Could cannabis prevent COVID? To the authors of a new study, it sure looks like it

A groundbreaking new study published this week has identified what could be an unexpected tool in the world’s fight against COVID-19: cannabis.

Yes, you read that correctly.

According to a peer-reviewed paper published this week in the Journal of Natural Products, “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and Emerging Variants,” at least three naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant have been shown in lab tests to be effective. in preventing coronavirus particles from entering human cells. One of the authors told Salon that the mechanism effectively mimics the activity of antibodies, as the same cannabinoid compounds bind to the virus’ spike protein. The study concluded:

With the widespread use of cannabis, resistance variants can still emerge, but the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should create a more challenging environment that SARS-CoV-2 must contend with, reducing the potential for escape.

In case any of that is confusing, the authors have also included in the paper a helpful illustration of the phenomenon:

Illustration showing how cannabis can prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering human cells. (Courtesy of Natural Products Magazine)

The results went viral, so to speak, on Twitter and sparked much speculation online under the hashtag “#WeedPreventsCOVID”. But don’t get to that joint just 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 consume them. Pills or chewing gum are better, not to mention concentrates designed to increase the content of these specific substances.

Moreover, the entire hypothesis must undergo a series of clinical trials before researchers can say for sure whether it works in real life the way it does under controlled conditions in a laboratory. However, Dr. Richard van Bremen, one of the study’s authors and a professor of medicinal chemistry at Oregon State University, says the results are “incredibly promising.”

“This is by far the biggest response to a study I’ve encountered in my career,” Dr. Van Bremen told Salon.

“A number of cannabis nutritional supplements containing these compounds are available over the counter across the country,” he added, meaning that if the results were carried over to successful clinical trials, the preventative 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 picked up research into the commercial and pharmaceutical applications of cannabis several years ago after the USDA gave academic institutions the green light to resume research into hemp after Long decades of stay. The paper’s seven authors are all faculty members at Oregon State University or Oregon Health and Science University.

The researchers set out with the intention of testing a number of plant extracts that they thought might bind to the spiky protein of the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Dr. Van Bremen said they went through “dozens” of substances before they discovered the efficacy of cannabis.

Another compound, this one found in licorice, has been found to reliably bind to SARS-COV-2 — 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?

Simply put – it’s still too early to tell. But people are unlikely to experience any of the viral protection benefits from consuming cannabis in a way that also increases them. Due to current research limitations on THC-A (and its association with the psychoactive compound THC), it would be effectively impossible to further research into appropriate application methods for this compound.

Meanwhile, CBD-A and CBG-A are both acids that break down into CBD through the application of heat — a process called “decarboxylation.” The same heating process is responsible for the psychoactive qualities found in marijuana.

Related: Omicron is on the rise, scientists are optimistic. How can both be true?

While it is still not entirely clear what dose level may prove to be clinically viable, most over-the-counter cannabis supplements should list CBD-A and CBG-A content, which will make information about a particular product’s efficacy easy. selection.

Other good news? Testing appears to indicate that cannabis compounds are effective against all known variants of COVID-19.

“Our data show a minimal impact of the variable strains on CBDA and CBGA efficacy, a trend that we hope will extend to other current and future variables,” the authors wrote in the study.

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