Weed and COVID-19 are an unlikely combination, but a new study published this week suggests that the two are more connected than you might believe.
Weed and COVID-19 – What Does Science Say?
In a new study published by Oregon State University titled “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants,” scientists have discovered that certain compounds found in cannabis can prevent the COVID-19 virus from entering and infecting human cells.
The report, which was just published this week Monday in the Journal of Natural Products, argues that two cannabinoids found in hemp can bind to the spike protein of the virus and prevent it from attaching to other cells.
In virology, the spike protein is the component of the virus that allows it to bind to human cells like a key to a lock. By attaching to the spike protein itself, researchers argue that these two cannabinoids can act as a kind of bodyguard for human cells and prevent COVID-19 from taking hold.
The two cannabinoid compounds that the researchers have identified to stop COVID-19 are Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGA) and Cannabidolic Acid (CBDA).
Cannabigerol, also known as CBG, is a minor cannabinoid found in trace amounts in cannabis sativa but is abundant in hemp. CBG has various benefits, including the potential ability to treat cancer, protect against neuroprotective diseases and kill bacteria. While the cannabinoid is still being researched, its findings are promising.
You might not be too familiar with CBG, but you should have some familiarity with CBDA, the acid version of CBD.
Cannabidiolic Acid, also known as CBDA, is a cannabinoid found in both hemp and cannabis sativa. CBDA is created in the cannabis plant’s trichomes to help the plant defend against environmental effects like the sun and insects. According to recent research, CBDA can act as an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and an antinauseant.
However, it’s worth noting that CBDA doesn’t exist in cured cannabis flowers that are ready for consumption. Instead, CBDA and CBGA are most abundant in “raw” weed flower or cannabis flower that has not been decarboxylated yet. This is also why CBDA and CBGA are most abundant in hemp instead of weed that we smoke to get high off of!
According to Oregon State University researchers, the two cannabinoids are both “orally bioavailable and [have] 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.”
How Can Weed Stop COVID-19?
According to Richard van Breemen, a researcher from the Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, who led the study, says that these two cannabinoids work by preventing the COVID-19 spike protein from attaching to human cells.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” Breemen said.
“They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”
According to Breemen, these two cannabinoids are not only legal and readily available, but they also won’t get you high, either!
Even more surprising is the fact that these two cannabinoids stop all other variants of COVID-19, too, not just the original virus that came out two years ago.
“Our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa,” Breemen says.
“Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor-binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” Breemen adds.
“That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs.”
Since the study was only just published this week, the findings are still extremely preliminary. However, Breemen argues that this should not affect their validity.
“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” van Breemen noted. Even before this study was published, CBDA and CBGA have been used by weed smokers and tokers for decades – long before modern science even identified them.
“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. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.”
As Breemen’s findings report, weed and COVID-19 share more than just a superficial relationship. Even in the early stages of the pandemic, many were already turning to weed as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
With Breemen and his group’s findings, the door has officially been opened for weed to act as both a preventative measure and as a treatment for COVID-19.