Cannabis & COVID-19: Research On Cures, Effects And Possible Symptom Relief


Research Covered In This Post:

We are living in a time  of great uncertainty, fear, and suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In desperate search for a cure, people are drinking disinfectants, hoarding hydroxychloroquine, and hoping UV light might smoke out the virus. Yes, these are dark times, but the scientific community is working tirelessly to develop a vaccine while also researching viable treatment options for those who are infected today. In fact, the FDA has received 950 inquiries concerning COVID-19 related drug development trials. While no therapy has been approved to treat coronavirus, continuous testing is our greatest hope.

Along with traditional drug therapy trials, researchers across the United States, Israel, and Canada are exploring the role that cannabis has to play. These tests include experimenting with cannabis as a potential therapy, understanding how COVID-19 could affect medical patients, and also exploring how smoking cannabis could negatively affect recovery.

At ACS, we are hopeful and following the research as it unfolds. We want to be your source for the latest information on cannabis COVID-19 trial we can find. Why are we hopeful? Well, we already know cannabis reduces inflammation and as cited in a recent Leafly article, the ‘cytokine storms’ from COVID-19 cause so much inflammation they damage the host’s own body and lead to death. 


[CLINICAL TRIAL] The first study in Israel to explore the effects of cannabinoids on white blood cells of COVID-19 patients

In the latest Israeli study, researchers at the Center for Cannabis Research at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa are investigating cannabis as a viable treatment for COVID-19. Campus researchers have been observing the effect of cannabis on 19 severely ill patients and plan to launch the next phase of clinical trials in the upcoming months. The team is investigating the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties as a means to prevent cytokine storms, the inflammatory reaction that causes severe side effects in infected patients. Data shows the majority COVID-19 mortality is caused by this uncontrollable inflammatory reaction. 

Scientists at the Center identified 15 cannabis strains that could effectively prevent cytokine storm through its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system. In a recent press release, the director of the Center, Dr. Igal Louria-Hayon said, “We hope that by decoding the cannabinoid activity mechanism during inflammatory storms, we can treat COVID-19 patients where conventional drugs have failed.”

To conduct the clinical trial, researchers will analyze the effects of cannabinoids on white blood cells using samples from COVID-19 patients. These samples are stored at Rambam’s National Biobank of research specimens. According to Rambam’s director, Dr. Shlomit Yehudai-Reshef, this method will help the team understand how the body responds to the disease, and develop effective vaccines and drugs. Moreover, these samples will help speed up the process. “We believe that we will be able to accelerate the pace of investigation and move more rapidly to clinical applications, due to access to the National Biobank at Rambam,” he said.


[RESEARCH) Testing terpenes for viral infections, including COVID-19

Last month CannaSoul and Eybna Technologies announced a partnership to study cannabis terpenes as potential treatment for coronavirus. 

CannaSoul, a research and development firm, identifies itself as a “corona lab” because it’s promoting 2 cannabis studies about the disease. In the first study, CannaSoul is attempting to identify the cannabis molecules that can suppress the body’s dangerous immune response to COVID-19, which causes inflammation and severe side effects. Their hope is to isolate the plant’s molecules that can be used as a complementary treatment to steroids. In its second study, CannaSoul is examining whether components in the plant can help prevent the virus from entering the body. 

Eybna, a technology company and terpenes manufacturer, created NT-VRL based on research about terpene’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits. The treatment is intended to be used via inhalation. Through this effective delivery method, terpenes can directly contact the infected cells in the respiratory system. According to Eybna’s CEO Nadav Eyal, “This type of delivery method is a game-changer enabling us to achieve therapeutic qualities from these unique phytochemicals like never before,” Eyal added. 

The companies are working together specifically to target high-risk populations and actively sick patients. Using Eybna’s NT-VRL™ terpene formulation and CannaSoul’s analytical expertise, they’re hoping to achieve positive results. 

Edited as of May 24, 2020. 


