But is this news really true? Let’s break down the study and find out.
The Cannabinoid Study: CBGA & CBDA
The study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, sparked a discussion on whether or not cannabis can prevent infection from COVID-19. The study was conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) and the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at Oregon Health & Science University.
The study was conducted with hemp, the non-psychoactive cannabis plant. The researchers looked for molecules in hemp that could bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Once the cannabinoid acids bind to the spike proteins, it creates the inability of the virus to penetrate human cells.
Cannabinoids Bind to Spike Proteins Inhibiting Infection
Researchers found that three cannabinoid acids had an affinity for binding to the spike proteins associated with COVID-19 — cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A). Other cannabinoids were found to be ineffective.
Next, researchers tested whether these acids that bind to spike proteins would stop the virus from penetrating the surface of human cells — effectively inhibiting the virus. Research carried forward with two of the three previously tested compounds — CBGA and CBDA — because researchers could not obtain enough THC-A due to its Schedule I substance designation.
They incubated the SARS-CoV-2 virus with hemp compounds and then exposed them to epithelial cells — the cells that line body tissues. After 24 hours of exposure, researchers then looked for the COVID-19 virus in the cells, but found none, noting that the hemp compounds “could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells.”
Does This Mean Cannabis Cures COVID?
Note that laboratory results do not always translate to real life. While these findings show promise, there is still much more research to be done before anything conclusive can be said about the ties between cannabis and COVID.
No marijuana was used in the study; the only compounds that were tested came from hemp. THC-A showed promise but was not studied as conclusively as CBGA and CBDA. So at the moment, consuming cannabis in any form has not been proven to cure or prevent infection from COVID-19.
Peter Grinspoon, M.D., a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital told Forbes “This is a long way off, assuming they work, which is by no means guaranteed,” he added. “I don't think many molecules at that level actually pan out into functional medicines.”
Vaccinations are Still the Best Way to Combat COVID-19
The most concerning aspect of the virality of this news story is that it may deter people from getting vaccinated and simply choosing to ingest cannabis instead. This is not recommended.
Vaccination is still your best course of action against the virus. While you may choose to experiment with cannabis additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that marijuana is the COVID-19 cure we’ve been waiting for.
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an important step for weed, especially in the public eye. As we progress with federal legality in the U.S., we can cite the potential value in marijuana from studies such as this.
We hope to see more studies related to cannabis and COVID-19 to follow — hopefully uncovering more potential health benefits, especially in relation to the ongoing pandemic.
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