentially helpful properties.
The study showed that CBCA and CBDA could bind to the coronavirus spike protein and stop the virus from actively entering the cells. That means that combining CBD with CBCA and CBDA could potentially stop the infection and prevent the replication of the virus even if it managed to break into cells.
A further interesting finding was that CBD performed less well when combined with THC. It would appear that THC lessened CBD’s potential as an anti-viral. This suggests that marijuana consumption may be unable to help with Covid-19. Again, though, more concrete research is required.
How Else Can CBD Help Me?
Living through a pandemic is difficult and stressful. It can be very challenging to manage work and home, usually at the same time and from the same location, and quite often with children demanding our constant attention. Work conditions have changed, jobs have been lost, and previous equilibriums have been upended. It is no wonder that people feel stressed and anxious about their well-being and overall quality of life.
Pandemic anxiety has led many people to CBD as a more natural way to combat their fears. Sleep problems and displaced life patterns have encouraged many to experiment with CBD.
CBD is a botanical product, which ties in well with the recent demand for natural, environment-friendly remedies and compounds that can help people with everyday worries. Since CBD has become more widespread and mainstream, more people experiment with it at such a demanding time.
According to research , 8 million Britons were taking CBD during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. Most of them were taking CBD for pain management purposes but a full 21% took CBD for insomnia and 19% to help with anxiety. The CBD market in 2020 increased by 50% compared to 2019, which was a record expansion.
A World Health Organization study  has concluded that CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential and that it may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions. It also found that CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile and there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems. As for side effects, the WHO study concluded that the reported adverse effects may be the result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications rather than something intrinsic to CBD.
While all this increases the appeal of CBD to people looking for healthy, unprocessed products to support their health, there was little to indicate that CBD may actively combat Covid-19 or prevent infection until now.
Should I Take CBD for Covid-19?
While the University of Chicago research is promising, it doesn’t mean that people should run to buy CBD off the shelves. This is for a number of reasons.
Medical CBD formulation and CBD Dosage
For one, there is the question of dosage. The CBD used during the trials was medical-grade CBD of specific purity and formulated for this particular trial. Off-the-shelf CBD gummies and edibles may be unable to match these very precise conditions.
Also, the findings are preliminary and it is too soon to extrapolate any CBD dosage for Covid-19 infection. Keep in mind that the NHS has not issued an official recommended dosage for CBD for any health issue or condition.
Don’t Forego Your Vaccination
In their conclusions, the researchers mentioned their fear that their study would make people take CBD rather than follow proven solutions like vaccination and social distancing.
It is always good that we are looking into the many possibilities of industrial hemp. CBD may have a number of significant health benefits, helping fend off inflammation, pain, depression, anxiety, and nausea, among others. Therefore, it is particularly exciting that the medical community tested not just CBD but also other cannabinoids as well.
However, and until we know more, CBD is not yet a tool to fight Covid-19.
CBD is a Supplement, Not Medication
CBD is sold as a supplement, not medication. As a result, the CBD market is still relatively unregulated in the UK and globally. A 2019 study by the Centre for Medical Cannabis found that 38% of the tested products had less than 50% of the advertised CBD content and one CBD oil had no CBD at all! Also, one tested oil had ethanol levels that could qualify it as an alcoholic product. Solvents and heavy metals were detected in other CBD oil products.
For CBD to become a drug for Covid-19, we need to regulate its dosage and purity and streamline it according to safe practices, similar to the ones followed by producers of pharmaceutical products.
If you want to be sure about the CBD product you are buying, look out for a Certificate of Analysis (CoA), which all reputable brands carry to help ensure consumers that their products are clean, pure, and contain the CBD percentage promised.
Finally, choose a CBD brand that doesn’t promise to cure Covid-19. When CBD producers make extravagant health claims, they are in breach of the law. Even worse, they are misleading consumers. We are still studying CBD’s potential and a single clinical trial on Petri dishes and mice does not qualify as proof of its efficacy.
CBD for Covid-19: Promising Results
Having said that, the latest study does suggest that CBD may be able to help with Covid-19, while other cannabinoids may help prevent infection in the first place.
Even though we still know very little about how CBD functions with Covid-19, people who have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed during the last couple of years have been using CBD to relax and relieve their anxiety.
While we are waiting for large-scale studies and clinical trials, CBD could be helpful when it comes to improving your lifestyle and your wellness routine in a wholesome, holistic way.