Can hemp help stop Covid-19? The details.

by Jan 19, 2022Hemp & CBD Use

Researchers at Oregon State University recently discovered certain cannabinoids can effectively neutralize and block SARS-CoV-2’s ability to infect cells. [1]

But does this hold up? Or is it just headline-worthy wishful thinking…fit for some late night jokes and fanatical ferver, but soon to fizzle out from use in the mainstream? Is it anti-vaccine bait, meant to dissuade readers from the most effective known solution for stopping the spread of Covid-19 and limiting its effects?

To the last of those – ‘No.” In the researchers own words:

As a complement to vaccines…Cannabinoid acids from hemp (Cannabis sativa)…cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein…”

Bates, Breeman, et. al., Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants

Let’s break down what the factors at play here are, how they work, and why this might be exciting for family caretakers and pharmaceutical researchers alike.

What Cannabinoids might help block Covid infections?

According to the research, cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) were equally most-effective at blocking potential coronavirus infection by way of neutralizing the virus’ spike protein.

It should be noted that despite sounding similar and being related to the two popular cannabinoids CBG and especially CBD, only the two distinctly-different compounds CBGa and CBDa are known to be effective in this regard.

And despite CBG and CBD being better-known, their precursors of interest here, CBDa and CBGa may be available to us in large amount already. To explain:

All CBD and CBG exists first as the acids CBDa and CBGa in their parent plant, requiring carboxylation (a chemical change brought on with heat or light) to access the cannabinoids’ better-known, often-demanded final forms.

Covid-blocking cannabinoids graphic
For more on the differences between these forms, check out our article on the major cannabinoids and how they differ.

This distinction between acidic and carboxyl versions of the various compounds highlights a usable takeaway:

Consumed edible or topical concentrates will naturally be more effective than smoked hemp at helping stop Covid-19.

This is because raw plant oils include primarily the acidic cannabinoid precursors (i.e. CBGa and CBDa), which are converted into their respective carboxyl compounds slowly while stored in direct light, and instantly during the vaping and combustion process.

How might CBGa and CBDA effectively block Covid-19?

Skeptical minds may still wonder, “okay, but what is physically going on here?

As the original study abstract states, “Cannabinoid acids from hemp (Cannabis sativa) were found to be allosteric as well as orthosteric ligands with micromolar affinity for the spike protein.”

In human English terms, these two compounds essentially bind to the spike protein on the virus, critically impeding its ability to penetrate human cells.

With other treatments on the market, why is this exciting?

With vaccines now widely available (in the US), a new prescription pill treatment approved, and Omicron seemingly passing over soon, why is this finding something to get jazzed for? Let’s consider:

Accessibility

With no need for an appointment or a prescription, CBD and CBG supplements (high in CBDa and CBGa, respectively), may be the most accessible and non-intrusive means of fighting and protecting against the virus, especially effective when layered with other measures like vaccines and masking.

Treatment Potential

SARS-CoV-2 was only one particularly nasty strain we’ve just experienced from the coronavirus subfamily. CBGa and CBDa’s process of binding to the virus’ protein spikes and effectively blocking them from entering (and infecting) human cells may have general relevance fighting future novel virus strains too.

Mainstreaming Opportunity

While our excitement for hemp’s therapeutic potential is at a 10 out of 10, we understand many are still skeptical. This is largely a function of hemp’s criminalized history, which has always driven away the risk-averse. Now however, a full-scale academic endorsement of hemp compounds protecting against the deadliest human pandemic in 100 years can also act as a vector to draw these more careful individuals into researching hemp’s relative lack of risk and its therapeutic potential overall.

Like many of you reading, we were thrilled to see this news. We look forward to following along and reporting exciting findings as they become available.

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