Can cannabis prevent COVID-19? Maybe, but here’s why smoking weed won’t help

A recent study found that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp varietals of cannabis bind onto the coronavirus’ spike protein, preventing it from causing infection

A cannabis plant in Montevideo. AFP

At a time when the world is battling raging COVID-19 infections, a new study has revealed that a chemical found in live cannabis plants could help protect human cells against coronavirus infections.

What does this mean? Does it mean that smoking cannabis would help in the COVID-19 fight?

Here are the answers.

What does the study say?

A study by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health and Science University published in the Journal of Nature Products, has said that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp varietals of cannabis, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, also known as CBDA, bind onto the SARS-Cov-2 virus’ spike protein.

In lay man’s terms, CBGA and CBDA prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection, potentially offering new avenues to prevent and treat the disease.

“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,” the researchers wrote in an abstract of the study.

The research showed that the chemicals worked well against both the Alpha and Beta variants of coronavirus, raising the prospect that they might also function against Omicron and other mutations.

“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,” Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, was quoted as saying.

Why smoking weed won’t help though?

This has led many to believe that smoking cannabis would help in preventing COVID-19.

However, the researchers say that’s not the case.

Explaining their study, Richard van Breemen said, “These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts. They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-Cov-2.”

What one must note is CBGA and CBDA are both precursors to the better-known chemicals in cannabis drugs. CBGA exists only while the cannabis plant is growing, while the latter is converted into CBD, one of the key ingredients in recreational and medicinal cannabis, through burning, vaping or baking.

As a Forbes report explained, the cannabis compounds studied in the research are not the cannabis compounds most weed users seek.

And they are not the compounds you ingest when eating an edible or smoking cannabis, because these acids are transformed when heat is applied — from THC-A to THC, from CBDA to CBD, from CBGA to CBD. And neither CBD, THC, nor CBG are “active against the virus,” van Breemen said.

In a VICE interview, Breemen was quoted as saying that a ‘dietary supplement’ such as a gummy or a tincture that contains all three of these compounds might help people stay healthy.

With inputs from agencies

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FP Staff

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