A new study suggests that hemp may protect individuals against the coronavirus.
Cannabis may be the next step in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new study from Oregon State University which was published in the Journal of Natural Products. The team suggests that its compounds may disrupt the virus’ ability to enter cells and cause an infection. Two naturally occurring compounds, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA served as blockers. Hemp was used to test their hypothesis.
Richard van Breemen, the study’s lead author, of the university’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, and his colleagues found that the “cannabinoids could bind to the virus’ spike proteins, interrupting its method for sneaking into human cells.” This disables the virus from transmitting from person to person.
“In follow-up virus neutralization assays, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells,” the study reported.
“Hemp, known scientifically as Cannabis sativa, 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,” van Breemen said. Hemp is not a controlled substance, and the team used a variety of food products to test their hypothesis.
“Any point in the cycle of infection and replication that virus go through is an opportunity to hamper their spread,” van Breemen said. “When the cannabinoids bind to the spike protein, they latch onto the same tool the virus tries to use to unlock a cell. 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.”
Cannabis’ effect on both the alpha and beta COVID variants was tested with promising results, although it has yet to be tested on the delta and omicron viruses. Some scientists have reported being a bit skeptical of the results and further studies are needed to determine its viability as a preventive measure.
The authors wrote, “Cannabinoid acids from hemp (Cannabis sativa) were found to be allosteric as well as orthosteric ligands with micromolar affinity for the spike protein. In follow-up virus neutralization assays, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells. Importantly, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid were equally effective against the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant B.1.1.7 and the beta variant B.1.351. 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.”
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen insisted. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.” The authors used licorice and yams in their study, but as they suggest, hemp is readily available in many over-the-counter products.