Cannabis compounds can prevent COVID-19 infection, new study finds

Remedy Pics/Unsplash

Hemp compounds identified through a chemical screening technique show the ability to prevent the virus that causes novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from entering human cells, according to new research.

The study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, was led by Richard van Breemen, PhD, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy, and Linus Pauling Institute.

Van Breeman and his team, including scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.

In follow-up virus neutralization analysis, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells, the study found.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen said. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. 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.”

These compounds can be taken orally, according to van Breeman, and have a long history of safe use in humans.

“They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers,” he said. “However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.”