Could Cannabis Terpenes Treat COVID-19?


On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization’s office in China received a media statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission about cases of “viral pneumonia” infecting people in the city. By March 7, 2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 100,000 globally. Less than five months after that, John Hopkins University reported over 24 million cases worldwide.

The world hasn’t experienced something like this since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. As nations attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while also treating patients and researching long-term solutions, many wonder if natural remedies hold the answers we seek.

In fact, they might! One study found that cannabis plant terpenes may reduce the inflammation caused by the coronavirus.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes give plants their distinct scents. These aromatic compounds are most commonly associated with cannabis because this plant contains a high concentration of them. However, lavender, oranges, and pine needles all contain terpenes that define these unique flora family members. Terpenes serve two functions in plants: to ward off predators and attract pollinators.

Terpenes in cannabis

In the cannabis plant, glands secrete both terpenes and cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD). As millennia passed, the cannabis plant evolved to secrete different types of terpenes depending on its strain. Environmental factors such as climate, age and soil type continue to determine the most prevalent terpenes in cannabis plants.

Researchers have identified more than 100 different cannabis terpenes. Depending on the cannabis strain, the levels of the numerous terpenes vary, giving each one its own distinctive aroma. Furthermore, the terpene composition of a cannabis strain supposedly determines the potential therapeutic value. For example, myrcene, a common terpene found in many cannabis strains, may effectively treat insomnia, pain and inflammation.

Understanding COVID-19

Caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 affects every patient differently. Within 2-14 days of exposure, patients experience a wide range of symptoms including fever, cough, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, loss of taste or smell and sore throat. While some only show mild symptoms, others must spend weeks in the hospital fighting off this unpredictable illness.

When it comes to COVID-19, doctors, nurses and medical researchers have increased concern about cytokine storm syndrome. In some patients, this strain of the coronavirus triggers cytokine storm syndrome, an inflammatory response that causes fever, fatigue and vomiting. As it progresses, patients experiencing cytokine storm syndrome may require ventilators to survive. It’s a hallmark of the most severe cases.

COVID-19 and cannabis terpenes

Currently, medical research facilities are working overtime to determine the best method to treat COVID-19. While many have their fingers crossed that a vaccine or cure-all will soon become available, doctors and researchers are also exploring the best options for treating this virulent disease’s symptoms and effects, include cytokine storm syndrome.

New research demonstrates that the cannabis terpene formulation NT-VRL combined with CBD is twice as effective at treating inflammation as CBD on its own or Dexamethasone, a common corticosteroid treatment. Eybna Technologies, a terpene technology company with offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, owns the NT-VRL formulation patent.

In April 2020, Eybna and Cannasoul, a cannabis research and development laboratory, announced their partnership to explore the treatment and prevention possibilities with NT-VRL.  Consumed as a direct inhalant, scientists believe this cannabis terpene formulation potentially diminishes the virulence of this illness. NT-VRL administered via inhalant more directly puts the treatment in contact with infected cells in a person’s respiratory system. Eybna co-founder and CEO Nadav Eyal calls this delivery method a game-changer.

Can you use medical marijuana for COVID-19?

At this time, no data shows that medical marijuana effectively treats or prevents COVID-19. But that could change quickly.

Canadian researchers, Olga and Igor Kovalchuck, experimented with novel cannabis strains and originally set out to find cancer and inflammation treatments. However, the duo recently shared information indicating they might have found a way to stop COVID-19 from entering the body via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2). Sativa strains with high CBD concentrations may modulate ACE2 in the respiratory tissue that this virus infects.

Terpenes play an instrumental role in the potency of cannabis consumption. Even though more research is needed, cannabis terpenes may hold the key to decreasing the devastating effects of COVID-19. There’s undoubtedly promise with cannabis terpenes reducing inflammation in patients suffering from many conditions and illnesses.

Until we know more, continue learning as much as you can about natural remedies that may be more effective than anything concocted in a laboratory. If you’re interested in finding out how cannabis terpenes may reduce your inflammation symptoms, get in touch with a medical marijuana practitioner to discuss your options.

Evan DeMarco

Evan DeMarco is a leading sports medicine and nutrition expert, published author, public speaker and frequent guest on television, radio, and digital platforms.

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