A new study that found compounds in cannabis could prevent the coronavirus from infecting cells understandably caught the internet’s attention this week. But while the results are worth watching, people shouldn’t get too excited just yet, as the researchers are very clear that simply smoking or ingesting cannabis won’t make someone sick. covid test.
The study was led by scientists at Oregon State University and Oregon Health and Science University. They were looking for chemicals found in plants that could in theory bind to the coronavirus spike protein SARS-CoV-2, inhibiting its ability to infect our cells.
The team identified two such potential compounds from the hemp plant (Cannabis-sativa): cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA. They then performed further laboratory tests and found that the two cannabinoids did indeed appear to prevent the coronavirus from infecting normally vulnerable human cells. Additionally, the compounds appeared to work equally well against the Alpha and Beta variants of the coronavirus.
“Orally bioavailable and with a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids, either isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent and treat SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the authors wrote. authors in their article, published Tuesday in the Journal of Natural Products.
Finding a way to inhibit the coronavirus, even for a short time, is a valuable goal, and one that many other scientists are working on. These treatments, for example, could be used to protect immunocompromised people in high-risk situations, such as during an active epidemic. This research must therefore absolutely be deepened.
But petri dish experiments are only the very beginning of the research process. For every promising concoction that becomes an effective drug or vaccine, there are many more that flounder and show no real results in animal or human testing. It happened during the covid-19 pandemic, with drugs like hydroxychloroquine apparently effective in stopping the coronavirus in the lab but not in real-life patients. Of course, that doesn’t mean that CBGA and CBDA will necessarily fail, it just means that we have to temper our expectations for any experimental drug.
Even if these compounds worked against covid-19, there’s no way you’d get their benefits from smoking, vaping, or ingesting. Both CBGA and CBDA are precursors to CBG and CBD, which are found in cannabis that people consume for recreational or medicinal purposes. But these cannabinoids did not show the same strong inhibitory effect in the researchers’ tests. So you would still need to use hemp or hemp-based extracts, which don’t get you high, to get a theoretical protective boost. And even then, it’s unclear how you would maintain a high enough level of these compounds in your airways to have the effect seen in the lab.
Interestingly, the team identified another cannabinoid that could bind to the virus: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA-A), which is a precursor to THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. However, since THCA-A is a controlled substance, the team didn’t have enough of it to test how well it could inhibit the virus. Don’t pin your hopes too much there either. THCA-A is not psychoactive, and the way we get THC first is by heating and drying fresh cannabis leaves, breaking down THCA-A. And as with CBD and CBG, the team found little evidence that THC itself could effectively inhibit the coronavirus.
These findings are certainly intriguing, and the fact that researchers have not been able to continue studying THCA-A is another reason why our federal government’s position on cannabis is outdated and counterproductive. But while the weed can be good for many things, it’s unfortunately not a pandemic cure.