The overhaul of information and misinformation being shared regarding the COVID-19 pandemic can be exhausting and quite, well, overwhelming. Is it a common cold? Is it the flu?
In the midst of all this, can the natural world of holistic medicine come into play here?
Researchers have been discussing whether or not cannabinoids have the capacity to kill viruses or stop its continuation.
I’m sure you’re wondering, is there evidence to support such claims? Can CBD help with viral infections? Is there even such a thing?
In today’s article, with so much going on, I’m here to shed some light on viral infections, the amazing benefits of cannabidiol, and the research behind CBD and viral infections.
Let’s get started.
VIRAL INFECTIONS: A BRIEF OVERVIEW
What’s the difference between a bacterial infection and a viral infection? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, the major differences between a viral and bacterial infection is that antibiotic drugs can kill bacteria, but are not effective against viruses.
Viruses are so much smaller than bacteria and require a living host - such as us humans, plants, or even animals. They need living cells to be able to replicate and reproduce. Otherwise, they won’t survive.
When a virus first enters our body, it invades some of our cells and takes control, redirecting our cells to produce the virus.
Diseases commonly caused by viruses can include:
- Common colds
- Influenza (the flu)
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
In some instances, it may be hard to determine whether a bacterial or viral infection is the underlying cause behind your symptoms. Viral infections may be minor in healthy and normal individuals, but can be quite life-threatening for people who have a weakened immune system.
SYMPTOMS OF VIRAL INFECTIONS
The signs and symptoms of a viral infection depend heavily on what virus you have and how it exactly affects your body.
Here are a few examples pertinent to today’s ailments:
Slight body aches
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
I tend to think of viruses as bank robbers: once they enter the bank, they hold hostages, attempt to take all the money, and gain control of everyone and everything inside the bank, not leaving until they get what they want or someone stops them.
We highly recommend talking with your healthcare provider if you think you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of any viral infections. Again, I am not a medical doctor and am just providing you with the latest research and information available.
Anyhoo, as I’m sure you’re wondering, how the heck does CBD come into the picture here? Hold that thought. We’re on our way there!
THE ECS AND VIRAL INFECTIONS
The endocannabinoid system, commonly referred to as the ECS. Each of us have an ECS within us, including both the central and peripheral systems. It’s involved in pain processes and inflammatory responses. The ECS also plays a major role in regulatory and physiological processes across organ systems. Scientists have suggested that the endocannabinoid system is the main link to the organ systems. It interacts with every system in the body to bring everything into a harmonious balance, known as homeostasis.
Within the ECS, there are two very important receptors: cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). These receptors can act directly and indirectly with different cannabinoids that enter our system. For instance, THC binds directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. On the other hand, CBD binds indirectly to the receptors.
According to a 2010 review, there may be a relationship between cannabinoids and viral infections. Exogenous cannabinoids or receptors may influence many systemic and cellular host responses. Thus, the anti-inflammatory activity of cannabinoids may compromise host inflammatory response to acute viral infections.
THIS REVIEW SUGGESTED THAT CANNABINOID TREATMENT OF INFECTIOUS HOSTS WERE BENEFICIAL.
Though only a few studies are available so far, there is evidence suggesting that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the elimination and control of infectious agents.
WHAT IS CANNABIDIOL (CBD): A BRIEF OVERVIEW
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, amongst the 80+ cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. As an all-natural compound frequently used in oils, salves, creams, tinctures, and edibles, CBD aims to give you a feeling of calmness and relaxation. Unlike it’s other well-known sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), this cannabinoid won’t get you “stoned” or “high”.
CBD indirectly binds with the receptors, hence, it doesn’t cause users to feel “high”. Some scientists have suggested that cannabidiol could be considered an “anti-marijuana”.
CBD may cause you to feel a sense of relaxation or calmness, binding indirectly with our CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system.
So how does cannabidiol interact with viral infections? If it does, what happens?
CBD VERSUS VIRUSES: WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
The efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of infection, for instance, has not been fully studied (yet).
The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research was published in 2017. Chapter 8 of the book, titled Immunity, highlights exactly what we want to know by discussing what we don’t know yet.
There is insufficient data to draw conclusions about the effects of cannabinoids on immune competence.
There is limited evidence to suggest that there are adverse effects between cannabinoids and immune status.
However, there is a plethora of data on the effects of cannabinoids on the immune system.
