New Study Says Cannabis May Prevent COVID

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As big fans of CBD and CBG and its many medicinal and aesthetic benefits, we were more than thrilled to hear the news out of Oregon State University that two chemical compounds commonly found in hemp—cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)—could prevent COVID-19 infection.

Explaining the Findings

A recent study conducted by researchers at the university was published this week in the Journal of Natural Products. “The findings show that hemp extracts commonly found in household products like makeup, lotions, and other things such as livestock and plant feed, can stop COVID-19 spike proteins from binding to human endothelial cells,” explains George Washington University epidemiology candidate Skye Peters, who has been studying the virus and its various strains. “Acids from the hemp compounds inhibit cell entry by binding to the protein spikes found on COVID, so they’re unable to bind to the ACE2 inhibitors on human epithelial cells, thus preventing entry, infection and subsequent replication following the invasion of COVID-19.”

What They Really Mean

Like many of us reading the headlines, New York integrative cannabis physician Dr. June Chin finds the study results to be promising and worth noting. “A non-psychoactive compound found in live cannabis plants could help sabotage the spike protein on coronaviruses,” she says hopefully. “We have known from previous research that compounds in cannabis have been shown to decrease the inflammatory cascade associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome, at least in animal models, and cannabis can be used to relieve pain and other symptoms, and to promote restful sleep.” Dr. Chin says cannabinoids may also be therapeutic in treating long-haul COVID syndrome. “My patients are certainly finding it helpful for body aches, fatigue, and insomnia.”

The news also impressed Chicago plastic surgeon Julius Few, MD, who recently led a controlled study on CBD and its interaction with retinol for his Aforé Beauty skin-care line. During his research, which is soon to be published in The Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Dr. Few found that CBD not only prevented potential skin irritation, but it also cleared up skin concerns like acne and rosacea for the patients in his study group. “The bottom line is, in terms of a correlation between COVID or any viral load of any kind, the reason why it’s so problematic is the way the cell responds to that virus. The cell is bringing the virus in and then the chain of events that occur afterward is what leads to the manifestation of COVID,” he explains. “If you have something, like CBD and CBG, that can modulate the way the cell sees a given agent, then you can modulate the effect on the body so that it won’t be so likely to take up that challenging particle.”

“CBD has antiviral and antibacterial properties, but its main virtue is that it decreases inflammation,” adds Dr. Chin. “The common thread of all disease states is chronic inflammation. Diseases as diverse as diabetes, low back pain or migraines that come are all the result of some underlying inflammation. So if you think about it, reducing the inflammation will likely reduce the symptoms of many illnesses.”

What We Can Expect

“This is good news because these compounds can be used for future potential prevention methods for COVID-19,” says Peters. “The research shows the compounds were effective against A and B variants and future research will likely focus on Delta and Omicron variants as well.” The bad news? We can’t reach into our current stash to start fighting the virus and its strains. “The research conducted was using hemp compounds that can be taken orally. While some news articles wrongfully identify them as ‘CBD and CBG,’ the compounds found to prevent the COVID-19 spike from binding to ACE2 enzymes are actually the precursors to CBD and CBG and are not actually found in these two common products,” she adds. “So, unfortunately taking over the counter products won’t prevent the spike binding mechanism. You can’t smoke THC products either, as plants or vape cartridges have been shown to damage the cells of the lungs and increase the risk of infection.”

Craig Henderson, CEO and founder of hemp company Extract Labs says the distinction between commonly used CBD and CBDA/ CBDG are important for consumers and patients to know. “I think we’re going to see an increase in some of the smaller hemp companies making claims about what their products can do, or rather taking plain old CBD and claiming it’s CBDA,” he says. “Luckily we have been developing a CBDA and CBGA blend for the past few months and are about to launch it. We will have the lab results to prove it contains CBDA and CBGA, not just CBG or CBD.”

Dr. Few says in the future, in addition to have ingestible CBDA and CBDG, inhalers would be useful those who are at greater risk of developing a severe illness. “Theoretically if somebody is in a zone that is exposed, like a front-line worker, an inhaled form may be shown to have some protective benefit.” He notes further research is needed, but for now this news is highly promising and worth exploring. “It’s really exciting and those of us who have been working closely with CBD are not surprised.”

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