I’m almost at a loss for where to start this post today. I know everyone is going through different things at different times so I want to start off by saying that however you feel, in this moment, it’s okay. These past couple of weeks have been a lot for everyone.
I know there’s a lot of panic, questions, and turmoil surrounding COVID-19 that’s reaching into every part of the world, even the world of cannabis.
So I’m going to start out by saying I’m not here as a panicker, here to spread more fear-based blanket statements or speculate on something no one can predict.
And I’m not here to listen to or spread misinformation or theories about why it’s happening or who’s to blame (so keep your comments kind and constructive below).
I’m also not here to say you should just go about your business because this is NBD and will just blow over.
I’m here as a cannabis and health coach and as a person who knows how important your own health and immune system is when it comes to viral pandemics like this one.
As most of us know at this point, anyone and everyone can “get” the coronavirus, and it’s becoming more clear when looking at the data that this novel virus mostly affects the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
From the current data we have available, the most deaths are occurring in the elderly population (65+ being the hardest hit) and complications are happening mostly in people with underlying issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma or weakened immune systems.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be doing every possible thing we can to flatten the curve so people can get the care they need.
As tough as it is, restricting our movement and taking precautions seems to be the only personal response we can make that will help slow this train down.
My bubble has gotten so much smaller (even in the past 24 hours) and it got a bit snugger when I realized the burden this may put on the health care system, making it tough for people like my mom, dad or auntie get the help they need if they were to get sick or if someone needed to go to the hospital for something unrelated.
With that said, I believe if we focus on improving our health (changing our lifestyles, eating better, quitting the stupid sh*t we all know is unhealthy in the first place) instead of stressing out and being mean to each other, we’re probably more likely to weather this virus and this collective experience better.
But with so many people reaching out and asking me if I was still smoking weed when I got sick last week with a mystery virus (coulda been corona, coulda not been), I realized there’s a lot of confusion out there about smoking, THC, CBD, and viral infections.
So I’m here to share everything I’ve learned about cannabis while battling a viral infection and some tips about working with your endocannabinoid system to potentially improve your immune system.
Do you need to quit smoking weed because of the Coronavirus?
Opinion: It’s a good idea to at least cut back a bit… For now.
If you're ready to quit smoking altogether and move onto other methods of ingestion, now is a really great time. You can explore ingestion methods from the comfort of your own home and give your journey the attention it deserves.
But I'm not telling you that you need to do anything that you don't want to do. I'm a huge proponent of listening to your body as opposed to talking heads like me.
And if you've tried other methods of ingestions like tinctures, edibles and topicals… and you've been consistent and tracked to see what works for you… and smoking is still what works for you… by all means… carry on. You do you.
But if you're ripping bongs, doing dabs or smoking joint after joint, and you're feeling irritation in your lungs, difficulty breathing or if your breath capacity is already low, it may make it harder to recover from the coronavirus.
Obviously, we don't have data on this yet (so withhold your trolling for a minute), but if you think about how smoking works, how lungs work and how the coronavirus works, cutting back or quitting seems like a good path to explore right now.
Even though cannabis probably won’t give you lung cancer, it does damage respiratory cell tissue, which is not what you want when a virus that goes straight to the lungs is on the loose.
The cells on the lungs surface renew every 2-3 weeks, so any break you can give your lungs will be beneficial before you catch the coronavirus.
It may be a good time to transition into using tinctures, oils or healthy low dose edibles throughout the day.
You could also vape flower if you wanted to, but I’ve found that vaping can be irritating at any temp, so when a virus or respiratory illness hits home, I don’t do it.
Overall, I’ve found that using internal ingestion methods (tinctures, oils, and edibles) and topicals (that CBD pain salve was a lifesaver) have had a more positive effect on my health than smoking my cannabinoids did. My pain was relieved for longer, I had less inflammation and my digestive issues cleared up once I started using those other methods more.
