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COVID-19 & Hemp

Hemp compounds may help prevent, treat COVID-19

Researchers have found a molecule that will block the virus from infecting human cells. They did so by searching for ligands — molecules that bind to other atoms. The research was conducted at Oregon State University. Researchers have identified two special compounds that can successfully prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering and infecting human epithelial cells. The first compound is cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA. The second compound is cannabidiolic acid, CBDA.

The cannabis plant is a veritable treasure chest of compounds and cannabinoids. Beta-caryophyllene, found in hemp, is not a controlled substance in the U.S. It has been shown to be effective at preventing infection from alpha and beta variants of COVID-19 viruses.

“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans. They were previously approved for medical use, but it was found that they had no effect on disease symptoms. However, now that the world is under a pandemic threat, researchers are taking another look at these naturally occurring chemicals. They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.”

The research team discovered that cannabinoids have the potential to act as antivirals against SARS-CoV-2. Their study showed that the compounds work by attaching themselves to the virus’ spike proteins, which allow it to attach to cells. The virus uses these spikes to enter a host, which is disrupted by the cannabinoids.

There is no viral protection from smoking cannabis, van Breeman noted. 

“Cowan is adamant that smoking cannabis will not help prevent viral infection. The benefit from cannabinoids, he says, must come from the cannabinoids acids, which are heat sensitive and must not be smoked. So that wouldn’t work for the antiviral effect.”

More research is needed to determine if cannabinoids can effectively protect against new COVID-19 variants. Van Breeman hopes that, with more funding, he can study a separate compound found in licorice that might also effectively shield human cells from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. A separate study from the National Institutes of Health found that cannabidiol and its metabolites inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection and block SARS-CoV-2 replication, while another study published in the same month found that cannabis oil “inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection in human airway epithelial cells.”

“A group of people are immune to SARS-CoV-2. They’re taking CBD, an active ingredient in marijuana. And now, the researcher team that found this out has discovered that the compounds in cannabis can stop the virus from replicating and are also effective at treating symptoms such as fever, coughing and fatigue.”