With the world just emerging from a year-and-a-half-long lockdown due to COVID-19, many would have hoped that's the last we've heard of the disease.
It turns out, quite unfortunately, that many of us will still be dealing with symptoms associated with this deadly virus for much longer. Doctors are baffled by a "strange phenomenon" where mild infections and health conditions simply refuse to go away.
If you have a persistent cough, constantly feel short of breath, and feel fatigued for no apparent reason, you may be having long COVID.
Read on to learn more about this condition and how cannabidiol (CBD) can help you get relief from some symptoms.
What is long COVID?
Long COVID is a term used to describe post-COVID-19 conditions in people with "a history of probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection." These symptoms are usually noticeable 3 months after getting COVID-19 and can last for at least another 2 months after the infection.
The tricky bit is that these symptoms cannot be explained by any diagnosis.
But there's a caveat before worrying yourself sick because you got COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic. Not everyone who gets infected by the virus will get long COVID.
According to a COVID Symptom Study, 6 clusters of COVID-19 symptoms are linked to long-term symptoms, especially if displayed in the first week of infection. These are:
- Persistent cough
- Hoarse voice
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite (skipping meals)
Long haul COVID symptoms
According to the UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS), roughly 3-12 percent of individuals who contract COVID-19 will still display symptoms 12 weeks after the initial infection.
This is according to data obtained from a Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) conducted between April 26th and August 1st, 2021.
The ONS estimates that to date, some 1.3 million people in the UK have long COVID symptoms as of January this year (2022). Long COVID is a serious condition as some reports show its symptoms can persist for more than a year after the initial infection.
In fact, in the UK, up to 42% of people who got COVID-19 experienced its symptoms over and beyond a year.
Two-thirds of these people stated the symptoms had affected their quality of life, especially with regard to carrying out daily activities.
As such, it's still unclear how long it takes for long COVID symptoms to clear completely in affected persons. Researchers contend it may come down to one's immunity, among other variables.
Let's examine some common symptoms of long COVID.
Shortness of breath
This is also called breathlessness. It's primarily characterized by difficulties in breathing. Sometimes it can be accompanied by pain in the chest area, in which case it's advisable to see a doctor.
Breathlessness happens when the body experiences a decrease in oxygen levels. It often compensates by stimulating faster breathing for more air to reach the lungs.
According to ONS, breathlessness is one of the most common symptoms of long COVID, with 36 percent of patients in the CIS survey having reported it.
Brain fog isn't really a medical condition. Instead, it is a term that collectively refers to certain symptoms that can hinder your ability to think. It's often characterized by forgetfulness, confusion, and lack of mental clarity and focus.
The leading causes of brain fog are stress, sleep deprivation, overworking, and exposure to electromagnetic radiation (light from computer screens, phones, and tablets). Incidentally, 28% of people with long COVID in the CIS survey reported difficulties concentrating.
Joint pains are normally defined by physical discomfort at locations where bones meet to form a joint. It can range from mild to crippling.
Joint pains can be caused by underlying medical conditions, e.g., the onset of arthritis or a viral infection. Other times, it can be caused by intense physical activity or lack of activity.
Typically, coughing is your body's way of expelling foreign objects lodged in the airway. An occasional cough is healthy and probably serves your best interests. However, with long COVID, the cough persists. These coughs are usually dry or "unproductive" (meaning nothing comes up).
In healthy people, dry coughs may be caused by irritations to the throat, allergens, smoke, or pollution. They are commonly linked to the flu or cold. In some cases, they can also be caused by acid reflux, certain medications, or allergies.
Impaired sense of taste or smell
When your sense of smell or taste is impaired, you partially lose the ability to smell or taste properly. This symptom is noted to be quite common among people infected with COVID-19.
In fact, data compiled from a 2020 study of close to 8,500 people with COVID-19 showed that 41% of them reported losing their sense of smell.
In another study, researchers ran smell identification tests on 100 individuals with COVID-19. The results showed that 96 percent of the participants "had some form of olfactory dysfunction," while 18% had totally lost the ability to smell (anosmia).
Research shows that the COVID-19 virus attacks supporting sensory neurons in the nasal cavity—sustentacular cells—leaving sensory neurons deprived of nutrients.
In most cases, the loss of smell (hyposmia) is usually considered serious and warrants prompt medical attention. This is because such problems often signal problems in the nervous system and brain.
However, temporary loss of smell can result from allergies, colds, flu, or fever.
According to the ONS, by December 2021, 37% of people with long COVID reported loss of smell, among other symptoms. However, most of these people (72%) recovered their sense of smell and taste within a month or two.
Fatigue is the most commonly reported symptom of long COVID. In its Coronavirus Infection Survey, the ONS reported that 51% of people who had caught COVID-19 cited fatigue among their symptoms.
It's normal to feel tired occasionally and without energy. This can happen due to lifestyle factors such as poor sleep, physical exertion, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, boredom, emotional stress, and grief.
Certain medical conditions like anemia, fibromyalgia, and arthritis can also cause fatigue.
Headaches are pretty common, and many people experience them several times in their lifetimes. A headache is usually characterized by a throbbing, dull or sharp pain in the face or head.
It often goes away on its own, but in some cases, medication can be used to alleviate the pain.
