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Cannabis plants
Photography Jeff W

Cannabis can prevent COVID, according to new research

Scientists at Oregon State University have found that hemp compounds can protect people from coronavirus infections

While most COVID–related news is pretty bleak, a new study published in the Journal of Natural Products has offered a small silver lining: a chemical found in live cannabis plants could help protect human cells against coronavirus infections.

New research from scientists at Oregon State University found that two acids – cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) – which are present in hemp were able to prevent COVID infections by binding onto the SARS-Cov-2 virus’s spike protein.

“Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” explains lead author Dr Richard van Breemen.

“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 cells.”

Unfortunately for stoners, however, these findings don’t mean that smoking weed prevents COVID. Instead, you’d need to ingest these hemp compounds orally – most likely in the form of a pill or liquid. 

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” explains lead author Dr Richard van Breemen. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”

The research also suggests that these acids could be used to combat variants of COVID. “Our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS–CoV–2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”

It’s possible that this discovery could also help in the fight against the Omicron variant. “Our data show CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two variants we looked at, and we hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants,” Dr van Breemen says.