A recent study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Products claims that the hemp form of cannabis contains two compounds that can “prevent” Covid-19 infection by blocking the entry of the virus into human cells.
As with all studies related to this particular natural product, the research has given rise to scepticism from some scientists in the field.
The study, titled ‘Cannabinoids block cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the emerging variants’, states that two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp — cannabigerol acid or CBGA, and cannabidiol acid or CBDA — can bind to the spike protein of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
Compared to marijuana, which is generally consumed by smoking, hemp has a much lower tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, the compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans.
“In follow-up virus neutralization assays, cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid prevented infection of human epithelial cells by a pseudovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented the entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells,” the study said.
The study was led by Dr Richard van Breemen, a researcher at Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center. Breemen said he advocates oral administration in the form of a dietary supplement “like a pill or an oil or a gummy”, but clarified that he does not promote these particular compounds as a treatment or cure for someone who is hospitalised and severely ill.
The study stated that CBDA and CBGA are useful against various variants of COVID. However, they haven’t been tested against the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus.
Some researchers are making a point that most commercially available cannabis in the US, whether sold in licenced stores or in the traditional market, has very little CBD or CBG, and thus might not help if one smokes it.
Dr Rachel Knox, a cannabinoid medicine specialist in the US and president of the Cannabis Health Equity Movement, stated: “Acidic cannabinoids are pre-decarboxylated, so FYI you won’t get their potential benefit by smoking cannabis.”
Dr Patricia Frye, a physician and cannabis expert at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, was of the opinion that test-tube results do not always translate into what happens in animals or humans. “I would not recommend using cannabis in lieu of available treatments if a person is at high risk of poor outcome,” she said.