Headache associated with COVID-19 mostly presents as severe pressure pain in the whole head. In some patients, the headache lasts a few days; for others, it can take months. This often requires drugs like gabapentin to clear the lingering headache.
How does cannabis help with COVID long-haul symptoms?
Mounting anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD could effectively mitigate some long COVID symptoms.
For 42-year-old Andrew Vass, a financial services worker residing in London, CBD oil containing 5% CBD and 0.2% THC proved life-changing after suffering from the effects of long COVID for one year.
Vass is among the first people to participate in a trial in the UK investigating the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, especially in treating long COVID (post-acute sequelae of COVID-19).
Similarly, the Heart Institute of the Sao Paulo University Medical School, in November 2021, launched a clinical study investigating the effect of medicinal cannabis on long COVID.
By and large, so much information has emerged on the potential for cannabis to help with many symptoms associated with long COVID.
For instance, an examination of the lungs of mice infected with SARS-CoV-2 showed a reduced concentration of the virus after CBD treatment.
Further, an analysis of patients known to be active users of cannabis (CBD100) revealed substantially fewer SARS-CoV-2 infections during COVID testing.
What do these results tell us?
Boost immune functioning
Studies show that CBD may promote immune function in several ways.
By blocking entry or subsequent infection of other cells
CBD is generally consumed together with THC, especially full spectrum CBD. It is quickly metabolized by the liver and intestines into 7-hydroxy-cannabidiol (7-OH-CBD) and 7-carboxy-cannabidiol (7-COOH-CBD).
A 2022 study investigating the effects of cannabidiol on SARS-CoV-2 replication showed that the metabolite 7-OH-CBD could effectively block SARS-CoV-2 infection at an early age or even later stages. This metabolite specifically targets the A549-ACE2 cells, which are the entry points of the SARS-CoV-1 virus.
By preventing SARS-CoV-1 from replicating in the lung epithelial cells
Research shows that pure CBD may prevent the SARS-CoV-1 virus from replicating in the lungs. This was observed in a study where the lung carcinoma cells were pretreated with CBD before being infected by the virus.
After 48 hours, the results showed substantially lower concentrations of infection markers. The researchers concluded that CBD could effectively prevent the SARS-CoV-1 virus from entering and infecting epithelial cells.
By reversing virus-induced changes
Both CBD and SARS-CoV-1 are known to induce substantial changes in cell gene expression. However, cells treated with CBD for 24 hours are noted to actively suppress SARS-CoV-1-induced changes.
This comes down to CBD's ability to eradicate the virus's RNA expression in the host cells.
By inducing an ER stress response
It's also been shown that CBD may upregulate the unfolded protein response (UPR) as well as the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. When under intense ER stress, a group of proteins known as secretory proteins over-accumulate in unfolded forms and trigger off a signaling pathway called UPR.
This pathway is part of a larger stress response mechanism that maintains proteostasis in cells.
Studies show that CBD may induct ATF6, PERK, and IRE1α – the three primary ER proteins that sense misfolded proteins. In doing so, CBD effectively regulates UPR.
This is particularly important because there is compelling evidence that UPR is a necessary condition for replication by viruses belonging to the SARS family
Research shows that CBD achieves this effect by directly and indirectly inducting the interferon pathway after the host's immune response has been activated by the viral pathogen.
Numerous clinical studies indicate that interferons can also cure COVID-19. This activity is not solely constrained to the interferons.
CBD sufficiently lowers the host's viral titer, thereby enabling the interferon pathway to be activated. At the same time, it reverses the production of cytokines which are known to instigate cytokine storms (inflammation) in the later stages of an infection.
Other studies on the effect of CBD on the 'mysterious' long COVID disease have yielded more or less similar results. They have shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties in addition to immunomodulating effects on various pathological conditions caused by a weak immune system.
Best CBD oil for memory and focus
The effects of long COVID symptoms can significantly affect the quality of your life.
Dr. Elizabeth Iverson, a consultant in Neurorehabilitation, concurs that the effects of long COVID often leave "previously fit and healthy individuals" struggling with anxiety, fatigue, and mobility.
However, many people continue to find relief from medical cannabis. So if you're one of those people with long COVID symptoms, here are high-quality CBD products you can try
FOCL Premium CBD Drops
This product is made from top-grade hemp grown in the USA. With MCT as the carrier element, these drops are specifically designed to help fight anxiety and calm your mind.
They also help you recover quickly from everyday stressors such as pain and poor sleep. CBD Drops are generally a faster and more efficient way of getting CBD into the systemic circulation
FOCL Premium CBD Gummies
These delicious guilt-free gummies will keep you relaxed and primed to go through each day with ease. They contain broad-spectrum CBD (so you also get to enjoy the health benefits of terpenes) and organic ingredients to support focus, relieve everyday stressors, calm your mind and help you fall asleep quicker.
CBD is a new revelation in the science world – scholars and researchers are still investigating its properties and how they tie to its numerous health benefits.
But so far, early studies offer compelling evidence that CBD may be immensely beneficial to people with various health conditions.
Getting FDA-approved products that are third-party tested and medically formulated is the key to harnessing CBD's health benefits.
CBD is largely unregulated, so quality and safety can be an issue if you don't vet your vendor well.