Written by Zoe Sigman
Coronavirus and Cannabis: What it can and can’t do
By now, most of the world is aware of, and busy washing their hands to avoid, COVID-19. Coronavirus is a lower respiratory disease whose primary symptoms are fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. If you think you have coronavirus, please talk to your doctor and get tested. If you don’t qualify for testing (because testing in the US is hard to come by), quarantine yourself with plenty of reading material, soap, and soup. And if you start to have trouble breathing, insist on that testing.
Cannabis is not a cure for coronavirus. If you feel sick, now is not the time to be the test case for whether or not cannabis is good for coronavirus. This is a new virus, and there have not been studies conducted on the safety of using cannabis if you have it. So please, talk to your doctor and take care of yourself.
Cannabis and Social Distancing
If, on the other hand, you are not feeling sick, but doing your part to #flattenthecurve, cannabis can help. We’re all learning about the joys and challenges of “social distancing” - minimizing your interaction with other people, and maintaining a six-foot personal bubble when you do. While introverts rejoice, many are already feeling the impacts of social isolation. Humans are social creatures, and extended periods of isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.
In studies of people with chronic illnesses, cannabis users experienced a better quality of life than non-users. Anyone who’s felt the gentle uplift that cannabis brings can attest to the joy it can bring to everyday life. Even, and maybe especially, with a global pandemic raging outside our windows. Additionally, CBD has shown incredible promise as an anti-anxiety compound, especially when taken with a little bit of THC. There’s a reason cannabis sales are up. And there’s no harm in indulging after long days of ceaseless handwashing and video conference calls.
Cannabis and Viruses, Generally
One of the most promising studies we’ve seen about THC’s impact on viruses comes from a model of HIV in rhesus monkeys. Monkeys treated with THC had lower viral loads, viral replication, and inflammation. Which is incredible news. One the other hand, the research that has examined THC’s impact on respiratory illness (influenza) in mice showed worse outcomes. Even so, the results are difficult to interpret. Another study indicated that the endocannabinoid system was vital in fighting off infection.
One of the main issues with research related to viral illnesses and cannabis is the fact that there aren’t great animal models for the illnesses. Animals are not humans, and they react to respiratory illnesses differently than we do. This is an area of research that is begging for more attention.
Does that mean you should put down your joint and wait out the cold season? Not necessarily. Even though we don’t know how cannabis will affect this virus, it can help you feel better in many other ways.
Cannabis and Inflammation
Cannabis’ impact on the immune system is complex, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. What we do know is that both THC and CBD have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is a key player in fighting off infection, but can cause damage if it goes on for too long.
The endocannabinoid system, the system some cannabinoids interact with in our bodies, plays a key role in regulating inflammation. It brings the inflammatory response back into balance when it’s out of whack - making us feel better faster.
Cannabis as an Antibiotic
While coronavirus is caused by a virus, not bacteria, bacterial infections can be just as gnarly. Many cannabinoids have shown promise as anti-bacterial agents. Recently, cannabigerol (CBG) was shown to help kill MRSA - an incredible discovery in the age of antibiotic-resistant infections.
More specifically, cannabis can help with Pain, Sleep, Inflammation. See below for our picks!
The aches and pains that come with cold and flu can be brutal. Both THC and CBD have been shown to help ease pain, so you can go on feeling more like you sooner.
Sleep is vital when you’re fighting off infection, and, unfortunately, all of the coughing and sniffling that comes with a cold can make that harder. Many people have found that THC and CBD help ease the transition into dream-land.
Cannabinoids are excellent anti-inflammatory agents - and that includes the inflammation associated with coronavirus. One of the pro-inflammatory compounds released by white blood cells dealing with coronavirus is TNF-ɑ. Luckily, both CBD and THC have been shown to reduce TNF-ɑ expression, among many other inflammatory compounds.
How to Consume During a Pandemic:
Don’t smoke. Avoid smoking if you have respiratory irritation. Smoke won’t help, even if it’s filled with cannabinoids.
Don’t share. If you do choose to smoke, avoid sharing your smoking paraphernalia. Infection is easily passed through bodily fluids, and that includes saliva.
- Do take tinctures and edibles. Especially ones that are high in fat. Fat helps with the absorption of cannabinoids, making you feel better by using less.