Studies have linked cannabis consumption to numerous potential health benefits, including decreasing the symptoms associated with conditions like insomnia, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. It has also been effective in combating the debilitating symptoms of epilepsy. Today, exciting new studies show that cannabis may also be effective in fighting an infectious scrouge that changed the world: COVID-19.
Additional studies also indicate that despite marijuana’s association with the last “stoner lifestyle,” it may also help amp up motivation before a workout, giving people the extra push they need to get and stay fit.
How do the chemical compounds in weed help fight COVID-19 and give athletes the extra push they need to stay motivated to work out? Researchers have uncovered more secrets to how cannabis reacts with the human body.
Cannabis and COVID-19
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. How we work, interact with each other, and navigate the world around us changed in what felt like the blink of an eye. The World Health Organization estimates as many as 3 million people may have died of the infectious disease. Many people profited, while others suffered because of rampant misinformation and fear. Miracle drugs, elixirs, and cures were touted online, much to the dismay of physicians and medical professionals.
Today, a new research review into cannabis and the COVID-19 pandemic shows that a potential game-changing compound may have been sitting under our noses the entire time. A study conducted by scientists from Nova Scotia, Canada, reviewing scientific literature and medical studies, determined that the compounds in cannabis that react with the body’s endocannabinoid system may prevent SARS-CoV-2 from infecting human cells. A separate study also indicates that cannabis may help improve the prognosis of individuals suffering from long COVID and reduce their mortality rates as compared with non-cannabis users.
How does cannabis help improve the outcome for COVID-19 patients? Researchers found that the compounds in cannabis “prevent viral entry, mitigate oxidative stress, and alleviate the associated cytokine storm” that occurs in early COVID-19 infections. Cannabinoids also show promise when addressing the symptoms associated with long-term COVID-19, such as depression, anxiety, pain, insomnia, and decreased appetite.
While the research is promising, there are some significant limitations. The study authors note that there is no cannabis product standardization, meaning it is challenging to understand the efficacy and safety of cannabinoid-based drugs. They suggest that further research is required to determine optimal dosages and dosing schedules and to understand potential side effects, especially in children.
A separate study based on hospital data reached many of the same conclusions. It revealed that individuals who consumed cannabis and then contracted COVID-19 had significantly lower rates of respiratory failure and death compared to people who did not consume marijuana. The study focused on data about adults over 18 and found that people who consumed cannabis before getting infected with COVID-19 had better health outcomes and lower severity of symptoms associated with the illness. Conversely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being a current or former tobacco smoker increases a person’s risk of getting extremely sick from COVID-19.
Although the exact pathways are still unknown, it seems that the chemical compounds in cannabis and how they react with the cannabinoid system in the human body can significantly impact the severity, duration, and symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Cannabis and Exercise
The benefits of cannabis consumption may extend beyond COVID-19 infections. The compounds in marijuana may help motivate you to stay fit and make workouts more fun. When workouts are fun, you are more likely to stick with a routine.
Exercise is essential for helping to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. There are numerous studies indicating how a sedentary lifestyle adversely affects heart health, obesity rates, and can cause disease and disability. Many researchers point to regular exercise as the key to overcoming the effects of our increasingly sedentary habits. It feels almost ironic that one possible substance that can help people overcome the hurdle of getting motivated to exercise more regularly is marijuana, a drug often associated with a “lazy” and “laid-back” mentality.
A study out of Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, finds that consuming marijuana before a workout can help boost motivation and make exercise more enjoyable. Cannabis seems to help increase positive mood, making the act of working out feel enjoyable and less like a chore. Consuming weed before exercising can also help decrease pain and improve focus. Cannabis consumption may also help boost “runners high” because the compounds in marijuana bind to the same receptors in the brain that naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoids bind to after an extended period of exercise. The result? A shorter workout with cannabis may generate the same “feel good” effect as a long workout without cannabis. It could also amplify the “feel good” effects during a longer or more intense workout session.
While the benefits are impressive, don’t count on marijuana to increase your athletic prowess or performance. Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug in the traditional sense of the phrase. Consuming marijuana before a workout isn’t likely to make you stronger or faster. If performance-based athleticism is your goal, it may be best to skip cannabis before you hit the gym.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder hope the results of their study and others like it help spur people into exercising more regularly, especially if they are experiencing the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Cannabis may be a new tool to motivate people to improve their health and get active.
Is cannabis a miracle drug? That depends on who you ask. However, there seems little doubt that the positive effects of the plant merit further research and study, from preventing COVID-19 infections to boosting motivation to get active; the chemical compounds in cannabis continue to surprise scientists.