Analysis of high CBD medical cannabis for potential COVID-19 therapy

Scientists from Canada’s University of Lethbridge in partnership with research firms, Pathway RX and Swysh recently found that specific medical Cannabis sativa components in potent CBD strains could offer meaningful treatment for COVID-19 symptoms. The University stresses that further clinical trials are required to make definitive claims, but they are eager to share what they’ve discovered and recently submitted their study for peer review. 

In this study, University of Lethbridge researchers examined human tissue to discover how cannabis extracts affect CE2 and TMPRSS2 protein receptors. These are the same receptors that coronavirus binds to in order to hijack and infect the body. Specifically, the team used cannabis to modulate the levels of these proteins and found that 13 different high-CBD extracts could downregulate TMPRSS2–thereby inhibiting one of the key gateways for COVID-19 virus to enter human cells. Based on this research, specific strains of medical cannabis extracts could theoretically be used as preventative mouthwash therapies. The Canadian research team is “actively pursuing partnerships to conduct clinical trials.”

*May 24th, 2020 Update*
Research partnership extends to Asia 

On May 13th, Swysh announced a new partnership with ASIA, an international agri-technology company, to advance the development of cannabis therapy for COVID-19. Through the partnership, ASIA will deploy Swysh’s technology to further research, develop, test and validate applications of its high-CBD extracts to help reduce virus transmission rates. In a joint statement, executives from ASIA and Swysh said, “In addition to the domestic research programs Swysh is implementing, we hope to expand on the network being developed by ASIA in Asia to continue the thorough research and development process on the use of hemp extracts for prevention of SARS-CoV2 infection, especially at a time when such significant need exists for preventative and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.”

Edited as of May 24, 2020. 


Patterns and trends of cannabis patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Led by Principal Investigator, epidemiologist and professor Denise C Vidot, PhD, the University of Miami (UM) is spearheading a survey to analyze cannabis patients in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The first goal of the survey is to understand how recent changes in access to medical cannabis could negatively affect patients’ mental and physical health. The second aim is to investigate how the sharing of inhaled cannabis products could contribute to accelerated coronavirus transmission. While the study is still in progress, ACS contacted Vidot to get exclusive details on the preliminary results.

The Study Purpose

Unfortunately medical cannabis patients are facing delays in accessing treatment due to COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions as well as economic hardship. Many of these patients have weak immune systems and chronic conditions that require consistent treatment. Without access, these patients could experience seriously detrimental effects. That’s why the University of Miami team is cultivating data to analyze patterns and trends of vulnerable adult users during the outbreak. 

In partnership with UM’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, Office of Hemispheric and Global Affairs, and Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the team hopes to explore changes in frequency, dose, and route of cannabis use, along with any associated changes in mental and physical health. The goal is to have every medical cannabis user worldwide complete the anonymous survey.

Preliminary Results

Over 1,000 medical cannabis users completed the COVID-19 Cannabis Health survey so far and the initial results were alarming. In an exclusive interview, Vidot told ACS that the majority of respondents suffer from mental health, chronic pain and cardio-metabolic disease. Vidot also confirmed these patients are struggling to access medication. These are the preliminary results:

  • 47% were worried about paying for their medical cannabis. 
  • 53% do not have advance supply of their cannabis medication. 

Early data also reveal patients are increasingly turning to alcohol in place of medical cannabis treatments. As a result, these patients are experiencing an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms. 

The Bottom Line

Results like these are also unnerving to medical cannabis professionals who work tirelessly to deliver this natural therapy to adults in need. According to Dr. Michelle Weiner, one of the investigators of the study and investigator, South Florida’s Medical Cannabis and CBD expert, this survey illustrates a real issue that cannot be overlooked.“Medicinal cannabis users comprise a vulnerable subpopulation that should not be marginalized in the joint effort to flatten the curve,” said Michelle Weiner. 

