Cannabis compounds can blunt COVID-19 infection, researchers find
New research showing cannabis compounds could blunt the virus that causes COVID-19 can really toke one’s breath away.
Hemp compounds, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa, can prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells, according to Oregon State University researchers.
The scientists found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” said Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute.
“They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans,” he added.
Their research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2 — including the alpha variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and the beta variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.
Hemp is a source of fiber, food and animal feed, and multiple hemp extracts and compounds are added to cosmetics, body lotions, dietary supplements and food.
The pair of cannabinoid acids that bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein are cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA. Also, the spike protein is the same drug target used in COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapy.
“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” van Breemen said. “They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.
“CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers,” he added. “However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.”
Findings of the study led by van Breemen were published in the Journal of Natural Products.
“As a complement to vaccines, small-molecule therapeutic agents are needed to treat or prevent infections by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its variants, which cause COVID-19,” the paper reads.
“Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2,” the research states.
Van Breemen said resistant variants could still pop up amid widespread use of cannabinoids, but that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more challenging environment for the virus.