Terpenes and CBD may reduce inflammation and fight viruses such as COVID-19 and the flu

UCLA Research Brief


A study has found that the combination of terpenes, an organic compound found in cannabis and other plants, and cannabidiol (CBD) acted as an effective barrier in preventing cells from infection from both the coronavirus and influenza A virus in cells. This two-year study, led by Richard Boxer, MD, clinical professor of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in collaboration with scientists in Israel, discovered that terpenes exhibit anti-inflammatory properties through cytokine inhibition, which was further boosted by the presence of CBD.  


Viral infections continue to be a significant cause of illness and death. The pursuit of antiviral treatments with minimal toxicity and limited side effects is critical. The rapid mutations occurring in both coronaviruses and influenza viruses underscore the urgent need for the development of effective antiviral drugs. Additionally, the effectiveness of vaccinations diminishes over time, and certain populations lack access to vaccines. The authors say a natural and safe antiviral solution could prove beneficial as a protective measure, especially for those who may not be eligible for vaccination.  


Researchers introduced terpenes into human lung cell cultures, exposing some to influenza viruses and others to a coronavirus variant like the one causing COVID-19. The terpenes acted as a barrier, preventing these viruses from entering the cells. This protected the cells from destruction and hindered the replication of the virus. In additional experiments where cells were infected with coronavirus and influenza, terpenes successfully prevented the cytokine storm responsible for severe lung damage and, ultimately, death in patients.


The findings suggest that terpenes could serve as an effective solution for preventing individuals from contracting the coronavirus or influenza. Researchers highlight that terpenes are present in all plants globally, making them readily available and affordable. For populations without access to or resources to afford vaccinations or medications like Paxlovid, a treatment based on the use of these compounds could reduce the impact of these diseases.  


The study’s authors are Richard Boxer of UCLA, Lior Chatow and Einat Zelinger of Hebrew University, and Adi Nudel, Nadav Eyal, Tal Lupo, Silvia Ramirez, and Iris Nesher of Eybna Technologies.  


The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Biotechnology Reports.   


Lior Chatow, Nadav Eyal, Silvia Ramirez, and Adi Nudel are employees of Eybna Technologies, a company that manufactures terpenes-based formulations. Iris Nesher and Richard Boxer are advisors of Eybna Technologies. 

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