If you have been following the latest information about COVID-19, you are probably familiar with the term cytokine storm, an inflammatory response which can have deadly effects on those with the virus. Cannabis researchers have been investigating whether the chemical compounds in cannabis can reduce the inflammation caused by the cytokine response. In a recent Israeli study, researchers combined terpenes with CBD and the results look promising. In this article I will discuss cytokines, and 3 different studies on controlling inflammation using; CBD only, the corticosteroid, dexamethasone, and the combination of terpenes and CBD.
Cytokines are made up of a diverse group of small proteins produced by cells whose principal role is to help regulate the immune response. Their secondary function is to facilitate the communication from one cell to another. They include interferons, interleukins, tumor-necrosis factors, chemokines and several others mediators. Cytokines have the capacity to both promote and deter inflammation.
Cytokine storm is a hyperactive immune response which releases several different cytokines at levels that cause injury to the cells instead of just fighting the infection. The symptoms manifest as excessive inflammation which include swelling, muscle pain, organ function shutdown, fever, and cough which can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs, pneumonia and respiratory failure. The inflammatory response starts at one site and then spreads throughout the entire body through the circulatory system. Doctors are now recognizing that one of the deadliest components of the novel coronavirus is cytokine storm.
Study on Dexamethasone and COVID Patients
Preliminary results from a large, randomized, controlled trial conducted in the United Kingdom showed that the use of dexamethasone, dosed at 6mg a day for up to 10 days, reduced the death rate by approximately 30% in COVID-19 patients on ventilators. It also reduced the death rate by 20% of patients who received oxygen only.
Cannabis and Cytokine Storm
During the past few months, cannabis researchers have been investigating whether cannabis or any of its compound might reduce the inflammatory effects of the cytokines.
Animal Study on CBD and Cytokine Storm
A mice study, CBD May Help Avert Lung Destruction in COVID-19, Research Suggests, published in Science Daily on July 16, 2020 was conducted by the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
CBD was administered by injection in the abdomen every other day for a total of three days. CBD worked quickly to improve symptoms including clearing fluid from the lungs and restoring healthier oxygen levels. In depth studies of the structure of the lung tissue suggested that any tissue overgrowth, scarring or swelling was partially or totally resolved. The researchers intend to do similar studies on other organs impacted by the virus; the gastric system, heart and brain.
Israeli Study of CBD and Terpenes Inhibit Cytokine Storm
If you think terpenes only give your favorite cannabis strains their aroma and flavor, guess again. Terpenes provide a myriad of benefits and they are now being recognized as having the potential to inhibit cytokine storm in combination with CBD.
Two Israeli cannabis research and development companies, Eybna and CannaSoul Analytics, have collaborated to investigate if terpenes might be a key ingredient in controlling cytokine storm. Their study compares the use of terpenes and CBD combined to other available treatments which include CBD only and dexamethasone.
Eybna, founded by CEO Nadav Eyal, is a technology and leading terpene manufacturing company. The R & D center is located in Israel with an office in California. Their mission is a dedication to finding treatment and prevention options to control viral infections in severely ill patients in high-risk populations.
CannaSoul Analytics was founded by Professor David Meiri, PhD, a renown cannabis researcher and biochemist from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Dr. Meiri has investigated cannabis use for medical conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
NT-VRL is an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory terpene formula created by Eybna to treat inflammatory conditions including cytokine storm syndrome. Intended to be used through inhalation, this method of delivery significantly increases its bioavailability. This is achieved by directly contacting the infected cells within the respiratory system.
This patented formulation contains 30 different terpenes, all considered to be anti-inflammatory agents, which are safe with no known adverse side effects. Research on the use of terpenes suggests that when they come in contact with the virus, they reduce its virulence by withholding a specific RNA replicating protein which stops it from entering healthy cells and using them as hosts for replication.
Researchers tested the following compounds to see how they impacted cytokine activity:
- CBD only
- CBD + NT-VRL
- Dexamethasone as a positive control
- CBD only - approximately 75% inhibition
- NT-VRL - approximately 80% inhibition, using higher doses with no side effects
- CBD + NT-VRL - approximately 90% inhibition
- Dexamethasone - approximately 30% inhibition
Final Words on This Study
The authors of this in-vitro study want to make it clear that this is an ongoing study which has not been completed, not been peer reviewed nor published. The larger scientific community must review and validate the results before any claims are made about the findings. If they are substantiated, this study may be an important impetus for the establishment of human trials using CBD and terpenes for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
forbes.com, New Research Suggests Terpenes and CBD Work 2X’s Better For COVID-19 Inflammation Than Corticosteroid, Emily Earlenbaugh, July 21, 2020
healtheuropa.eu, Successful Initial Results Using Cannabis Terpenes To Treat Covid-19, Aug. 6, 2020
forbes.com, CBD For Coronavirus? New Study Adds Evidence for Cannabis as Covid-19 Treatment, Emily Earlenbaugh, July 15, 2020
oncnursingnews.com, Dexamethasone Is Affordable and Promising in Treating Covid-19, July 9, 2020
prnewswire.com, Eybna and CannaSoul,Top Cannabis R&D Firms Join Join Forces To Prove Proprietary Terpene Formulation for Treating Viral Infections via Modulation of Cytokine Storm, April 22, 2020