Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, has been increasingly researched as possible treatment to use against COVID-19 infections. CBD is known to have anti-inflammatory effects, so the possibility of CBD also optimizing the immune system is enticing especially during the pandemic we find ourselves in.
To test this theory, one group of researchers treated human lung cells with CBD two hours before exposing the cells to with the COVID19 virus (also known as SARS-CoV-2). Results showed that CBD potently inhibited viral replication in these conditions, meaning the COVID-19 virus was prevented from multiplying and becoming more infectious in the presence of CBD (1). While this news is exciting, what happens at the cellular level or even in mice does not mean this also necessarily happens in humans too. More research needs to be done to determine if CBD has therapeutic benefits in blocking COVID19 infection in humans, rather than in just lung cells.
CBD May Lower Rate of COVID-19 Infection
A larger analysis of 1212 patients from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative assessed patients who were taking CBD (in this case for seizure related conditions) and patients who were not taking CBD and the correlating percentage of COVID-19 infection rate (2). This analysis showed a statistically significantly lower rate of COVID-19 infection in the patients that took CBD than the patients who did not take CBD. Interestingly, patients who took CBD on the date of their COVID-19 test showed further “negative association”, or less likely to have a positive test result for COVID, than patients who did not take CBD (2). However it is important to note that these patients were taking high dose oral solutions of high purity CBD of 100 mg/mL as treatment for seizures. The analysis did not assess patients who did not have a history of seizures, and it also did not eliminate confounders such as if this group of patients had reduced public interaction and thus less COVID19 exposure than the average person.
Nevertheless, this data leads us to think about how CBD could be used to help prevent infection from COVID-19 if taken prophylactically. Further research needs to be done to explore the optimal means of CBD administration and effective dose to therapeutically block COVID-19 infection.
Possible Benefits of CBD for COVID-19
CBD has a few benefits as a potential preventative treatment against COVID-19 (1). CBD may be able to be used prophylactically (taken to prevent infection) rather than after infection like how current antiviral drugs or antibodies are being used. CBD does not require injection into the blood stream but has multiple means of ingestion, such as orally or potentially via inhalation. CBD is associated with few side effects, while most drugs tend to have more significant side effects, generally speaking. Finally, CBD has potential to block viral replication after the virus enters cells, meaning CBD may be protective against COVID-19 variants. Again, there is little research published on human beings given CBD to prevent infection from COVID-19, but it is very exciting to see new clinical trials being published.
Continue to Follow Public Health Guidelines
Please remember that despite the potential for CBD to prevent or treat COVID-19, the public health guidelines recommended by the CDC are still important. The first lines of defense against COVID-19, which are to get vaccinated and follow masking guidelines in indoor spaces still apply whether or not CBD is utilized. Additionally, it may go without saying, but smoking cannabis or taking over-the-counter CBD drops do not treat COVID at this time. In fact, smoking or vaping of any form raise additional concerns for potential lung damage which can increase your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing more serious cases (3).