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Terpene profile in CBD marijuana leaf

Are CBD & Terpenes the Key to Fighting COVID-19?

As the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of letting up in the immediate future, scientists and medical researchers are tirelessly performing rigorous studies to find effective treatments that can help COVID-19 patients. Unsurprisingly, CBD is a compound that made the short list of ingredients that researchers felt might have a useful application. Initial results are more than promising: CBD and terpenes might be twice as effective at reducing inflammation caused by COVID-19 than traditional corticosteroids.

A Ray of Light During a Cytokine Storm

Cytokine storm reaction

Ever heard of a “cytokine storm?” It’s one of the most feared bodily reactions that doctors and medical professionals face when helping their patients. Simply put, this reaction occurs when cytokines — crucial molecules that your body uses to fight infection and illness — begin flooding your system. It’s your body’s defense system turned up to “11”, creating a response so powerful that your own immune system begins to attack itself.

The result is a cytokine storm, where legions of your pro-inflammatory cytokines can cause extreme fatigue, swelling, fever, nausea, and even death. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is known to cause cytokine storms in some patients, adding another brutal complication on top of an already little-understood, fearsome virus.

There are several imperfect, but useful treatments when a patient is experiencing a cytokine storm, including corticosteroids like dexamethasone. However, a new Israeli study has found a surprising agent to calm the hyper-inflammatory state caused by this condition: CBD.

CBD is well-known for its potential inflammation reduction properties, which made it an appealing choice for researchers desperate to find treatments for COVID-19 patients. But one thing they found was particularly surprising: CBD used in combination with terpenes was twice as effective as dexamethasone at fighting cytokine storm-related inflammation caused by COVID-19.

Terpenes & “The Entourage Effect”

Aromatic chemistry structure

To understand why CBD + terpenes had this effect, we first have to understand what terpenes are and how they work in conjunction with cannabidiol (CBD). Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in virtually every plant, responsible for imparting the plant’s unique scent and flavor. The cannabis plant, from which CBD is derived, is particularly rich in many different kinds of terpenes.

You may have noticed that a lot of the higher-end CBD brands have created products that combine high doses of CBD with the inclusion of a broad spectrum of terpenes from the cannabis plant. The reason for this is simple: the existing literature and research around CBD has reliably shown that CBD works better when used in conjunction with terpenes.

In fact, it seems like the cannabis plant — in its holistic, unaltered state — is the real scientific marvel. Yes, its individual components have actionable, beneficial biological effects. But to put an even finer point on it, there is an “entourage effect” that enhances the active agents in cannabis when the compounds are all used together. Think of it as a case of “two plus two equals five” – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Single Active Ingredient vs. Diverse Formulations

CBD and terpenes active ingredient

This fascinating effect created by the synergistic use of CBD and terpenes is really pointing at a larger phenomenon that researchers are urgently studying. The CEO of Eybna, the Israeli medical research team responsible for several of the latest terpene studies, is especially keen on the idea of “formulation design” — where treatment is based on the synergistic effects of multiple active ingredients.

You can contrast this with the traditional pharmaceutical approach, which typically involves a targeted dose of a single active ingredient. Although this can obviously be effective as well, the current horizon of exciting medical research centers around these diverse formulations where each ingredient interacts with the others to offer an even more powerful effect than each one could provide individually.

When researchers used CBD alone, they were able to suppress about 75% of the cytokines observed in their trials. When they used the lab’s proprietary terpene blend called NT-VRL, they were able to achieve 80% suppression. But when the two were administered together, the researchers achieved a shocking 90%+ inhibition rate of cytokines.

What about dexamethasone? This WHO-approved treatment for COVID-19 induced cytokine storms only inhibits around 30% of cytokines in the patient.

It’s still early, and they still need to be human trials and peer review, but these initial results are astonishing — providing a ray of hope not only for COVID-19 patients but all those who experience or are at risk for this lethal immune system response.