Compounds found in hemp may prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells, according to a new study published in the Journal of Natural Products.
Researchers at Oregon State University found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This blocks the spike protein from binding with angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) receptors. The spike protein hooks onto the ACE 2 receptors that are located in the lining of the lungs and other organs, which is how the virus infects people, health experts explained to Fox News.
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“That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells,” said Richard Van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute in the Oregon State University release.
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The two products in hemp called cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA, had the highest affinity for the spike protein and were confirmed to block infection by the virus, Van Breemen said in the OSU release.
Hemp is known as Cannabis sativa and multiple hemp extracts and compounds are added to body lotions, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and food, according to the release. Hemp also serves as a source of food, fiber, and animal feed, the researchers noted in the report.
The researchers explained in the study’s news release, that these cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and several hemp extracts. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans,” Van Breemen said in the OSU release.
“They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2. CBDA and CBGA are produced by the hemp plant as precursors to CBD and CBG, which are familiar to many consumers. However, they are different from the acids and are not contained in hemp products.” Van Breemen said in the release.
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The Oregon researcher said that the hemp compounds were equally effective against the alpha and beta variants. Van Breemen said resistant variants could still arise amid widespread use of cannabinoids but that the combination of vaccination and CBDA/CBGA treatment should make for a much more challenging environment for SARS-CoV-2.
“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.”, the researchers stated in the published study.