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Researchers Reveal Cannabis’ CBD May Help with COVID-19 Lung Damage

As states across the country prepare for the next Election Day that may legalize recreational marijuana, there is one legal substance that is getting a lot of attention – CBD. Even though it was legalized in 2018, scientists are still working to understand exactly what it can do. Some consumers are using it to ease their joint pain from arthritis, while others deal with their anxiety with a few drops a day. Recent research shows that CBD may also be an effective remedy for the lung damage that patients sustain after contracting COVID-19.



  • CBD use may help to activate a chemical that the body naturally produces to regulate blood pressure.
  • Apelin is not able to rise to adequate levels when the body is infected with any virus, including COVID-19.

The United States has been suffering from the spread of the novel coronavirus for months. While information about this disease keeps changing, the one constant health issue has been the residual lung damage for individuals that go through the Covid-19 virus. Much of the reason for this damage is the immune system overreacting and precipitating a substantial lung inflammation, creating a “cytokine storm,” as researchers call it.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, became legal just under two years ago, and researchers have sought to show everything that it can do. The compound doesn’t have the same psychoactive qualities as THC, so users won’t get the “high” feeling that the latter typically causes. Most people end up using it as an extract to treat painful conditions like arthritis. Some of the most recent research even suggests that it could be effective as a defense against brain cancer and bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant. What could CBD do for COVID-19?

While some studies (albeit not peer-reviewed) have investigated the compounds of cannabis on the novel coronavirus, researchers from Augusta University found recent evidence of what CBD can do after. Tens of thousands of people have survived the pandemic after dealing with the detrimental symptoms. Still, the research may restore a certain substance’s productivity in the body that can treat the damage.

The team adds that the use of this cannabis compound could be extremely helpful in producing apelin. Apelin, which is naturally produced by the cells in the brain, heart, blood, and more, is crucial in regulating blood pressure. As a result, it also reduces inflammation.

This isn’t the first time that the Georgia-based team has studied CBD’s effects on the body. The former study discovered that CBD's use had a positive effect on both oxygen and inflammation in individuals with ARDS (adult respiratory distress syndrome). In the current report, CBD can increase the levels of apelin that normally drops when the body is infected.

Dr. Babak Baban stated, “It was dramatic in both directions.” Dr. Baban is an immunologist and associate Dean of research at the Dental College of Georgia.

For individuals with ARDS, blood samples showed almost none of the peptide was present. After the use of CBD, the level drastically increased by 20 times over, establishing a connection between CBD and the increase of the peptide. Based on the report, apelin helps moderate high blood pressure as it relaxes the cells around blood vessels. Unfortunately, apelin drops to a drastically low level when the body is infected with a virus, leaving the body unable to compensate. Dr. Baban elaborated,

“Ideally, with ARDS, it would increase in areas of the lungs where it’s needed to improve blood and oxygen flow to compensate and to protect.”

The use of CBD has been directly linked to apelin production after the body has been infected with the virus, helping to even repair damage. As researchers have learned, COVID-19 is such a virus that imposes major damage on the lungs. However, there is not sufficient evidence to demonstrate if the novel coronavirus and CBD are directly linked to peptide production. Presently, it is just as likely that apelin's production is due to a different process that occurs in the body when it is infected with a virus. As Baban sees it, there is still hope.

“It is an association; we don't know yet about the causative, but it is a very good indicator of the disease.”

When the body is infected with COVID-19, it directly affects a gene known as ACE2, and there are many ways that apelin is linked to this gene. For example, they can both be found in the lungs, and they both control blood pressure. Both have also been linked to other organs and the regulation of the cardiovascular system as a whole, as it protects the body from obesity, hypertension, and even heart failure.

COVID-19 acts just like any other virus or illness, taking over the body's cells and grasping firmly to the ACE2 gene. In the process, it can increase angiotensin II, which constricts the blood vessels. When that occurs, ACE2 no longer relaxes the blood vessels but instead helps the virus thrive. Considering the drop in this gene while the individual is infected, it is clear that the lungs do not have the same protection as they would without the novel coronavirus.

When the researchers treated the virus using CBD, the compound quickly restored the typical function of the immune system. This reaction gives researchers promise that CBD can activate certain chemicals in the body to heal the sustained lung damage.

The work on synthetic agonists will likely continue as scientists seek to find other options to increase apelin levels. Even when the body is unable to keep up with the demand for apelin when it is sick, it's possible then activating it with CBD could mean a different outcome for the critically ill. It may even help to improve oxygen and nutrient levels during gestation.

The earlier study was originally published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. View the study here.

The newest study can be found here.

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