A chemical found in live cannabis plants may help protect human cells from coronavirus infections, research suggests.
A study by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health and Science University found that two acids present in hemp, a type of cannabis plant widely used in fabric, paper, and medicine, are the gears of the virus. could block that caused Covid-19
The researchers said the two compounds can bind to the spike protein of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, which it uses to invade and control human cells and gives the coronavirus family its name.
However, the compounds probably cannot be consumed through any of the traditional methods of using cannabis as a medicine, meaning they must be harvested separately to make a specific drug.
“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 study showed that the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-Cov-2.”
The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Products on Monday, examined numerous plant extracts such as red clover, wild yam, hops and licorice for possible affinity with the Covid spike protein.
The spike protein is a microscopic structure that protrudes from the body of the virus, with chemical receptor sites that have evolved to bind to the outer parts of human cells. If another chemical binds to those receptors, it can block them, rendering them useless.
The two compounds that worked best were cannabigerolic acid, known as CBG-A, and cannabidiolic acid, known as CBD-A, both precursors to the better-known chemicals in cannabis drugs.
The former only exists while the cannabis plant is growing, while the latter is converted to CBD, one of the main ingredients in recreational and medicinal cannabis, by burning, vaping or baking.
The chemicals worked well against both the alpha and beta variants of the coronavirus, raising the prospect that they might also work against Omicron and other mutations.
“Our data shows that 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,” said Mr. Van Breemen.