Don’t think of this time as a time to feel like smoking is getting ripped out of your hands. I still poke a one-hitter and smoke joints every now and again. Instead, think of it as a great time to experiment with other ingestion methods. I mean, you’re home anyway.
Immunity and the endocannabinoid system
We can’t talk about health, viruses and cannabis, without addressing the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is located throughout our body and was discovered when scientists wanted to know why people felt better when using cannabis.
Turns out, there are two currently known receptors in the endocannabinoid system – CB1 (located in the brain, nervous system, and some tissues in the body) and CB2 (located mostly in the cells associated with the immune system). These receptors bind to cannabinoids which help our bodies achieve a state of homeostasis.
This allows us to feel good and do things like eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, and sleep when we’re tired.
Since the CB2 receptors directly influence our immune systems, it’s worth thinking about how cannabis use affects our immune systems.
When cannabinoids bind with the CB2 receptors, you’ll experience an anti-inflammatory effect (which is why cannabis is sometimes used for things like joint pain, Chron’s disease, and IBS).
Right now, scientists know that THC and CBD do interact with our immune system, but do not have a clear explanation of how this happens.
Cannabinoids and the immune system
Understanding how cannabinoids impact your immune system can be tricky because the current research goes in two directions. (This can be frustrating but it’s to be expected since the endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the late 1980s and cannabis research is still fairly new).
The majority of research from the past decades has been on THC. When THC binds to a CB2 receptor, you get the anti-inflammatory effect we talked about above. If you have an autoimmune disorder, THC could potentially help.
CBD is thought to have less affinity for binding with the receptors than THC does, but CBD still functions as an anti-inflammatory. CBD also reduces cytokine production and inhibits T-Cell function.
In plain English, this means that people often experience inflammation because their immune system thinks there are toxins or diseases spreading throughout the body. When you’re living with an autoimmune disorder, it feels like your body is rebelling against you and causing painful flare-ups, instead of fighting illnesses. When CBD modulates your immune system, it reduces this inflammation, so you finally get some relief.
This is why CBD has been loved for reducing pain.
CBG is another cannabinoid that’s recently caught the mainstream eye. This cannabinoid also interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, yet it can potentially inhibit the effects of THC that makes you feel high. (I’ve been making infusions using all three cannabinoids since I personally love THC but may not want to get stoned).
Research has shown that CBG can boost an endocannabinoid called anandamide, which raises dopamine levels and helps us reach homeostasis.
While we often think of homeostasis as physical health (eating, drinking, sleeping) but it also manages our mood.
Scientists have started to find that CBG can be effective in managing depression and anxiety.
When we emotionally feel better, we’re more likely to eat well, exercise, and take care of our bodies.
Where do we go from here?
What we do know is that historically, cytokine storm, which is when your cells go haywire in your body, was highly likely to have killed millions of people during past pandemics (for example, the “spanish flu,” swine flu, and bird flu).
Since cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, have shown to be immunosuppressants, this could calm a cytokine storm and help people who have autoimmune disorders. (Thank you, Project CBD, for the explanation).
But do we know for certain? No.
CBD is also toted by some as a powerful antiviral. We don’t make any claims like this at Wake and Bake because science doesn’t have enough evidence to support it.
All we have is our own bodies to guinea pig, and even then, so many of us react differently to different cannabinoids and ingestion methods.
Cannabis research is still largely taboo and uncharted territory so there’s a lot we don’t understand about how cannabis affects our immune system.
This is a powerful plant medicine we are talking about so it deserves further attention.
This is the time to push for cannabis legalization and to support those who consistently pave the way for cannabis to become accessible.
The research we have available right now is often conflicting and even frustrating because of all the contradictions.
If there is anything we know for certain, it’s that prohibition is only making this worse. The scarce research, the policies, and lack of answers is disappointing.
Hopefully, research will catch up with what we want to know about how cannabis affects our bodies. I hope you and your loved ones stay safe at this time and if you need a place to talk cannabis, the comment section and Wake and Bake Facebook Group is open.