Can CBD help with Coronavirus?

Can CBD help with Coronavirus?

Covid-19 has taken over the world, it’s taken over everyone’s lives. We talk about it, your Facebook feed is full of it, it’s on the news all day every day. There is no getting away from it, and we are, so far, without a vaccine.

COVID-19 shows no sign of slowing down just yet and there doesn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Researchers are exploring every avenue to either cure the disease, or alleviate the symptoms. This includes CBD, which on the surface, appears optimistic.

But where new studies have emerged with seemingly positive results, other CBD experts are wary of false or misleading claims which not only poses a risk to consumers, but the credibility of the CBD industry altogether.

We explore this below, however it seems clear from the offset that CBD should not be used either as a preventative measure, or to alleviate symptoms at this point in time. The evidence simply isn't there.

What we do know however, is that the pandemic is having a major affect on people's mental health and well-being. Isolation, social distancing, financial worries - all these can be indirectly affected by the virus. Read on to see how CBD can help with depression, anxiety, problems sleeping and stress.

Can CBD help with Coronavirus?

A summary of Coronavirus so far

In December 2019, the first human cases of Covid-19 were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China. Chinese Health officials informed the World Health Organisation about a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia-like illness. Some have speculated that the virus jumped from bats to humans via China's wet markets. Others have pushed the conspiracy theory that it was created in a lab. The true origin remains unknown.

The speed and intensity in which this disease spread was immense. It was big news yes, but restrictions were quickly put in place to contain the disease in China. With many countries banning travel for anyone who had been in China within the past two weeks. In January 2020, the WHO decided not to declare the outbreak an international public health emergency, at that point, only Vietnam had a coronavirus patient who hadn’t personally been to Wuhan. It was just one case. Even when the UK declared a 2 week lockdown. Many people believed once the lockdown finished, we could get back to normal.

On January 11th, China recorded its first Coronavirus death and within weeks infections are reported from Thailand and the United States. By the end of January, the WHO has declared a global public-health emergency. The disease begins to spike around the globe, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain and by March 11th, the WHO declares the outbreak a pandemic.

By April 2nd the world passes 1 million COVID-19 infections. By May, 5 million are infected, by June, over 10 million infections with more than 500,000 deaths. These figures seemed shocking, and each figure subsequently released has appeared more shocking than the last. On 26th October 2020, globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 reached over 43,174,000, with more than 1,155,000 deaths. It begins to become clear, that we are far from this being over and that ‘going back to normal’ may not be an option.

“...the world will not and cannot go back to the way things were. There must be a “new normal” – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared.” WHO Director - General Dr. Tedros 22.04.20


I’ve seen all that on the news, but what actually is Coronavirus?

Covid-19 is the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which is a respiratory pathogen (i.e. a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease).

How does the Coronavirus work?

COVID-19 uses its spiky surface proteins to attach to receptors found on healthy cells, especially those found in the lungs. These viral proteins travel through ACE2 receptors; and once they're inside, the coronavirus seizes healthy cells and takes control. |This results in some of the healthy cells eventually being killed.

The virus impacts the respiratory system by moving down your mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. COVID-19 however, goes further than illnesses such as the common cold, this is becuase the lower airways have more ACE2 receptors than the rest of the respiratory tract. It is this reason that the coronavirus is more threatening than the average cold or flu. It focuses on the lungs, thus making breathing difficult, this is particularly harmful if it leads to pneumonia.

What are the symptoms

COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. There are some who show no symptoms, and perhaps aren't even aware they have contracted the virus. Others will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalisation. Others, as we know, have much more significant, and sometimes fatal consequences.

Most common symptoms:

  • fever.
  • dry cough.
  • tiredness.

Less common symptoms:

  • aches and pains.
  • sore throat.
  • diarrhoea.
  • conjunctivitis.
  • headache.
  • loss of taste or smell.
  • a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Serious symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • chest pain or pressure.
  • loss of speech or movement.

For approximately 80% of people who catch Coronavirus, the symptoms end with a cough and a fever. For others, the infection can become very severe. About five to eight days after symptoms begin, shortness of breath can sometimes occur which can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). It takes approximately 5–6 days for symptoms to show, although it can take up to 14 days.

It has been suggested that this group of people - who show no symptoms - are responsible for most of the spread. Inevitably, if people are not showing symptoms, it is less likely they will seek out testing. In addition to this, positive tests generally represent infections that have been in the body between 5 - 14 days. Which has given the infection a great deal of time to spread.

Coronavirus symptoms can often be mild, or non-existant.

I know all this! Where does CBD come into it?

As we know, the WHO deems CBD as a safe substance which offers “preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of medical conditions”. There is much evidence to suggest CBD has inflammatory properties, has the ability to reduce pain and anxiety, as well as the reduction of vascular tension. Therefore, CBD has great potential in relieving the symptoms of a virus such as Covid-19.


One of the methods explored, in relation to prevention, is concerned with the ‘lowering or modulating of ACE2 levels in high-risk tissues’. One study examines the possibility of using CBD with oral solutions, such as mouthwashes. This is because ‘studies have found that ACE2 levels change when someone contracts COVID-19. The ability to control these levels becomes particularly important as ACE2 is essential for lung function in animal models of SARS viruses (Severe acute respiratory syndrome viruses)'.