UM’s COVID-19 Cannabis Health Study also asks patients about their tendency to share products such as joints and vapes, in an attempt to analyze how this could contribute to the spread of the disease. According to Vidot, “16.2% of adults switched from smoking to ingesting cannabis via edibles or tinctures due to potential transmission risks and COVID-related lung damage.”

UM’s COVID-19 Cannabis Health study is set for completion in August. 


Edited as of May 04, 2020. 


CBD-infused exosomes as a targeted COVID-19 therapy 

On April 17, InnoCan Pharma announced a sponsorship research agreement with Ramot Tel Aviv University to study CBD as a cell therapy treatment for COVID-19. In a first of its kind study, the Israeli team will inject CBD into exosomes–cells that transport proteins and genetic information to other cells–and use them to target organs damaged by coronavirus. Researchers hypothesize that CBD’s known anti-inflammatory powers will help repair damage in the body and particularly the infected lung cells. 

Researchers also believe this therapy could target diseases of the Central Nervous System (CNS), which may provide treatments for epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease. The extensive research, funded by InnoCan, will cost about $450,000 in the first stage alone. The terms of the agreement give InnoCan exclusive rights to Ramon’s technology to develop the CBD-based cell therapy treatment. 


Edited as of April 28, 2020. 


Israeli hospital to begin administering cannabis to COVID-19 patients 

Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv announced plans to examine the effects of cannabis on coronavirus patients by administering active plant extracts, such as CBD to those in moderate condition. Doctors are seeking to capitalize on the plant’s antiviral and anti inflammatory properties to ease the symptoms of the disease. The hospital plans to administer treatment to dozens of patients in multiple wards throughout the hospital.

Led by Dr. Barak Cohen, a senior anesthesiologist and head of the corona management at Ichilov, the team of researchers stressed that this is a “novel approach” to treatment that would only incorporate the safe and non-addictive components of cannabis. The study is currently only associated with the hospital and does not have any pharmaceutical or government sponsorship 


Edited as of April 28, 2020. 


Combining CBD with steroid treatment in COVID-19 patients

In another Israeli clinical trial, Rabin Medical Center announced plans to begin administering CBD along with standard steroids to ten COVID-19 patients currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. Doctors are hoping that CBD will enhance the effectiveness of steroids for those in life-threatening conditions. 

Rabin Medical Center is partnering with Stereo Biotechs and Mor Research Application in hopes of providing a quick, safe and effective path to recovery for patients all around the world. If the results are positive, the trial may expand to 40 additional patients.


Edited as of April 28, 2020. 


How smoking cannabis (and other drugs) could be a risk factor for COVID-19

The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced in March that it would provide funding for research on how smoking could negatively affect patient recovery from COVID-19. In its announcement, NIDA specified that it seeks to understand whether or not the most vulnerable populations, including those who smoke tobacco, marijuana and vapes, are subject to even greater risk. 

NIDA explained that COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs, which could pose a serious threat to those with a history of smoking. Additionally, people who use opioids or methamphetamine along with those who suffer from HIV could be especially vulnerable to attacks on the lungs and immune systems. That’s why NIDA is seeking to fund research to determine how drug use–especially smoking–could be a risk factor for the onset and spread of the disease. 

NIDA will accept applications through March 31, 2021 and will give projects $100,000 per year in funding, but studies must be completed within two years. 


Edited as of April 28, 2020. 



The process of creating a vaccine or cannabis-based therapy for COVID-19 has only just begun. As of today, we have no clinical research to warrant any medical claims. However, current clinical trials and previous research on the plant’s therapeutic value may assist researchers in the hopes to develop an effective complementary treatment.


At ACS, we strive to provide the latest cannabis news as it unfolds, and we want to hear from you. We are an ISO Accredited, DEA Registered CLIA licensed Laboratory which means we can do human trials and participate in research studies, testing the effects of hemp. The future is in research. . Do you know of a clinical trial we may be missing? Do you need a resource to partner with you on your government backed study? Contact ACS today. 

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