17 March 2020 – Written by RH
As I am sitting here writing this the official numbers (for what trust one can place in countries like China) reflect that around 150’000 people have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the respiratory illness we’re calling Covid-19 (kind of like how HIV causes AIDS). Of these 150’000 people almost 6’000 have died. To put that in perspective, if everyone on Earth caught Covid-19 we’d be looking at around 300’000’000 (that’s right – three hundred MILLION) deaths. Now that is obviously a worst-case scenario, so while we should all be taking this seriously – there’s no need for panic. The best we can all do is prepare ourselves for the fact that many of us may end up having to deal with this virus personally.
Hospitals are not designed to deal with outbreaks which spread as fast and cause as many serious illnesses as we’re seeing with Covid-19, so there’s every reason to expect that hospitals in general may end up struggling to cope with all the affected people. This is where what we can do in out own homes comes in – and the question of how cannabis and its many constituents can help in mitigating the global impact of this disease.
There’s been a lot of research done into the way cannabis and its constituents interact with another virus that once terrified humanity as it faced us down – HIV. Among many things research has looked into one of them is how cannabis use affects the ability of the body to resist the virus. Recent studies from several sources have shown that cannabis use is directly correlated with lower viral loads (which is the amount of individual virus particles contained in a set volume of blood) in high risk patients who are HIV-positive.
Also of note is the fact that recent research covering over a decade and many thousands of people has also shown that cannabis use is associated with elevated white blood cell counts – which directly strengthens the immune system against invading organisms and lowers the chance of a virus managing to establish a beach-head inside the body.
Coronavirus causes serious illness and death through its harmful effects on the lungs of those suffering from Covid-19. This damage is caused by a complex cascade of protein interactions – but one crucial aspect of this cascade is inflammation.
If inflammation is inhibited damage to lung tissue can be directly reduced, and as evidenced by several studies looking into the effect of CBD on such lung damage – Cannabidiol can directly protect the lung tissue from lasting damage being done.
Another approach which is also viable in terms of supporting the lung functions of those suffering from pneumonia is that of bronchodilation, the opening of the airways in order to allow for easier and more effective breathing. To this end THC and a few of its very close relatives have been proven to be extremely powerful bronchodilators, essentially functioning like a plant-based asthma pump and allowing for a person to get more oxygen into their system.
As you can see THC and the rest of the gang do all potentially have something to contribute to fighting this virus – but each and every one of us also has a part to play. The most important of those parts is to be safe when consuming your cannabis – as much as sharing that bong or joint is a deep part of our culture, for the next few weeks it might not be such a bad idea to be just a little bit selfish with it.
Oh, and for the love of all that is green and natural – wash your hands.
Cannabis and HIV viral load: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363114/
Cannabis and White Blood Cells: https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-019-0007-8
Covid-19 and the Lungs: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30076-X/fulltext
CBD and Lung Protection (interesting info, but a bit unethical in its methods): https://www.nature.com/articles/pr2017104
Bronchodilation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1429361/ and https://thorax.bmj.com/content/31/6/720