Study: CBD Increases Levels of Protective Peptide, Reducing COVID-19 Lung Damage


Although the investigators did not attribute all of CBD’s benefits to apelin levels, they said the peptide does play an important role.

New research suggests that CBD can reduce inflammation and reduce the cytokine storm that causes lung damage and death in many patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Investigators at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia had previously found that CBD improves oxygen levels and reduces inflammation and physical lung damage in their model of adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In their new study, the team found that apelin levels significantly decrease during COVID-19, but that CBD quickly helps normalize those levels.

“CBD almost brought [apelin] back to a normal level,” said co-author Jack Yu, MD, in a press release.

COVID-19 enters human cells via the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which typically works with apelin to control blood pressure. The authors hypothesized that an upregulation of both ACE2 and apelin may be helpful in cardiovascular disease by decreasing blood pressure and increasing the heart’s ability to pump.

Similar to other diseases, however, the investigators said COVID-19 appears to upset the partnership between apelin and ACE2. The binding of the virus to ACE2 has been shown to decrease the receptor’s levels and increase levels of angiotensin II, because angiotensin II is degraded and fewer vasodilators are produced.

In the researchers’ ARDS models, blood levels of apelin dropped close to zero but quickly increased 20 times over with CBD, according to the study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Apelin—a pervasive peptide created by cells in the heart, lungs, brain, fat tissue, and blood—is essential in regulating both blood pressure and inflammation.

When blood pressure increases, the investigators said apelin levels should grow in the correct place to help bring it down. It should also increase in order to normalize significant spikes in lung inflammation and related breathing difficulties associated with ARDS.

“Ideally, with ARDS it would increase in areas of the lungs where it’s needed to improve blood and oxygen flow to compensate and to protect,” said Babak Baban, PhD, the study’s corresponding author.

However, Baban added that this did not prove to be true in their ARDS model, with apelin decreasing in both the lung tissue itself and the general circulation.

Although the investigators did not attribute all of CBD’s benefits to apelin levels, they said the peptide does play an important role. More research is needed in order to understand whether COVID-19 or CBD have a direct impact on apelin or if these are downstream consequences.

“It is an association; we don’t know yet about causative, but it is a very good indicator of the disease,” Baban said.


CBD helps reduce lung damage from COVID by increasing levels of protective peptide [news release]. EurekAlert!; October 19, 2020. Accessed October 23, 2020.

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