One of the most common uses of CBD is to relieve inflammation. Whether you’re taking or applying CBD to fight back pain, arthritis, allergies, certain digestive issues, or help with sunburn, the common denominator of all those conditions is inflammation. More research has led to increasing evidence that CBD may be highly effective at combatting many types of inflammation without the negative side effects of long term ibuprofen, aspirin, or pain killer use.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and because of the research and ample anecdotal evidence supporting CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, many are looking at whether CBD could possibly fight inflammation in the lungs. Let’s look at what we know so far.
What Is Inflammation?
Put simply, inflammation is the body’s reaction to an irritant. More specifically, it’s the body’s way of expelling or killing foreign germs, objects, or chemicals and its attempt to repair the damage. According to WebMD, inflammation is “a process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.”
WebMD goes on further to say that under some conditions or with certain diseases, our body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are no invaders to fight off. In extreme cases, such as with autoimmune disorders, the immune system treats healthy cells and tissues as though they are infected or foreign, and fights against and damages them.
Although inflammation is necessary for our bodies to defend themselves and heal, when it’s not needed, or if it goes too far or is too strong, then it can become more dangerous to us than the problem in the first place. This is often the case with respiratory viruses and illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.
COVID-19 and Lung Inflammation
As we lay out in an earlier article of ours, when your immune system attempts to combat a respiratory virus, inflammation can cause fluid and dead cells to build up in your lungs. This build up interferes with the transfer of oxygen and leading to the telltale symptoms of coughing and shortness of breath. These conditions can also lead to COVID-19 pneumonia and even acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a progressive type of respiratory failure that occurs when the air sacs in the lungs fill up with fluid.
We went on to say that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common diagnosis for severe COVID-19 is severe pneumonia. Essentially, in these serious cases, the virus progresses through the respiratory tract and into a person’s lungs. The body responds with inflammation and the lungs’ air sacs, or alveoli, fill with fluid and pus, causing pneumonia. People with severe cases of pneumonia may have lungs that are so inflamed they cannot take in enough oxygen or expel enough carbon dioxide.
Even more serious is when the immune system unleashes a cytokine storm, an extremely strong inflammatory response that often far outweighs the threat. In these situations, the body attacks healthy tissues and organs and can cause serious damage.
How Does CBD Fight Lung Inflammation?
CBD fights inflammation by tapping into our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a biochemical communication highway throughout our body. The ECS has receptors throughout the nervous and immune systems, and cannabinoids like CBD trigger them, leading to changes throughout our bodies.
When it comes to our immune response and inflammation related to COVID-19, CB2 receptors are most important. These receptors are often found on the cells of our immune system, which allows them to help moderate and respond to inflammation and other responses to pathogens. If you use CBD products to combat conditions of an overactive immune system (i.e. arthritis, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease), then those are your CB2 receptors hard at work.
The Specifics: What Does CBD Actually Do?
COVID-19 primarily affects our lungs and often results in a cytokine storm. That storm can lead to diffuse alveolar damage, alveolar capillary leakage, severe hypoxemia, intense pulmonary oedema and pulmonary fibrosis, among other serious health issues. In other words, COVID-19 causes our body’s immune system to overreact, often with serious and disastrous consequences.
However, a study from last fall found evidence that supports the idea of CBD lessening the damaging effects of inflammation resulting from COVID-19. Furthermore, the study suggests that the evidence also supports there being a role for CBD in the treatment of the virus to reduce the harmful symptoms.
The introduction of the study said the following:
In the absence of effective antivirals and vaccination, the pandemic of COVID-19 remains the most significant challenge to our health care system in decades. There is an urgent need for definitive therapeutic intervention. Clinical reports indicate that the cytokine storm associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is the leading cause of mortality in severe cases of some respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19. In recent years, cannabinoids have been investigated extensively due to their potential effects on the human body. Among all cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory effects in a variety of pathological conditions. Therefore, it is logical to explore whether CBD can reduce the cytokine storm and treat ARDS.
The conclusion of the study stated:
Our results suggest a potential protective role for CBD during ARDS that may extend CBD as part of the treatment of COVID-19 by reducing the cytokine storm, protecting pulmonary tissues, and re-establishing inflammatory homeostasis.
The researchers suggest that CBD may be able to help COVID-19 lung inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production, fighting off the body’s overreaction. By reducing specific cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1b, and IL-17, we may be able to bring down the inflammation and in doing so, end the respiratory distress and damage. And the results of the study above supported this theory.
Why this Is Important?
When it comes to the majority of viruses, whether COVID-19, the flu, Chicken Pox, and most others, there is not much we can do to actually fight the virus itself. Why? Because antiviral drugs have been notoriously difficult to develop. The reason being that viruses invade the host cells and take over its replication mechanism for their own uses. That means that antiviral drugs that are designed to inhibit replication of the virus can have serious side effects on the replication of the normal, healthy host cells, and lead to cell damage.
The so the question becomes, if we can’t kill the virus outright, what’s the best way to fight it?
The answer is to do things that support your body while it fights it, like by resting and drinking lots of fluids, and the other is to not let your body make the fight too intense. In other words, sometimes the best way to survive a virus is to temper the body’s response to it, so your immune system doesn’t do more harm than good.
And as we’ve laid out, that’s precisely where CBD may come in.
Whether it’s lung inflammation from COVID-19 or any other type of inflammation that goes too far and becomes dangerous in and of itself to our health, CBD might be the right answer. We’ll keep you updated on this topic as more research and studies are published and as we learn more about CBD and lung inflammation.