THC in cannabis could help prevent and treat life-threatening COVID-19 complications

Cannabis can help treat severe COVID-19 complications, researchers say.

  • THC in cannabis could help prevent a harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), according to researchers.
  • After introducing a toxin that triggers ARDS into mice, all of the rodents that were given THC survived.
  • Although the studies are promising, the experts are NOT encouraging people to use cannabis to self-medicate for COVID-19.

A team of experts at the University of South Carolina found that Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC), the chemical that gives cannabis its “high” influence, could significantly help in the battle with coronavirus. The researchers discovered that THC’s effects could help prevent a harmful immune response that causes Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). As Daily Mail notes, ARDS is one of the most common life-threatening complications in COVID-19 patients. It can lead to permanent pulmonary scarring and even death.

Credits: Aphiwat chuangchoem

The USC scientists analyzed whether THC could block the immune response that leads to ARDS developing. To achieve that result, they introduced a toxin that triggers the response into several mice. In a total of three studies, all of the mice that were given the THC survived after the toxin. Contrarily, the ones that were not given the cannabis chemical died. 

The experts alerted that their research is still ongoing and insisted that they are NOT advising COVID-19 patients to self-medicate with marijuana. 

Despite their concerns, they claimed that their studies were highly promising.

In an August interview for The State, Prakash Nagarkatti, co-author of the studies, explained:

“The underlying mechanism is your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your lungs and all your other organs. It’s like a car where you’re putting on a lot of accelerator, but the brakes aren’t working. Basically what’s going to happen is your car is going to crash because you can’t stop it. And that’s basically what’s happening with ARDS.”

The life-threatening immune response ARDS is a form of lung failure. It has been known to strike in coronavirus patients when their immune systems go into overdrive to fight the virus and begin attacking healthy cells. What THC does, according to the studies, is blocking the body’s immune response while also developing healthy bacteria in the lungs.

The researchers are planning to begin trials on humans to further analyze the potential effectiveness of the chemical in fighting COVID-19.

However, they are not advocating marihuana as a self-medicating approach for battling coronavirus. Nagarkatti said:

“I just want to make sure our research is not interpreted as marijuana is good for COVID 19. If you start using THC early on it might worsen the effect because it suppresses the immune system.”

Other studies have also found evidence of cannabis being used as a potential treatment for the dangerous virus.

Israel researchers have conducted a study that found that a particular terpene compound in marihuana could also be used to prevent cytokine storm. This is an inflammatory response that can lead to fever, fatigue, and vomiting in COVID-19 patients.

According to the Israel scientists, terpene was significantly more effective in suppressing cytokine storms than Dexamethasone, which is a common corticosteroid treatment for inflammation.

Moreover, a Canadian study examining preventive strategies against coronavirus has concluded that a specific strain of cannabis could help block the virus from entering the body in the first place. The research states:

“Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract. Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.”

As per the Canadian researchers, the novel strain of cannabis “can be used to develop easy-to-use preventative treatments” for clinical and at-home use.

The studies regarding cannabis’ effectiveness in battling coronavirus are still far from conclusive. However, the results suggest a promising role for the plant in fighting the disease.

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