A tweet posted Saturday from France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran spurred conversation among medical professionals and research scientists over the weekend on the possible risks of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen to treat the symptoms of COVID-19. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially released a statement saying that anti-inflammatories should be avoiding during infection.
But cannabis is full of anti-inflammatory compounds. Does this mean infected folks should avoid cannabis consumption? And what of the people out there in need of anti-inflammatory relief for acute and chronic conditions?
First off, the WHO guidance is for avoidance. If you can take acetaminophen instead of NSAIDS for pain or feverish symptoms, do it. Listen to the experts. The worry is that anti-inflammatories may over-suppress the body’s immune system and its ability to fight off the virus.
Additionally, NSAIDS have been shown to exacerbate risk of gastric injury, heart attacks and strokes. Elderly patients and those with comorbidities or compromised immune systems, the very same group of folks already at higher risk for coronavirus infection and complications, are commonly told to avoid NSAIDS because of these potential side effects. Those risks are compounded with coronavirus infection, according to experts speaking out on the matter.
For consumers and medical patients already using cannabis regularly, the guidance is one of prevention, not treatment.
“We do not recommend using cannabis to try and manage or treat your coronavirus,” said Dr. Jessica Knox, MD, MBA, MPH and co-founder of Doctors Knox Inc., a family business treating and educating patients and consumers though cannabis science. “If you are healthy and well, by all means, continue using cannabinoids and cannabis to help boost your body’s health. The idea right now for those of us who are not sick is to keep your body and immune system as healthy as possible.”
Knox went on to highlight other ways people can maintain and optimize the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help prevent coronavirus infection:
- Eat healthy, nutritious foods
- Supplement with Vitamin C and Zinc
- Take mushroom complexes known for boosting immunity
- Keep up physical activity
- Incorporate yoga and deep breathing
- And, of course, wash those hands and maintain social distancing!
As far as using cannabis to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, the virus is simply too new for good scientific data to have been accrued, much less assessed.
“Cannabinoids certainly have anti-inflammatory properties,” Knox explained. “Additionally, there are some cannabinoids that, in [pre-clinical] studies have some anti-viral properties … or are bronchodilators … but we can’t extrapolate what we know of other viruses to coronavirus.”
And while THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has demonstrated the ability to relieve fever, for those consuming it regularly, masking the symptoms of the virus can increase risk of transmission as those individuals may be less aware of their declining health, according to experts concerned with preemptive over-the-counter dosing.
Additionally, THC is a potent anti-inflammatory. As neurologist and world-renowned authority on the medicinal use of cannabis Dr. Ethan Russo has stated across numerous publications, “THC has twenty times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.” What remains unknown is how that anti-inflammatory action plays out against the symptoms of coronavirus.
But with the likelihood of eventual infection climbing according to the CDC, avid consumers and medical patients who rely on cannabis to treat an array of conditions and symptoms may not have to give up their green entirely, even if or when they become infected, Knox suggests—though the benefits of a tolerance break at any time should not be underestimated.
“Maybe you don’t have to give it up entirely, but I wouldn’t continue to use cannabis at the same rate or ramp up my cannabis use if I had coronavirus,” Knox said. Especially for those without a long history of use or need, she suggests microdosing (2.5 mg) full-spectrum CBD (cannabidiol) or CBG (cannabigerol) at most.
In an email exchange with Cannabis Business Times, Russo pointed out that for those in need of anti-inflammatory action, CBD has demonstrated a better safety profile than NSAIDS, in general. Though, again, no research on the interaction between cannabinoids and coronavirus has been done at this time.
And while it may seem obvious to some, Russo also emphasized that no one with a respiratory virus should be smoking. Oral and oromucosal dosing is the preferred method of consumption here.
For now, the takeaway on cannabis vs coronavirus is one of prevention. The ECS is the primary regulator of physiological homeostasis, including the immune system. Take care of it. Pay attention to it. And, as always, stay in communication with preferred health care providers to determine what’s best for each individual.
Published at Wed, 18 Mar 2020 22:11:00 +0000