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Researchers at the University of South Carolina now believe the THC from marijuana may be effective against three symptoms caused by the coronavirus, based on three studies. In each study, THC helped prevent a deadly immune system reaction that causes acute respiratory syndrome (ARDS) and promotes healthy lung bacteria.

The studies have been published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, and the British Journal of Pharmacology. ARDS is considered a serious, potentially fatal disease and causes the lungs to not supply enough oxygen to the body's organs. This causes fluids to enter the lungs, which increases the lack of oxygen in the internal systems. The death rate from ARDS is 38.5%.

When scientists injected THC into mice with ARDS, they were shocked to find out how effective the cannabinoids were in reducing inflammation and related symptoms. In the three studies, which included over a dozen experiments, 100% of the mice given THC survived.

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"We have been working on cannabinoids for over 20 years and have found that cannabinoids like THC are powerful anti-inflammatory," said study co-author Prakash Nagarkatti. "Hence, our studies make the exciting proposal to test THC against ARDS in COVID-19 patients."

Photo by TravelCouples / Getty Images

When a coronavirus patient has ARDS, it can trick the body into flooding the organ with cytokines, or "communication molecules". These “cytokine storms” can cause rapid inflammation and multiple organ failure, resulting in death. However, researchers from South Carolina described THC as a "powerful anti-inflammatory agent" and prevented possible lung damage.

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There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat ARDS that have resulted in a death rate close to 40%, ”said Mitzi Nagarkatti, co-author of the study. "Our studies suggest that THC is highly effective in treating ARDS, so clinical trials are crucial to see if this works."

This is the first work by American researchers to positively assess the therapeutic value of the cannabis plant against COVID-19. However, previous studies from Israel reported in early clinical trials that a combination of cannabis terpenes and CBD outperformed the leading COVID-19 treatment in reducing coronavirus-related inflammation.

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