The COVID-19 virus has greatly affected the world due to its rapid spread and high risk of fatality with no known cures. As the global pandemic continues to put countless lives at risk, scientists and researchers have doubled down on efforts to develop vaccines and other treatments that could help fight the deadly effects of the virus.
A notable area of research emerging in this crisis is the focus on terpenes. Recent research efforts have begun to explore the use of terpenes—the natural compound that makes up the aroma and flavor of most plants—as a viable treatment for COVID-19.
Overview of the Terpenes + COVID-19 Studies
Two Israeli research and development companies, Eybna and CannaSoul Analytics, have taken the lead in the latest studies for the use of terpenes to treat COVID-19.
The first study focuses on using terpenes to control and minimize the cytokine storms triggered by the virus.
One of the deadliest factors of the virus are the cytokine storms, or the overproduction of cytokines, a type of cellular signaling chemical. This overproduction can cause excessive inflammation, swelling, pain, and the loss of organ function. It can also trigger an immune response so extreme that kills both the infection and the body’s own cells.
Using the anti-inflammatory properties of 30 different terpenes, Eybna created a proprietary formulation called “NT-VRL”. Through “biological data mining, data processing and formulation design”, this formulation allows for all the terpenes to remain active and synergize to provide beneficial effects.
The Eybna NT-VRL formulation was then tested on healthy sample cells with induced inflammation. Its effects compared to the performance of both CBD and dexamethasone–a corticosteroid often used to reduce inflammation–on other sample cells.
The second study used the same NT-VRL formulation but takes an alternative approach in its methodology. Rather than testing it as an anti-inflammatory and cytokine inhibitor, the study aims to test the terpenes’ antiviral properties to fight the COVID-19 virus directly.
As a preliminary study, the endemic human coronavirus HCoV-229E was used as an alternative model. While both HCoV-229E and COVID-19 cause upper respiratory tract infections, the former is less contagious and displays milder symptoms than the latter.
The effectiveness of the NT-VRL formulation was tested on sample lung cells, with other samples treated with CBD, a mixture of NT-VRL and CBD, and pyrazofurin and glycyrrhizin–compounds known for their antiviral action against SARS-associated coronaviruses. To further explore these effects, one set of samples were pre-treated with the compounds before being inoculated with HCoV-229E and another treated after inoculation.
Results of the Studies
For the Eybna study, the preliminary results demonstrated that the terpene formulation was able to inhibit nearly 80% of the cytokines in the sample. The other substances performed at lesser rates, with CBD alone inhibiting around 75% on average and dexamethasone only inhibiting 30%. A mix of the NT-VRL formulation and CBD was the most successful in the testing phase, demonstrating an average of almost 90% inhibition rate.
While the preliminary results show promise for the application of terpenes and CBD in addressing the virus, this in-vitro study has yet to be completed, peer reviewed, or published. Any final results will need to undergo validation from other researchers in the scientific community before it can be used to inform human trials.
In addition to these findings, the formulation process used to create NT-VRL holds much promise for synergistically-effective natural formulations.
For the Cannasoul Analytics study, preliminary results revealed that the mixture of NT-VRL and CBD had an antiviral effect that outdid the performance of CBD and the established antiviral treatments. It also determined that treatment of the cells prior to exposure to the virus maximized the mixture’s effectiveness.
However, like the first study, this in-vitro study has yet to be completed, peer reviewed, or published. Until the larger scientific community can replicate and validate the findings, this study cannot move on to human trials.
Together, the findings of both studies highlight the possibility of using NT-VRL in the battle against COVID-19. The antiviral properties of the compound make it viable as a preventative treatment to be directly administered to the lungs, while its anti-inflammatory effects can be used to combat the cytokine storms brought on by the virus.
Terpenes: The Forefront of Wellness
The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of cases and deaths in its wake, creating a challenge for healthcare systems across the globe. With the lack of known effective preventative measures and treatments for the virus, researchers are beginning to explore various compounds to build treatments upon.
As COVID-19 is a relatively new mutation of coronavirus, the studies of terpenes as treatments for the virus are decidedly in their infancy stages. While there are currently no definitive results, these findings remain important in the bigger picture of medical research. Given more time and further testing, terpenes may soon be the key to providing effective treatments against the virus.
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