This 2017 review concluded with an interesting finding - there is an association between cannabinoid use in healthy individuals and a decrease in the production of specific inflammatory cytokines.
Again, there is still insufficient evidence to ascertain whether or not cannabis has antiviral effects on the immune system.
CBD VERSUS VIRUSES: WE WE DO KNOW
First - inflammation. Inflammation is essential for the recruitment for adaptive immune cells to the sites of infection, to provide control for virus protection and limit spreading. When infection enters the body, these critical inflammation pathways may be compromised during an infection.
A wide array of cannabis research studies have suggested that CBD may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Published in 2010 in Pharmaceuticals, experts summarized peer-reviewed journals on infections and cannabinoid use. In most of the infections studied,
researchers suggested that cannabinoid treatment had a profound impact on virus-host cells.
A 2017 cannabinoid and infectious disease review included an influenza study, analyzing the effects of THC on the immune system. The researchers observed that THC administration lessened the immune response against the flu virus.
There are existing studies related to infections and the ECS as well as cannabis use and the development of infections, however, more studies are needed to draw definitive evidence as to whether or not cannabinoids may help infections.
TAKEAWAYS FOR CBD OIL AND VIRUSES
Cannabinoids have been suggested to be potent antimicrobials, they work well against many types of bacteria and fungi.
Notice that I didn’t mention viruses? Well, plain and simple, little is known. Bits and pieces have been taken out of context and presented in ways to make people see things as black and white.
So, here is where I give you the evidence-based facts, about what we know about viral infections and CBD, and what we don’t.
1. Cannabinoids are Potent
By this I mean that cannabinoids and associated terpenes are tough little cookies (I mean molecules) that act by binding and signaling through different receptors. CBD works through this protein network, triggering different interactions, leaving a big impact.
2. CBD Reduces Inflammation
One of the key pathways that cannabidiol can hop onto is inflammation. CBD can assist with cell death, including old cells, invading cells, viruses.
3. Cannabinoids May Benefit Infections
In a 2010 review, researchers suggested that cannabinoid treatment is beneficial in a persistent infection of the central nervous system caused by viruses that do not kill infected cells.
Two studies looking at yeast infections in this review concluded that THC significantly reduced host resistance to infection in animals.
4. Only Few and Small Studies on CBD and Viruses
There just isn’t sufficient information, yet. Part of the issue is that some specific cannabinoids can help against certain types of viruses. However, few studies have been done, only on mice and monkeys so far. No such studies have been allowed on humans.
The cherry on top if you will is that certain cannabinoids have been found to inhibit the replication of specific viruses, such as betacorona virus (MHV) in vitro. Hopefully, this will motivate others to further investigate.
Do note, more human controlled trial studies are needed to support these claims further.
CBD AND VIRAL INFECTIONS: FINAL THOUGHTS
Cannabinoids, including CBD, are doing amazing things in the world of holistic health and wellness! There is so much potential for cannabis to one day be a product proved effective against viruses, one day.
The short list of data presented and included above should be encouraging toward a call for increased cannabinoid research on many different medical conditions, including bacterial and viral infections.
Until that time comes, continue to do your research and stay up-to-date with the latest research reports and findings.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands, as it prevents illnesses and the spread of infections to others!
*DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. It does not exploit or provide medical advice of any kind. Therefore, any reliance you place on the information below is strictly at your own risk. Please check with your medical provider before starting or changing a CBD routine.
Nanocraft SciencesContent Writer x Physiologist x Researcher
Kirsten Thornhill was born and raised in a small farm town in Northern California. Kirsten graduated with a Master of Science degree in exercise physiology from Point Loma Nazarene University. She is very passionate about human physiology and the metabolic and nutritional adaptations that occur during exercise in active individuals and athletes. Kirsten has specialized in teaching clinical and practical exercise and rehabilitation applications. She enjoys educating and informing people on the importance of lifetime movement, holistic and lifestyle medicine, and health research and development. Her passion for alternative medicine enables her to strive when promoting health and education.
Al-Ghezi ZZ, Miranda K, et al. Combination of cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, ameliorates experimental multiple sclerosis by suppressing neuroinflammation through regulation of miRNA-mediated signaling pathways. Front. Immunol. 2019.
Hernandez-Cervantes R, Mendez-Diaz M, et al. Immunoregulatory role of cannabinoids during infectious disease. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2017.
Reiss CS. Cannabinoids and viral infections. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010.
The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies Press (US). 2017.