CBD, Cytokines And … COVID-19?

Sounds like a wild leap, right?

Ongoing research has suggested that there is a drug that can reduce the chance of death by up to a third in patients placed on ventilator support  due to the COVID-19 virus. The drug is actually a very common, cheap anti-inflammatory steroid called dexamethasone. 

We’re talking about this because this news becomes very important when we look at why the drug helps with survival rates – and how the biological mechanisms involved relate closely to mechanisms of health benefits found with CBD intake! 

The Science Behind The News – In The Least Boring Way Possible!

COVID-19 has the potential to be a killer in the more vulnerable, with one of the major causes of death in patients being a massive spike in inflammatory chemicals called cytokines in the blood

This is also known by healthcare professionals as a ‘Cytokine Storm’. This basically causes the immune system to attack the body, causing horrible events such as organ shut down, sepsis and death. 

It’s essentially your body’s panic mode – when confronted with a new, highly infectious virus that targets essential organs such as the lungs, it goes all guns firing. It’s nothing particularly new, however it’s becoming a common symptom of new viral infections.

These raised levels of inflammatory molecules can also cause extreme lung and throat inflammation as well as a fluid build-up in the lungs.

These problems reduce the lungs ability to function – leading to people needing oxygen or being placed on ventilators to survive.

Here’s Where Dexamethasone Comes In

News from the BBC has stated that Oxford University has recently trialled around 2,000 COVID -19 patients with dexamethasone treatment, with a control group of 4,000 who didn’t receive treatment.

The team found that the risk of death was reduced in patients who were on ventilators from 40% down to 28%. Patients using oxygen had their risk of death reduced from 25% to 20%.

Talking percentages is a little abstract – so boiled down it’s saving one extra life for every 20-25 treated with this cheap drug. 

Fantastic news – it’s being hailed as a massive breakthrough for the UK! But we’re going to talk a little more about inflammation responses, and which bodily function is responsible for them. 

CBD & Inflammation

The Endocannabinoid System in our bodies functions as the control board for most of our body’s silent processes. We’re talking about the:

  • Nervous system – serotonin, dopamine 
  • Hormone system – cortisol, melatonin
  • Immune system – cytokine response 

We’ve got a whole post on general inflammation here, but we’re talking about a slightly different form of inflammation here. It’s the same premise – the body notices something is damaged and sends signals to the immune system to send inflammatory chemicals down to the affected area to stop more things going wrong.

Studies have found that while the mechanisms aren’t fully understood yet, evidence suggests that CBD treatment lowers the levels of some inflammatory cytokines in mice, and in other studies have been found to increase the levels of other cytokines known to reduce inflammation.

While mice studies aren’t the best evidence when talking about human problems – and should be taken with a pinch of salt – it’s helpful to have a small insight.

These same ‘inflammatory’ cytokines are some of the same kinds that crop up in other autoimmune illnesses  (rheumatoid arthritis as an example). They aren’t bad by themselves – actually they’re essential! The problem arises when they are overproduced.

In the end the only thing that successfully fights off viral infections is your body. You need a strong immune response to fight infection, but not an overly aggressive one that ends up causing more harm than good. 

CBD in the body functions as a homeostatic agent, in english it means it helps keep your body’s mechanisms balanced – not too weak and not too forceful. When you’re dealing with any form of infection, it’s always going to be better if your body is functioning from a balanced state. 

Just Food For Thought

We’re not saying that CBD will be effective in treatment for COVID-19 – research on the virus and dexamethasone is still in its early stages and we’re in no position to comment on medical advice. Always work with a doctor with regards to taking any supplement!

But with the increasing talk of inflammation responses and just how dangerous they can be to your health, it’s always worth talking about the benefits of nature’s best kept secret, and how its benefits can sometimes extend further than just balancing hormones.

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