This Lethbridge study hypothesizes that extracts high in CBD could be used to combat Covid-19 infections by modulating levels of ACE2 receptors in lung tissue, oral/nasal mucosa, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, and testes. The researchers believe that modulating ACE2 levels in these areas with CBD could help to decrease people’s susceptibility to Covid-19. As the coronavirus can only enter a human host with a receptor, i.e. ACE2, targeting these could reduce the risk of infection significantly.

Cytokine storm

Another group exploring the potential for treating Covid-19 with cannabis is Israeli canna-tech company Stero Therapeutics’. Their goal is to determine whether CBD can increase the effectiveness of corticosteroids (a key treatment for autoimmune illnesses) or allow for steroid dosages to reduce while enhancing their effect. Steroids have already been used in the fight against Covid-19, specifically its effect on acute infections, in which an over-response in the immune system is triggered. Known as a cytokine storm, this causes more damage to the organs (specifically the lungs) than the coronavirus itself.

Stero Therapeutics hopes that its research will demonstrate that CBD can be used to enhance steroids’ effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients. The results of the study suggest a potential protective role for CBD during ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome) 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.

Researchers are exploring whether CBD can be used in the fight against Coronavirus

Anyone disagree?

The answer to this is a massive YES.

Many CBD companies have been heavily criticised for selling products that claim to prevent COVID-19. The FDA has forbidden the 'sale and advertising of products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis or cure of COVID-19'. With some companies having been sent warning letters from the FDA.

In March 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the use of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the treatment of COVID-19. Taking advice from The Lancet Medical Journal, it was advised that NSAIDs contain an enzyme which could complicate symptoms and treatment of COVID-19.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) agreed with the potential use of CBD early in the Coronavirus outbreak but by April 2020, they reversed that opinion and stating “there is currently no evidence that the acute use of NSAIDs causes an increased risk of developing COVID-19 or of developing a more severe COVID-19 disease.

One might make the assumption that these views come from those who oppose the use of CBD in general, but this simply isn't the case. Pro-CBD experts have also raised concerns.

Whilst the theory behind CBD and how it can help does point towards the idea it could help with Coronavirus, professionals are stating that this isn't the case, and even those to who study CBD have been alarmed by some of the claims being made by advertisers. The board of the International Association on Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) even released a statement in March asking advertisers not to amplify “false information that is circulating on the Internet.”

Sunil K. Aggarwal, an integrative medicine physician who uses cannabis in his Seattle practice, agrees with the IACM and notes that there is no evidence that CBD protects against coronavirus infection or effectively treats it.

I don't have Coronavirus, but I still feel affected by it, can CBD help?

We are living in very strange times. The UK is currently in lockdown and life just hasn't been the same since COVID-19 burst into our lives. Whilst this could be an introverts idea of heaven, many of us are struggling with the change in lifestyle.

We have been forced into a situation where many of our basic needs have been taken from us. Feeling safe in our communities, feeling financially secure, having interactions with our friends and loved ones. Being bereft of such things can cause serious psychological issues. And not just those who already struggle with their mental health are being affected. According to one major study, which was conducted in the early stages of the first lockdown, 57% of those who took part reported symptoms of anxiety, with 64% recording common signs of depression. This was noted to be significantly in excess of the levels normally reported in the UK.

According to the CDC, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.

Can CBD help with anxiety, depression and stress during the COVID-19 lockdown?

We already know that CBD has been reported to help those who suffer with such ailments. Whilst no one can say CBD can help with the physical symptom of COVID-19, we can say that there is certainly potential to help with the indirect effects of the virus.

CBD has been reported to be helpful in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and migraines. All of which may affect someone who is struggling during lockdown.


CBD is said to have an anxiolytic effect (i.e. reduces anxiety).

CBD can connect to receptors of the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) and inhibit the release of anxiety messengers. The ECS in particular is suspected to be able to regulate fear through special signals.

Researchers have also found that CBD can increase serotonin and glutamate signaling. This is be done by activating the 5-HT1A receptor. So it seems possible that CBD could act faster than the SSRI antidepressant.


CBD has been shown to activate the 5-HT 1A serotonin receptor. These receptors can also increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus, as shown in a separate study with the anxiety drug buspirone on the opossum. Therefore, it seems likely that CBD could have similar effects. Another study showed that CBD could increase serotonin and glutamate levels. The results of the scientists indicates that CBD could have a fast and lasting antidepressant-like effect.

Sleep Disorders

CBD can work wonderfully with our endocannabinoid system. As recent studies show, CBD has a calming effect on the body, relieves anxiety and can lower stress levels. This could already combat mild sleep disorders.


Studies suggest that CBD could help with migraines and headaches, which we know can often be triggered by stress. In a 2016 study by the University of Colorado, 121 migraine patients were given medical marijuana daily. It was investigated whether migraine attacks can be prevented in this way. The results were outstanding: around 40% of the test subjects stated that the number of migraine headaches had halved.

If you feel affected by the pandemic and think that CBD might be for you, feel free to navigate around the site and see if CBD can help!

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