A recent study published by Oregon State University (OSU) researchers may have found a link between two hemp compounds and preventing coronavirus infection. The study, headed by OSU Professor Richard van Breeman, found that two cannabinoids commonly found in hemp could bind to the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, preventing the virus from entering cells.
In simple terms, these cannabinoids target the same part of the virus that vaccines and antibody therapies target to prevent infections. While it’s still early, researchers are optimistic that this could lead to treatments being developed in the future.
But what are these compounds, how do they work, and what could this mean for COVID-19 prevention?
The findings of the study
Richard van Breeman was the lead researcher behind the study. Van Breeman worked with scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University. As a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Principal Investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, he began investigating therapeutic agents at the start of the pandemic.
The idea was to find natural compounds that could help fight viral infections, which is what led him to hemp. The researchers found two: Cannabidiolic acid (CBD A) and Cannabigerolic acid (CBG A).
The published abstract gives us a look into why these two compounds could be so important:
“Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-COV-2.”
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the chemical group found in cannabis plants like hemp (Cannabis sativa). You may already be familiar with the two most well-known cannabinoids: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the psychoactive compound that gives you the “high” associated with cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, isn’t psychoactive but still produces mellowing effects. As the name suggests, it’s the main compound in CBD products.
Cannabis plants produce between 80 to 100 different cannabinoids, research shows. The ratio of these compounds is one of the ways we define hemp. For a cannabis plant to be considered hemp, it must have less than 0.03% of the THC compound. This is the plant in which researchers found the other two cannabinoid compounds, but how do they work?
Cannabinoids vs. COVID-19
As mentioned, the study deals with Cannabidiolic acid (CBD A) and Cannabigerolic acid (CBG A). The study found that these two acids had an interesting blocking effect on the virus’ spike protein, a crucial part of the infection process.
These proteins are what give the COVID-19 virus its crowning spikes. The spike proteins bind to certain receptors on the human cell surface, which then leads to infection. mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna also target this protein, but it’s important to note the differences here.
mRNA vaccines teach the body to produce a harmless version of the protein and create antibodies to destroy it. These antibodies then store information on how to combat the virus and use it to fight the real thing.
The cannabinoids in the study block the spike proteins from binding to cell receptors. This is what can stop the infection process, but it doesn’t destroy the virus itself. Richard van Breeman explains their interaction with the virus like this:
“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. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs. ”
Another encouraging sign is the availability of these two cannabinoids in hemp plants.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” writes van Breeman. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”
Important facts to keep in mind
As encouraging as the findings are, it’s important to remember that the research still has a long way to go. For one, this is a lab study, meaning the compounds have only been tested in controlled petri dish samples so far. The signs are encouraging, but no clinical trials on humans have been conducted yet.
As Mikael Sodergren, head of Imperial College Medical Cannabis Research Group, says:
“The data in itself is enough for further study, but not enough for any conclusions to be drawn.”
Van Breeman acknowledges this. He also clarifies that any CBD A/CBG A treatments are meant to work together with vaccination to create the most challenging conditions for the virus. As for the cannabinoid acids themselves, the study suggests that any supplement would have to be taken orally to be truly effective.
In an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), Van Breeman details why:
“I do not advocate for smoking these products because it definitely would contribute to the degradation of the anti-COVID compound CBD A and CBG A. A more effective approach might be oral administration as a dietary supplement in a pill form for example.”
That’s good news for anyone interested in these treatments but wants to avoid smoking. As for the effectiveness of future treatments in preventing COVID, Van Breeman still advocates for a holistic approach to safety and health.
“I would hope that subsequent clinical trials will demonstrate that these compounds prepared from hemp might help prevent COVID infection,” he says in the same interview with OPB. “Right now if any of us get exposed to a family member, a colleague at work or at school. . .we need to self-isolate and hope we don’t get sick. The best thing we know is just to take good care of ourselves, drink plenty of fluids and exercise and eat well.”
What products are available now?
This research offers hope, and the researchers involved see plenty of merit in some of the CBD products available today. While CBD isn’t one of the cannabinoids that prevent infection, its anti-inflammatory properties can offer great relief for symptoms.
Still, both CBD A and CBG A are compounds you’ll find in some of our CBD products. Here are two we recommend, according to what the study has shown so far.
RAW Enactiv CBD Gummies (Psychoactive)
These gummies are an all-natural, hemp-derived product made from CBD. The active CBD—made from a proprietary blend called Enzactive—is an organic compound, meaning there’s no synthetic formula involved in making it.
Gummies are a convenient form of CBD because they’re equally sized portions. This makes it easier to control dosages for beginners and advanced consumers alike. Each jar comes with 50 gummies for a total of 1250mg of Enzactive CBD, with tropical flavors available for a fruity treat.
While these gummies do not contain any THC, the Enzactive blend does have some psychoactive effects. This isn’t necessarily a con, but something to be aware of before buying or consuming the product.
Endocure CBD Softgels 750mg
Our second recommendation comes in the form of our Endocure CBD softgels. Like tinctures, you consume them orally, but without the hassle of measuring them out. You just pop and go!
Our softgels contain active compounds for several effects, from pain and stress relief to reduced anxiety. The liquid-filled gels promote better absorption of cannabinoids, ensuring that you get the full benefits of each one.
If you’re new to CBD products, we recommend only taking one softgel and giving your body time to feel the effects. Unlike vaping or smoking, edible CBD products need to be digested first, so we always recommend starting small when finding your comfort level.
Want to learn more about these products or any of our other CBD or THC products? Reach out to Burman’s Health Shop today!
The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.