A groundbreaking new study published this week identified what could be an unexpected tool in the world’s fight against COVID-19: cannabis.
Yes, you read that right.
According to a peer-reviewed article published this week in the Journal of Natural Products, entitled “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants”, at least three compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant were shown in laboratory tests to be effective in preventing coronavirus molecules from entering human cells. The mechanism effectively mimics the activity of antibodies, where the cannabis compounds bind to the peak protein of the virus, one of the authors told Salon. The study concludes:
With widespread use of cannabinoids, resistant variants may still occur, but the combination of vaccination and CBDA / CBGA treatment should create a more challenging environment that SARS-CoV-2 will have to contend with, reducing the likelihood of escape.
If any of this is confusing, the authors also included in the paper a practical illustration of the phenomenon:
An illustration showing how cannabinoids can block the entry of SARS-CoV-2 from human cells. (With permission from the Journal of Natural Products)
The results have, so to speak, gone viral, trending on Twitter and inspired many speculations online under the hashtag “#WeedPreventsCOVID.” But do not reach for that joint yet – the compounds, CBD-A, CBG-A and THC-A, are non-psychoactive and degrade at high temperatures, making smoking or baking less than ideal ways to ingest them. Pills or gums are better, not to mention concentrates designed to maximize the content of these specific substances.
In addition, the entire facility must undergo a series of clinical trials before researchers can say with certainty whether it works in real life, as it does under the controlled conditions of a laboratory. Still, Dr. says. Richard van Breemen, one of the study’s authors and professor of medical chemistry at Oregon State University, found the results “incredibly promising.”
“This is by far the biggest reaction to a study I have encountered in my career,” said Dr. Van Breemen to Salon.
“A number of hemp supplements containing these compounds are available over the counter nationwide,” he added, meaning that if the results were transferred to successful clinical trials, preventive treatment would be immediately available to millions of Americans.
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The entire project was a collaboration between the Linus Pauling Institute and the Global Hemp Innovation Center, both headquartered at Oregon State University, which several years ago researched hemp’s commercial and pharmaceutical uses after the USDA gave academic institutions the green light to resume. research into hemp after a decades-long moratorium. The seven authors of the paper are all faculty members at either OSU or Oregon Health & Science University.
Researchers started with the intention of testing a series of botanical extracts that they thought could bind to the tip protein from the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Dr. Van Breemen said they went through “dozens” of drugs before discovering that cannabis worked.
Another compound, this one found in licorice, was also found to bind to the SARS-COV-2 virus – but more research is needed to determine if it will produce the same antiviral activity as the compounds in cannabis.
So what does all this mean for the average person?
In short – it is still too early to say. But it is unlikely that people will experience any of the viral benefits of consuming cannabis in a way that will also get them high. Due to the current research restrictions on THC-A (and its connection to the psychoactive compound THC), it will be practically impossible to continue research into the correct application methods for that compound.
Meanwhile, CBD-A and CBG-A are both acids that are broken down into CBD through the application of heat – a process called “decarboxylation”. The same heating process is responsible for the psychoactive properties found in marijuana.
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Although it is still unclear what dose level may prove to be clinically viable, most all over-the-counter hemp supplements must state their CBD-A and CBG-A content, which will at least make information about the effectiveness of a given product easy to determine.
The other good news? Tests appear to indicate that cannabis compounds are effective against all known variants of COVID-19.
“Our data show minimal impact of the variants on the effectiveness of CBDA and CBGA, a trend that will hopefully extend to other existing and future variants,” the authors of the study write.