May reduce marijuana vitamin D.

Does cannabis protect against the coronavirus?

In the search for a vaccine or drug against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, researchers are currently following both traditional and less traditional paths.

You looked at existing drug candidates, such as remdesivir. The remedy was originally developed to treat Ebola. And in Germany, the first clinical studies for a coronavirus vaccine with a candidate developed for cancer immunology are underway.

A French study suggests that nicotine - which is typically inhaled as a stimulant in the often fatal pastime of smoking - could protect against the novel coronavirus.

And now the message comes from Canada that certain active ingredients in the psychoactive drug cannabis could also increase the protection of cells against the coronavirus. If the study were to be verified, cannabis could work in a similar way to nicotine. However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, i.e. it has not yet been reviewed by other researchers in the field. This process is used for quality assurance in the scientific community.

"The results on COVID come from our studies of arthritis, Crohn's disease, cancer, and others," says Dr. Igor Kovalchuck, Professor of Life Sciences at Lethbridge University, in an email to Deutsche Welle.

Block docking points

As with the suspected effect of nicotine on the coronavirus, the researchers believe that some cannabis ingredients reduce the ability of the virus to get into the cells of the lungs, where it attaches itself, multiplies and spreads.

More on this: Is hemp really a miracle plant?

Igor Kovalchuk, cannabis researcher at Lethbridge University and co-founder of Inplanta Biotechnology

In an article ("peer review") on preprints.org that has not yet been reviewed by research colleagues, Kovalchuck and his colleagues write that their specially developed cannabis strains effectively prevent the virus from entering the human body.

The coronavirus needs a "receptor" to enter a human host cell. This receptor is known as "Angiotensin Converting Enzyme II" or ACE2.

ACE2 is found in lung tissue, oral and nasal mucus, kidneys, testes and gastrointestinal tract, they write.

According to their theory, cannabioids could alter the ACE2 levels in these "gateways". The human host would then be less susceptible and vulnerable to the virus. This could fundamentally reduce the risk of infection.

"If there is no ACE2 in the tissue, the virus cannot penetrate," explains biology professor Kovalchuck.

More on this: Cannabis as medicine: Legal drug dealers get Germany high

Homegrown is not enough

Various medical professionals tout medical cannabis for the treatment of a range of conditions: from nausea to dementia. But medicinal cannabis is not the same as what many plant for pleasure in their own gardens.

These more common intoxicating strains are known for their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. This is the main psychoactive ingredient in the drug.

The Alberta-based researchers have meanwhile focused on strains of the Cannabis sativa plant, which are high in the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) - one of the other main chemicals in hemp along with THC.

The Canadian researchers have developed over 800 new cannabis sativa varieties with high levels of CBD and identified 13 extracts from them that they believe modulate the ACE2 levels in these human gateways.

"Our strains have a high CBD or balanced CBD / THC content because you can give a higher dose and people are not affected by the psychoactive properties of THC," says Kovalchuck.

Little money, little knowledge

Dr. Igor Kovalchuck, together with Dr. Darryl Hudson, who has a PhD from the University of Guelph, also runs a company called Inplanta Biotechnology. The use of cannabinoids in medicine is also being researched at this Canadian institute.

But funding cannabinoid research is "still difficult," said Kovalchuck. And that is also the case in other countries.

More on this: Two years of medical cannabis: The hype is over

There are still many misconceptions about medical cannabis among the general public and in politics.

Some researchers in the UK speculate that there are misconceptions about medical cannabis among the general public and politicians. In addition, doctors may fear that people will become addicted or try to medicate themselves simply by using some ancient form of cannabis that they are able to use.

That is why it is so important to be clear about the information and to avoid any form of sensationalism, emphasize the doctors.

"Given the socio-political volatility of medical cannabis use, researchers need to be extra careful in disseminating their findings," said Chris Albertyn, head of research portfolio at King's College London and an expert on cannabinoids and dementia.

The best way to do this, says Albertyn, is to introduce open, transparent research methods.

"In this case, recent research from Canada has only just uncovered a potential therapeutic 'mechanism of action' that would need to be validated and tested in well-designed, robust clinical trials before meaningful clinical conclusions can be drawn," said Albertyn.

This includes pre-registration of clinical protocols and analytical methods, publication in open access journals, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, and rigorous, independent review by the clinical academic community, says Albertyn.

The luck has turned

Without sufficient funding and further research, the necessary knowledge about cannabinoids will be missing - regardless of whether the research results advance people's health or not. "After all, there is now widespread interest," said Kovalchuck in his email to DW. And he is confident that a rethink will begin.

While Kovalchuck and his coauthors themselves acknowledge that even their most potent extracts require large-scale validation, they add that cannabidiol could be a "safe supplement" for treating COVID-19. A complement, mind you, alongside other treatment methods.

For example, up to large-scale verification, medical cannabis could well be evolved into "easy-to-use, preventative treatments," such as mouthwash or gargle in clinical and domestic use.

More: Has the hype about hemp evaporated?

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Eat me!

    Most mammals can synthesize vitamin C, i.e. produce it themselves. People don't. We have to get this water-soluble micronutrient with our food. Vitamin C is found in kiwis, oranges and grapefruits, but also in vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and peppers. Unfortunately, it is a bit sensitive to heat - so be careful when cooking!

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Less mystery, more biochemistry

    Vitamin C is not just a "nice to have", important for the old, the sick and vegans. Rather, its biochemical functions are the same and equally important in every body. Vitamin C is one of the micronutrients that does not provide the organism with energy, but is essential for its basic functions. This includes the cell metabolism and our immune system.

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Radical scavenger

    As an antioxidant, vitamin C reduces damage that free oxygen radicals cause to molecules that are essential for the body. These radicals arise during normal metabolic processes. However, pollutants such as tobacco quickly lead to oxidative stress and an increased formation of free radicals. This also increases the need for vitamin C.

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Strawberries for enzyme activity

    The human body uses the vitamin C in these strawberries not only to protect against oxygen radicals. It is also an important cofactor in a variety of enzymatic activities, such as the synthesis of the protein collagen. It is part of tendons, bones, cartilage, and the skin. Poor wound healing can therefore indicate a vitamin C deficiency.

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Counterattack with the help of grapefruit

    The body needs vitamin C to defend itself against infections. As an antioxidant, vitamin C is not only responsible for cell protection, but also attacks in the event of an infection. It stimulates the migration of immune cells, so-called neutrophils, to the site of infection, promotes phagocytosis - the cellular waste disposal - and the killing of pathogens.

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    Well taken care of is well taken care of

    Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy. Poor wound healing, bruising, hair and tooth loss, and joint pain are symptoms of this potentially fatal disease. Ten milligrams of vitamin C per day are sufficient for protection. Getting enough vitamin C is also associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and stroke.

  • Vitamin C: For the immune system and against infections

    How much is enough

    According to the consumer advice center, the recommended daily vitamin C intake for men is 110 mg and for women 95 mg. Oregon State University researchers, on the other hand, recommend 400 mg of vitamin C per day for all adults. It is harmless and, if overdosed, is excreted in the urine. Whether as a dietary supplement or in the form of Brussels sprouts: Vitamin C is the same, say the researchers.

    Author: Julia Vergin


Correction: The article was updated on May 9th to make it clearer that the study has not yet been peer-reviewed.