A recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology made major headlines already this week, as it reveals that cannabis could help with lung inflammation and respiratory issues caused by conditions like COVID-19. 

So far, this has only been tested on mice, but the viewed effects have been positive and incredibly encouraging. Respiratory issues are a common concern for folks worldwide, but even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the entire world and made folks extremely concerned about inflammation. Conditions like COVID-19 can cause ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), which manifests in a shortness of breath and blue skin. Up to 50 percent of those with ARDS die each year, and it’s an even bigger concern this year. This is related to a phenomenon called a cytokine storm, a term many have been hearing in association with COVID-19. 

Cytokine Storms and Cannabis

“In patients with respiratory disease, the lethal symptoms associated with ARDS usually follow a surge of signals in the lungs called a cytokine storm,” reports IFL Science. “Cytokines are small messengers released in the body and are important in the immune system when the body is under attack from infection. They can either be pro-inflammatory, where they tell the body to react to the site of infection with immune cells, or anti-inflammatory, where they slow the reaction down and stop immune cells damaging the area too much. In respiratory diseases, sometimes the immune system overreacts and releases too many pro-inflammatory cytokines, causing hyperinflammation and possible death. This is a cytokine storm.”

“In the current study, we investigated if THC would induce anti-inflammatory Tregs and MDSCs in mice exposed to SEB and if their induction was regulated by miR,” the study’s abstract explains. “Our data demonstrated that THC decreased the expression of two key miRs, let7a-5p and miR-34-5p which targeted the expression of several signaling molecules that targeted the induction or functions of Tregs and MDSCs.”

In layman’s terms, in order to look at how cannabis could impact inflammation, a research team at the University of South Carolina led by Amira Mohammed used THC to treat mice with ARDS symptoms to see how their inflammation would react. They noticed that by blocking the cytokines that cause inflammation and damage to the lungs, THC was actually protecting the mice against lethal symptoms from cytokine storms and improving their chances of survival. The THC slowed the inflammation and stopped any extreme damage from being caused by the storms.  

While this study is huge for showing how THC could stop inflammation during our current COVID era, much more testing and many more clinical trials need to be done, and, of course, this has so far only been proven to work on mice. Still, this is a huge step for both cannabis and inflammatory research, as well as a major step forward for COVID research.

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