Why Cannabis Could Offer Us Some Protection Against Covid-19

According to a new study, it's more complicated than just lighting one up though.
Cannabis has qualities that could protect against Covid.
Thana Prasongsin via Getty Images
Cannabis has qualities that could protect against Covid.

We weren’t expecting Covid-19 and 4/20 to have much in common. But in surprising news, cannabis has qualities that may help offer some protection against coronavirus.

That’s not us trying to push the legalise weed campaign – it’s according to a new peer-reviewed study by researchers from Oregon State University and Oregon Health and Sciences University, that found that acids taken from cannabis plants can block Covid-19 infection in human cells in lab tests.

The cannabis compounds bind on to the SARS-Cov-2 virus’ spike protein, blocking the virus from entering human cells and thus preventing infections.

Lead scientists say the discovery could help the vaccination programme as widespread use of these compounds from plant pots can help drive down the number of Covid cases and its effect on those who are infected.

But before you take off your face mask and light one up, smoking an actual joint or eating a space cake isn’t going to do the trick.

Smoking a joint won't actually help you, but its compounds could.
Dejan Marjanovic via Getty Images
Smoking a joint won't actually help you, but its compounds could.

Most of us are familiar with the cannabis compounds THC – the cannabinoid that gets you high – and CBD, the often extracted cannabinoid that does not – but neither of these compounds are what the researchers are referring to.

Instead, the cannabis compounds of use against Covid have to be harvested specifically from a hemp plant to offer protection, and can’t be derived from consuming weed in any of the traditional senses.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” said lead author Richard van Breemen of OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

“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.”

The study, published in the Journal of Natural Products on Monday, tested several plant extracts such as red clover, wild yam, hops and licorice to find a potential connection with the Covid spike protein.

The two compounds which were most effective were cannabigerolic acid, known as CBG-A, and cannabidiolic acid, known as CBD-A, both precursors to well-known chemicals in cannabis drugs.

The chemicals extracted from the growing plant were protective against Alpha and Beta variants of coronavirus, suggesting they might be able to help in the fight against new variants, too.

“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,” Dr van Breemen added.

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