The medicinal benefits of cannabis are not a new topic, and accordingly the plant has been mentioned quite a few times in the last two years as something that might help in either treating or preventing corona, including quite a few pike news and fake headlines.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon State in the US and published this week on the academic medical publication Journal of Natural Products, certain cannabis compounds can prevent infection with the virus that causes corona by blocking its entry into cells.
The researchers found that two cannabinoid acids found in cannabis and hemp in its natural form, CBGA and CBDA, could bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes corona.
These components, which are actually phyto-cannabinoids (cannabinoids in the plant), are actually acids of CBG and CBD before these molecules undergo a process of heating by smoking or evaporation.
According to the study, by attaching to the spike protein, these cannabis acids, which can be found in the natural plant and not through smoking, can prevent the virus from penetrating cells and causing infection, which can offer new ways to treat and even prevent the disease.
“These cannabinoids are available for oral consumption (i.e. in food, cubic meters) and have a long history of safe use in humans, which adds to their potential to prevent and treat the infection that causes corona,” the researchers wrote.
The study was led by Richard Van Bremen, a researcher at the Oregon Global Innovation Center, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Oregon Health and Science.
“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in cannabis and many cannabis extracts,” Van Bremen said. “These are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but those that have a good safety profile in humans.”
According to Van Bremen, both the CBDA and the CBGA have been able to block in the study the action of evolving versions of the virus that causes corona. “Our research has shown that cannabis compounds are equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including version B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK and called the British variant, and version B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa.”
So how does the process actually take place? The spike protein is the part of the virus that, along with other proteins that are in the virus and are called “auxiliary proteins”, are actually trying to attack the vaccines for corona.
“In the process of infection in the corona, the binding of the receptors in the spike protein to an enzyme in the human cell called ACE2 is a critical step, as this is how the virus penetrates cells in the human body,” explains Van Bremen. “When inhibitors of this entry into cells, such as hemp acids, are used, it is possible to shorten the duration of the infection and even prevent it.
“What actually happens is that the cannabinoid acids bind to the spike proteins of the virus so that they cannot bind to the enzyme ACE2, which is abundant on the outer membrane of cells in healthy lungs and other organs.”
Although more research is needed, Van Breiman believes that the research he has led already shows that cannabinoids can be developed into drugs to prevent and treat corona. He further noted that the study showed that cannabinoids are also effective against new versions of the virus, which he says are “one of the main concerns in the epidemic for doctors and healthcare professionals”.
“Our data show that CBDA and CBGA are effective against the two versions of the virus we tested,” the researcher continued, “and we hope that this trend will extend to more existing versions as well as other future versions.”
He stressed that “if cannabinoids are used extensively, resistant versions of the virus could appear, but the combination of CBDA / CBGA treatment alongside vaccine should create a much more challenging environment for the corona.”