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April 13, 2021
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or outside invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. It is a vital function of the immune system. When someone twists their ankle or cuts their finger, inflammation helps protect the injured area while it heals.
The problem with the body’s inflammatory response is it can go into action even when there isn’t an injury or invader. An excess of inflammation is associated with and can complicate a variety of conditions, from anxiety and depression to diabetes, COVID, and cancer.
In this blog series, we will look at what science says about the role of inflammation in different health conditions and how CBD can help mitigate excessive inflammation, both locally and systemically.
In part one, we’ll look at what is known about the role of inflammation in COVID and three ways CBD can help.
The ancients identified inflammation in the body with five classic signs:
The more scientists learn about the inflammation process, the more they recognize its complexity.
As a healing, restorative process, inflammation is a full circle of events. It starts with the initiation of a response, which develops the classic signs above. It is complete when the tissue or organ is healed and restored to normal appearance and function.
However, in certain conditions, inflammation plays a more aggressive role with no resolution. A chronic state of inflammation develops that can last a lifetime. Such inflammatory disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, retinitis, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.
While most people who contract the coronavirus recover without medical assistance, researchers have identified which vulnerable populations tend to be harder hit and have discovered that inflammation plays a crucial role in the intensity of COVID symptoms.
The coronavirus disproportionately affects older people and those who have conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity – all of which are associated with existing inflammation. These patients are more likely to require intensive care, have lower survival rates, and face more potential long-term complications.
Patients that have a harder time overcoming COVID-19 show a more extreme and irregular inflammatory response when infected. This knowledge has led the scientific community to look at existing anti-inflammatory drugs to help mitigate severe symptoms.
New research suggests that the cytokine storms or extreme inflammatory response in some COVID patients are in part due to stress inside the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
The ER is an organelle inside our cells that modifies proteins. When a virus invades the cell, it hijacks this cellular mechanism to create its own proteins.
With normal, healthy function, the proteins modified by the ER would be moved to another part of the cell. With the COVID virus, molecules of the protein stay in the ER and clump together. The result of these insoluble aggregates either kills the cell or activates an immune response.
Signaling molecules called cytokines recruit immune cells to the site as part of an inflammatory response.
Cytokines can be useful tools in the immune response. However, some cytokine actions can cause real damage if they are not controlled, which happens in a cytokine storm.
A growing body of research suggests that CBD (and plant terpenes) can help prevent and treat COVID. Here are three ways researchers are studying CBD for COVID applications.
New research suggests that cannabis Sativa with high concentrations of CBD can down-regulate enzymes in tissues targeted by the coronavirus. It also down-regulates key proteins required for the virus to enter into the host. Although additional studies are suggested, these findings indicate that CBD can help prevent infection.
A COVID study done by researchers at Augusta University in Georgia suggests CBD may help patients experiencing a cytokine storm by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production. The model showed that CBD reduced key cytokines and fought off the storm, bringing down the inflammation to end respiratory distress and damage.
Two additional studies conducted by the Dental College of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia showed that CBD could improve oxygen levels. The model showed that CBD reduced physical lung damage and inflammation related to adult respiratory distress syndrome.
They discovered the mechanism that CBD accomplishes this is by normalizing levels of a peptide known to reduce inflammation, named apelin. Levels of apelin are low during a COVID-19 infection.
A study done in the summer of 2020 suggests that CBD with terpenes is more effective at reducing inflammation due to COVID than corticosteroids.
One cause of COVID’s destructive cytokine storm is the stress it puts on the ER when it takes over the mechanism to make its own proteins. Several studies unrelated to COVID have found that CBD can significantly prevent ER stress, decrease cell death related to ER stress, and reduce the ER stress pathway as part of its fight against inflammation.
Unlike many traditional anti-inflammatories that block specific enzymes and can have side effects, CBD achieves its powerful anti-inflammatory effects through complex interactions with our regulatory, body-wide endocannabinoid system.
Instead of working through one simple mechanism, CBD helps balance the body’s systems. The cannabinoid receptors are designed to identify the source of inflammation and release enzymes to restore balance to those areas.
In part two of this series, we’ll examine the role of inflammation in cancer and what scientists know so far about how CBD can help.
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