Coronavirus - Is it OK to Take CBD Oil?
Updated: Mar 27
Lock down, stock piling, panic buying, and self-isolation were terms most of us were unfamiliar with two weeks ago. Many thought the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was bad enough, but the major disruption and threat to our physical, mental and economic health is beyond anything any of us have experienced in our life time. And yet, here we are.
Confusion and fake news abound, including in the world of CBD. A number of retailers are suggesting that CBD - often touted as the miracle oil to beat all ills - is a 'natural' alternative to over-the-counter painkillers, with some even suggesting CBD oil boosts our immune system.
However, in light of the recent NHS advice to avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, perhaps a little caution should be taken when it comes to taking CBD if we actively have the virus.
Inflammation plays a key role in our immune response defending us against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, damaged cells and injury by removing the threat and initiating the healing process. Of course, when it becomes chronic or overactive, inflammation can result in tissue and organ damage, plus chronic pain.
That's why patients with autoimmune diseases, or inflammatory conditions like arthritis take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, or immunosupressants such as steroids or methotrexate. But therein lies the clue, these drugs are suppressing the immune system in order to prevent damage caused by inflammation.
Many of us, including myself, often reach for ibuprofen when we've got a cold or flu thinking it is interchangeable in its use with paracetamol. But there's a reason the NHS is advising to only take the latter.
Ibuprofen, as well as bringing down inflammation, may weaken our defences by reducing the production of antibodies (proteins produced in the blood that that attack and kill outside invaders); making it far from an ideal way to treat the symptoms of a particular contagious virus like Covid-19.
CBD and Coronavirus
A large proportion of people take CBD oil do for its anti-inflammatory effects and understandably, they're asking whether it's safe to continue taking CBD during the current coronavirus pandemic.
I am not a doctor, and as such will not be giving any medical advice. Indeed, the purpose of this article is just to counter some of the irresponsible claims suggesting CBD boosts the immune system and protects against or cures the coronavirus.
However, the general consensus from the scientific community is that CBD is somewhere between immunosuppressive and immunomodulating (and certainly not immune-strengthening).
We know CBD is anti-inflammatory by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibiting T-cell production (white blood cells that destroy antigens, including viruses). In fact, CBD's ability to suppress the immune system is such that a number of clinical trials are taking place investigating whether it could be an effective steroid-sparing treatment in autoimmune diseases like Crohn's and prevent the development of Graft-versus-Host-Disease after bone marrow transplants. Although, it should be noted that much higher doses of purified CBD are used in these studies (around 300mg) than that taken by your average UK CBD oil consumer.
That said, some patients are taking high daily doses of CBD, such as children with drug resistant epilepsy prescribed Epidyolex to control their potentially fatal seizures. Like anyone else with an underlying health condition or compromised immune system, these patients will be following advice from the UK Government to minimise contact with the outside world and will of course continue taking their life saving medication.
So what about the rest of us who take a few milligrams of CBD each day to manage everything from stress, sleep, anxiety, and chronic pain?
Studies show elevated stress levels, not getting enough sleep, and generally feeling anxious weaken our immune system. So, if CBD helps you to feel calmer during enforced confinement and sleep better at night, this will almost certainly help support your immune health.
Is it a good idea to keep taking your CBD oil if you show symptoms of the coronavirus? The jury is out, but mostly because no one actually knows.
What is clear is that we are currently in uncharted territories, which are changing and evolving on a daily basis; something inherently stressful for human beings. We all need to find our own strategies 'to keep calm and carry on'. So, whether it's taking CBD oil, meditating or finding ways to exercise indoors, it's time for us to find a 'new normal' that works for us.
Mary Biles is medical cannabis journalist, educator and author of 'The CBD Book - The Essential Guide To CBD Oil'