Can THC Stop A Killer Covid-19 Complication?

person holding green cannabis plant which contains THC
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I’ve long been a proponent of medicinal cannabis use (THC and CBD). When properly dosed, specific marijuana strains have helped me deal with my anxiety and ADHD and been a lifesaver when treating cancer in my dogs. But can THC really be effective in stopping a potentially deadly Covid-19 complication known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)? According to three newly released studies by University of South Carolina researchers that answer might just be YES.

At least when it comes to mice. 

In the three separate studies, dozens of experiments were done, and 100% of the mice given THC survived, Prakash Nagarkatti, one of the co-publishers of the studies, told The State.

The Studies

close up photo of a cannabis plant
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Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the British Journal of Pharmacology and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the studies were conducted on mice. They concluded that THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you “high,” may also be effective at stopping the body’s immune system from kicking into overdrive and wrecking havoc on some coronavirus patient’s lungs. To discover this the researchers gave the mice a toxin that triggered the cytokine storm reaction that causes ARDS. They then injected the mice with THC, according to the studies’ abstracts.

“The underlying mechanism is your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your lungs and all your other organs,” Prakash Nagarkatti, who is one of the co-publishers of the studies, told The State.

“Its’ like a car where you’re putting on a lot of accelerator, but the brakes aren’t working,” Nagarkatti said. “Basically what’s going to happen is your car is going to crash because you can’t stop it. And that’s basically what’s happening with ARDS.”

THC Not Only Cannabinoid Being Studied

It is true that mice and humans definitely have differences in body chemistry that may not translate into real-life results for humans. Still, Nagarkatti was so stunned at how effective THC was in treating ARDS he has recommended health officials begin human trials with THC, he told The State. 

And THC is not the only cannabinoid being studied when it comes to potentially helping treat Covid-19’s inflammatory response. Researchers are also looking at CBD. The University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are also recommending scientists study CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties as a potential treatment for lung inflammation caused by coronavirus.

To find out more about how THC and CBD work and the differences between hemp and marijuana derived CBD, I chatted virtually with Coree Schmitz, the general manager of Cannabis brand Ripple by Stillwater.

Ripple Quick Sticks with THC and CBD on display.
Ripple Quicksticks

Q+A With Ripple By Stillwater

Q: Do you have thoughts on the University of South Carolina’s research regarding THC and ARDs? 

A: We love to see more studies being done and always support university-backed scientific research. At Ripple, we work with Colorado State University to do testing with Caliper CBD (the same as Ripple CBD) and hopefully Ripple THC in the future. We have also facilitated clinical trials with Ripple THC in order to understand our products before we had the ability to partner with a university. And while we are happy for any cannabinoid research to be pushed forward, but we’re also careful to not portray cannabis as a cure-all.

We feel strongly that not only THC and CBD, but really all cannabinoids including cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG), among many others, need more opportunities and funding to do these vitally important studies to understand effects, benefits, and even concerns about these natural elements. 

Q: The University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are also recommending scientists study CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties as a potential treatment for lung inflammation caused by coronavirus. Do you have any thoughts on this? 

A: We always support university-backed scientific research that would help us understand the benefits and power of CBD and other cannabinoids. It is unfortunate that these institutions have had to navigate significant holdbacks to this important research in the past.

Q: If using CBD products do you think it is important to use CBD from a cannabis plant rather than a hemp plant because you get a full plant extract this way? Can you explain the difference in hemp and cannabis a bit here?

A: We speak about this in terms of hemp-derived and cannabis-derived cannabinoids, which can be confusing as both plants are the species cannabis sativa L and it’s essentially a legal definition: The federal government set a limit of 0.3% THC for a plant to be considered hemp. We use hemp-derived CBD in our products as it exists in large quantities in the hemp plant, but we use isolates (aka single types of cannabinoid), so the implications behind hemp-derived vs. cannabis-derived somewhat dissolve.

We have seen research to support the entourage effect, and we prefer using and combining isolated cannabinoids as inputs to create a more reliable, consistent product each time. We feel this is the most important value for customers until we have more concrete evidence of how various cannabinoids interact with each other, and at what levels.

Isolates allow us to create that consistency when two different plants in the same field of cannabis can have differing cannabinoid contents. For example, one plant could have significantly more CBN content than the plant grown right next to it.

Q: Ripple came up with a special quick dissolve stick, are you working on anything else that is new or ground breaking? 

A: At the moment we are really focused on expanding our current product portfolio in terms of flavor variation within our existing product types and dose options. However, we are in the process of working with a very exciting new product that is going to give folks the opportunity to really explore taste with help from Ripple. Can’t say any more, but be on the lookout towards the end of the year.

Q: Are their other cannabinoids we should be looking at?

A: We have seen folks playing around with CBN and CBG quite a bit. From our point of view, any cannabinoids that we can reliably source in the quantities and at the quality standards we need are on the table, but we are still getting to the point where we can find reliable sources for these particular cannabinoid isolates. We are also watching as more studies have been published around these cannabinoids for us to understand how they interact with our bodies, other cannabinoids, and other elements.

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