medicinal cannabis mouthwash

Medicinal Cannabis Mouthwash May Help Combat COVID-19

The world has been actively confronting the global coronavirus pandemic’s various repercussions for at least a year now, with many populations contending to find a light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel.

To this day, scientists, researchers and medical frontline workers continue to selflessly combat the various byproducts of this unforgiving virus through creating potential vaccines and learning more about the multiple mutations that have since developed. 

A recent example of these endeavours comes from two University of Lethbridge biology professors, Igor and Olga Kovalchuk. The pair have spent roughly four years researching various cannabis strains to create new hybrids that possess particular therapeutic properties. 

With the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two professors have pivoted their research to focus on how some cannabis extracts may aid in combating the virus.

More specifically, Igor and Olga Kovalchuk have developed an oral rinse containing specific cannabis extracts that could potentially help prevent the virus from entering an individuals’ cells. 

According to a CTV News Calgary report, a clinical study into the rinse efficacy is currently underway. However, the results thus far are promising. 

Still, how does the oral rinse work, what’s in it, and what properties make it a potential method for combatting COVID-19?

With the resources currently at our disposal, we intend to explain just that. 

Mitigating the Stigma Surrounding Medicinal Marijuana

While marijuana was once considered a dangerous and unpredictable substance through initiatives such as “Reefer Madness,” further research into the cannabis plant has determined that it has a surprising number of medicinal properties and applications. 

On top of its ability to aid in treating symptoms of chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, as well as more severe conditions, including multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, the Kovalchuks also contend that it could help combat COVID-19.

According to the CTV Calgary report, the married professors released their preprints for the oral rinse, which have since been peer-reviewed and published to Aging, a top biomedical journal. 

The two studies, titled ‘In Search of Preventative Strategies’ and ‘Fighting the Storm,’ posit that particular cannabis extracts may help prevent COVID-19 from entering a person’s cells. They also theorize that these extracts may also help avoid cytokine storms, which can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).   

Put simply; cytokines are a category of small proteins that are crucial in cell signalling. 

Essentially, cytokine storm and cytokine release syndrome are life-threatening systemic inflammatory syndromes that involve heightened levels of circulating cytokines and overactivity in immune-cells. These increases can be attributed to various pathogens, autoimmune conditions, cancers and therapies.

Dr. Olga Kovalchuk. University of Lethbridge

“Peer review is extremely important,” Dr. Olga Kovalchuk stated in the CTV Calgary report. “We reproduced our original findings and also proved the impacts of the extracts in the lung tissues. These subsequent studies further substantiated our original results.”

According to the report, when the COVID-19 virus enters the body’s cells, it targets a particular protein on the cell’s surface called ACE2. Put another way, Dr. Igor Kovalchuk claims that ACE2 acts as a “gateway” for the virus.

“The virus recognizes this cell as infectable by the presence of the ACE2 receptor,” he explains.

Dr. Kovalchuk continues that they tested whether the application of several cannabis extracts could reduce the number of receptors on the cell’s surface. Ultimately, they identified “a dozen or so” varieties that minimized the expression of the ACE2 receptor by up to 80%. 

Minimizing Cell Receptors

The CTV report uses a helpful analogy to illustrate how these two factors are related. 

Essentially, it draws the comparison of having a house with 100 doors with thousands of people lined up to get in every minute from outside.

The report explains that minimizing the number of cell receptors is like closing 80 of these “doors,” significantly decreasing how quickly people can enter the “house.”

Dr. Igor Kovalchuk planting the seed for epigenetic advances in agriculture. University of Lethbridge

“That’s how pathogens work, especially viruses. They need to get into your cells in order to replicate, and our immune system can target them,” Dr. Igor Kovalchuk describes. “If the virus enters more slowly because we have fewer receptors, our system has a lot more time to actually target and eliminate those viruses.” 

More specifically, Dr. Kovalchuk mentions, COVID-19 typically attacks the lungs, intestine and oral cavity. 

As such, the two professors have partnered with the US-based Good Pharmaceutical Development Company. Backed by the Kovalchuk’s scientific research, this organization has developed a therapeutic oral rinse to combat the COVID-19 virus. 

The Verification Process 

As we previously mentioned, this innovative oral rinse efficacy is currently being vetted and verified by a further clinical study. However, the evidence thus far is positive. 

Dr. Larry Good, the president of Good Pharmaceutical Development Company, stated that the organization created a “clinical score” detailing in a numerical value patients’ symptoms at the start of the study. 

In other words, the company gave a numerical score for symptoms such as presence or absence of fever, the height of the fever, the presence or absence of chest pain, shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell based on the severity of the symptom. 

“In an interim analysis of our data, we have found a very significant reduction in that score,” he explains. “The average score on enrollment was four. After 14 days of treatment, the average score was 0.4. So, a pretty remarkable reduction in symptoms.” 

The company is also keeping track of the number of days it takes for taste and smell to come back. 

Essentially, the oral rinse is a type of mouthwash that users should swish “vigorously” around the mouth and then swallow, the company explains in the CTV report. At this juncture, the organization is currently in discussions with an investment bank and distribution company in the US. 

If the clinical study results prove to be successful, the mouthwash will be released for purchase across the US over the counter. 

When Will it be Available in Canada?

cannabis mouthwash in Canada

According to the CTV report, Canadian customers will likely have to wait significantly longer to access this product. This delay is because gaining approval from Health Canada is a much more complicated and arduous process.

“Health Canada does not allow natural products with active cannabis ingredients,” Dr. Igor Kovalchuk explains. “They only allow to put roots, seeds and stems of the [cannabis] plant into the natural extract, and these parts of the plant do not have active ingredients. So, it’s useless to do that.” 

For those who may not know, anything available for purchase over the counter in Canada is considered a “natural product.” However, the parts of the cannabis plant permitted to be present in these products are the compounds that don’t produce the therapeutic effects that could benefit the body. 

So, including them in this mouthwash would be moot and not supply the medicinal properties necessary for the oral rinse’s perceived efficacy in combating the COVID-19 virus.

“This came as a shock to many companies that they specifically said, the only parts of the plant that can go into a natural product are the only parts of the plant that have no active ingredient,” Dr. Igor Kovalchuk continued. “This completely defies the purpose entirely! Why would I develop a natural product that doesn’t have cannabinoids or terpenes?” 

Nonetheless, as it is right now, the mouthwash will only be available for purchase in the US if the clinical study is successful. 

Cautiously Optimistic

While both the Kovalchuks and Dr. Good emphasize the importance of how specific these cannabis strains are, they discourage individuals from thinking that simply consuming cannabis will help protect them from or fight COVID-19. 

The CTV report also concludes that a “successful immunization program” is still at the forefront of hindering the virus’s spread. It continues that this new mouthwash is by no means meant for use for individuals experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

When there remains much uncertainty surrounding the best approach for quelling the spread of COVID-19 moving forward, innovations such as this mouthwash spark hope for an accessible protection method. 

However, whether or not this product effectively performs the actions, it claims to remain up in the air. 

At this point, only time will tell.

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