You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz recently about a new lab study claiming that certain cannabis compounds may prevent Covid-19 by blocking the virus from penetrating human cells.
This is exciting news, of course, both because of its potential for helping end the worldwide pandemic and its acknowledgement of what we cannabis lovers have known for years—that weed has untold potential as medicine for human beings.
But before you start telling your friends and family members that weed cures Covid, let’s first unpack the details of the study and what they mean for the average cannabis user.
Here’s what we know about the study
In 2021, a team of researchers was gathered from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) and the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at Oregon Health & Science. The team was led by principal investigator and OSU professor of medicinal chemistry Richard van Breeman Ph.D.
As the team began exploring natural compounds that are capable of binding with Covid-19’s spike protein—the part of the virus that enables it to infect human cells. In looking closely at hemp, which is known to contain a variety of botanical compounds, they first screened for these binding molecules by incubating the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in a mixture of hemp extracts.
They soon discovered that while most of the cannabinoids in hemp showed little two no binding capability, there were three outliers that showed strong promise: cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A), cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A). Because the latter is a precursor to the psychoactive compound THC, which is a controlled substance, the researchers were only able to study CBD-A and CBG-A in the next phase.
After testing these two acids’ ability to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—and, in effect, neutralize the virus—the team exposed human cells to the cannabinoid/virus mixture. After 24 hours without evidence of viral RNA (i.e. the virus penetrating the cells), the researchers reported that these results, “clearly indicate that CBD-A and CBG-A are both able to block cell entry by SARS-CoV-2,” the authors write.
What it means for the average cannabis user
So, you’re probably thinking, “I guess this means my weed can prevent me from getting Covid!” But while this study is certainly promising, it’s important to note that its results derived from a laboratory experiment using isolated cells. And as integrative medicine practitioner and cannabis expert Patricia Frye, M.D. told Forbes, “What happens in a test tube does not always translate into what happens in animals or humans.”
For now, it’s too early to say whether CBD-A or CBG-A will actually help prevent the spread of Covid, and at this point we have no way of knowing things like how much of these compounds the average person would need to consume for their bioavailability to protect against the disease. Suffice to say, there is still much more testing to be done before researchers can draw any firm conclusions.
But even though we can’t say for certain that cannabis “cures” Covid-19, we also can’t say it doesn’t. After all, based solely on the research that’s been conducted to date, we know that medical marijuana has proven useful in treating conditions such as chronic pain, seizures, migraines and more.
As researchers continue looking closely at cannabis compounds, many remain particularly hopeful about their efficacy against both the current pandemic and undiscovered viruses yet to come.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.