Study: Marijuana compounds can prevent the Corona virus from entering cells

Some cannabis compounds can prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells — but smoking marijuana offers no protection against the disease, according to an Oregon State University study.

Researchers have found that a pair of cannabinoid compounds–cannabinoid acid, or CBGA, and cannabinoid acid, CBDA–bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a vital step in the insect’s deadly path to infecting people.

“These cannabinoids are abundant in hemp and in many cannabis extracts,” said lead researcher Richard Van Bremen at the Oregon Center for Global Cannabis Innovation in the College of Pharmacy and the Linus Pauling Institute.

“It’s not a controlled substance like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and it has good safety properties in humans,” he said.

“Our research showed that cannabis compounds were equally effective against SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the UK, and the B.1.351 variant, first discovered in South Africa. Bremen added.

The results of the study — conducted in collaboration with scientists at Oregon Health & Science University — were published Monday by the Journal of Natural Products.

CBGA and CBDA bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a vital step in the killer insect’s path to infecting people.
Richard B. Van Bremen / American Chemical Society

“This oral bioavailable cannabis with a long history of safe human use, has the potential to prevent as well as treat SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the researchers wrote.

CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, and are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from acids and are not found in hemp products,” Van Bremen said.

He and Ruth Moshiro of the College of Pharmacy and the Linus Pauling Institute and five scientists from OHSU identified cannabinoids using a mass spectrometry-based screening technology invented in Van Bremen’s lab, according to KTVZ.

His team examined a variety of plants used as nutritional supplements including red clover, wild potato, hops and three types of licorice, according to the news outlet.

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles
Van Bremen noted that the combination of vaccines and a CBDA/CBGA treatment should make it more difficult for bugs to infect people.

“One of the main concerns in the epidemic is the prevalence of variants, of which there are many, and B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 are among the most prevalent and of concern,” Van Bremen said.

“These variants are well known to avoid antibodies against the early SARS-CoV-2 strain, which is clearly of concern given that current vaccination strategies rely on the early lineage-high protein as an antigen,” he continued.

“Our data shows that CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two variables we looked at, and we hope that this trend will extend to other current and future variables,” he added.

Van Bremen noted that resistant variants can still emerge amid widespread cannabis use, but the combination of vaccines and CBDA/CBGA therapy should make it more difficult for the disorder to infect people.

“Our previous research reported the discovery of another compound, a compound from licorice, that also binds to spike protein,” he said. “However, we have not tested this compound, Licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding for that.”

cannabis stock
The study showed that hemp acids that can help prevent the virus “are abundant in hemp and in many cannabis extracts.”
Getty Images

But don’t plan to smoke marijuana to ward off disease.

“The benefit from preventing viral infection of cells should come from cannabis acids, which are heat sensitive and should not be smoked, or they will convert them to CBD and so on,” Van Bremen said. “So this will not work for the antiviral effect.”


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