Researchers using a unique chemical screening process found that two hemp cannabinoids blocked COVID infection of human cells in a lab test. The results hold promise that cannabis could prove beneficial in the fight against infectious disease and viruses.
Researchers at Oregon State University published their findings in the Journal of Nature Products. They found that two chemical compounds in hemp – cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) – blocked a step the spiked protein in COVID takes to infect people.
This is not the first research into this area. In 2020, scientists reported that cannabis showed promise for treating COVID-19 complications, including lessening the cytokine storms associated with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
News of the Oregon State University research quickly spread around the world. Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel joked that “This would be interesting. All this time we’ve been listening to the CDC, we should have been eating CBD.”
What The New Study Found
Researchers tested the cannabis compounds against the alpha and beta variants of COVID using a chemical screening process invented at the university. They found that the hemp cannabinoids CBGA and CBDA both prevented the process used by the virus to infect cells.
Both compounds come from hemp. Unlike THC, the chemical ingredient in cannabis that causes the “high,” both the compounds in the study are non-psychoactive. They both come from hemp, which Congress made legal across the United States in 2018. It’s now used in many products.
However, those products typically contain CBD. However, CBGA and CBDA are both precursors to CBD and not typically used in hemp products.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, said in a statement. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”
Cannabinoids Blocked COVID Spike Protein That Vaccines Target
Both the hemp cannabinoids blocked a COVID spike protein that is the same drug target used in COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapy. A drug target refers to any molecule that is critical to the process followed by a disease. Disrupting a drug target can block progression of a disease and infection.
In this case, vaccines – and, in the study, the two cannabinoids – prevent the connection of the coronavirus spike protein’s “receptor binding domain” to the human cell surface receptor named ACE2. By blocking that binding process, infection is prevented and severity of the virus reduced.
Van Breeman said that “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.”
The findings from the Oregon State University study offer hope that cannabis compounds could help in the battle against the coronavirus, as well as with future infectious viruses.