According to unverified research, certain cannabis extracts can prevent human cells from absorbing the coronavirus by up to 70%.
Rabat – A group of researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Canada may have found that some cannabis extracts have the potential to inhibit the novel coronavirus from entering the body and to treat COVID-19.
The researchers shared a preprint online, prior to the peer review process. Olga and Igor Kovalchuk, among others conducting the study, argue that the data they have been collecting since 2015 shows promising therapeutic properties for certain types of cannabis extracts.
“There is a lot of documented information about cannabis in cancer, cannabis in inflammation, anxiety, obesity, and what not… When COVID-19 started, Olga had the idea to revisit our data and see if we can utilize it for COVID,” Igor said, cited by Canadian news outlet CTV News.
The couple started by examining the cell receptors that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, uses to enter the body. They then studied the effect of cannabis extracts on the receptors.
“We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy,” Olga told CTV News.
Based on preliminary data, anti-inflammatory high-Cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis extracts can modulate the levels of the receptors in the body areas that are highly susceptible to host SARS-CoV-2, such as the mouth, lungs, and intestinal cells.
One of the cell receptors, known as ACE2, is suspected to be a key gateway allowing the novel coronavirus to enter the body.
“The virus has the capacity to bind to it, and pull it into the cell, almost like a doorway,” Olga explained.
The receptors allow the virus to enter other cells more easily and multiply rapidly. However, some anti-inflammatory cannabis extracts have shown their ability to slow down the virus by approximately 70%.
“Imagine a cell being a large building… Cannabinoids decrease the number of doors in the building by, say, 70%, so it means the level of entry will be restricted. So, therefore, you have more chance to fight it,” Igor explained.
Early results reveal that such cannabis extracts could be used in the form of inhalers, mouthwashes, and throat gargles, for both clinical practice and at-home treatment.
The results are not an invitation to smoke cannabis, the researchers warned, as they have not tested the effects of smoking it. The anti-coronavirus properties are also distinct to only a few species of cannabis plants.
The Kovalchuks tested hundreds of cannabis extracts in the past four years, but only a small percentage have proven effective. The effective extracts contain high concentrations of CBD, but very low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. Therefore, users of such extracts would not experience a high.
The paper says the product has no side effects. However, the research did not yet undergo a peer-review and still requires clinical trials. The data is so far exclusively based on human tissue models.
“Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered,” Olga said.