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Can Cannabinoids help prevent or treat COVID-19?

24 January 2022

A new study reveals link between cannabinoids and COVID-19 prevention.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest health challenges this century – causing severe respiratory conditions in those infected. This study is welcome news as the authors suggest that specific Phytocannabinoids may help prevent infection.

The study titled ‘Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants’ published in the Journal of Natural Products – a journal produced by the American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy – has shown that cannabinoids (isolated or in hemp extracts) could be used to block the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus from entering the cells in our bodies, having the potential to prevent, as well as treat infection by COVID-19 and some of the variant strains.

How does it work?

As the Covid-19 pandemic has evolved, variants such as the alpha, beta and delta have increased infection rates and hospitalisations across the globe. One approach to reduce infection would be to prevent cell entry COVID-19 to the body at cell level.

Led by Professor Richard B. van Breeman, Principal Investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the study has demonstrated that specific cannabinoids –  cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) – which are commonly found in hemp (Cannabis Sativa) can bind to the spike proteins on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.

“Specific cannabinoids –  cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) – which are commonly found in hemp (Cannabis Sativa) can bind to the spike proteins on the surface of the COVID-19 virus” 

The conformational changes needed for the virus to fuse with the cell were impeded meaning the virus was unable to enter the host cell, preventing infection. Both cannabinoids were effective on the alpha and beta variants.

The study reported that:

“Using MagMASS to screen hemp extracts for ligands to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, several cannabinoid ligands were identified and ranked by affinity to the spike protein. Two cannabinoids with the highest affinities for the spike protein, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), were confirmed to block infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the spike protein. More importantly, both CBDA and CBGA block infection of the original live SARS-CoV-2 virus and variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.”

The verdict

While additional research is needed, the study states ‘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’ which is welcome and encouraging.

This study paves the way to conduct further investigations, outside the laboratory to demonstrate proof of concept in humans, and is yet another example of the potential of cannabinoid derived products to fight the battle against this pandemic.

For more details read the full study here ‘Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants

Author: Bojan
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Bojan Ambrus, Head of Marketing & Digital Product at Lyphe Group, is a data-driven growth marketing professional with over 15 years of rich experience. His background includes roles such as Head of Marketing at and growth marketing roles in various enterprises, startups, and scale-ups. His expertise in building and positioning businesses is particularly valuable in the cannabis sector, where he navigates its complexities and regulatory challenges. His strategic marketing insights make Bojan a key player in shaping Lyphe Group's marketing and digital product strategies.

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