Cannabis extract can reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19, according to a new study.
It works by calming an over-stimulated immune system, taming the so-called “cytokine storms” that cause the body to attack its own tissue instead of the invading virus.
Canadian researchers found that certain strains of cannabis sativa can reduce the inflammatory response caused by potentially deadly cytokine storms that have been the reason many critically ill COVID-19 patients die from the disease.
According to the Daily Mail, researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, found three strains of cannabis that are highly effective in reducing the levels of chemicals that trigger these cytokine storms.
“In this study, we identified three extracts that are very, very good strains; some strains identified in previous studies were also pretty good,” said one of the study authors, Dr. Olga Kovalchuk, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Lethbridge.
Kovalchuk and her colleagues said in their pre-print research paper published in Research Square that cytokine storms can precede acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, in COVID-19 patients that often leads to death. Using 3D human tissue models, they found that two of the cytokines, TNFa and IL-6, are major players that escalate the storms. In their research, the scientists found that the three strains of cannabis sativa they tested were able to “profoundly” deescalate the inflammatory response of these two cytokines.
The strains were identified only by their numbers, #4, #8, and #14, according to the published paper. The researchers said that the cannabis used was professionally cultivated for the study and carefully extracted to apply to the research models, according to the Daily Mail. They emphasized that their findings do not recommend or endorse the use of cannabis to prevent COVID-19.
Kovalchuk has previously conducted a promising study that found medical grade cannabis extracts helped modulate ACE2 proteins to inhibit the invasion of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by preventing it from attaching to human cells. She said that further large-scale studies on animal models are needed to validate the results of both studies.
“Given the current dire and rapidly developing epidemiological situation, every possible therapeutic opportunity and avenue needs to be considered,” she said, according to a news release from the University of Lethbridge.
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