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Hemp compounds found to fight COVID-19

CBD Oil 2019
Acid forms of cannabinoids prevent the coronavirus spike protein from binding to human receptor sites.

New research that is creating quite the buzz found that two compounds commonly found in hemp have the potential to combat the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The compounds, cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA, and cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, block a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.

No, it does not mean you can smoke weed and prevent the ’rona.

No, it does not (necessarily) mean you can squirt some CBD oil from that tincture bottle and keep the ’vid at bay. The CBDA and CBGA are not usually found in commercial hemp CBD products, but some notable companies are out there, such as Ancient Cannabis out of Oregon and Essentia Scientific from Washington state. 

"CBDA and CBGG are available commercially,"said Stacy Cason at Planetarie CBDa out of Colorado, "though definitely in the minority and not in your average CBD isolate in oil product."

“The ‘A’ forms, these are the acid forms of CBD and CBG that are generally not in most commercially available hemp products," said Lynda LeMole, a natural products industry consultant. “The acid forms are found in the fresh plant. There are processes that stabilize the acid forms so you’d have to look at the product’s test analysis to see if the acid forms are still present in the final product.”

CBDA and CBGA naturally exist in true whole-plant hemp extracts that are not overly distilled to raise CBD content. "The data on whole plant vs CBD isolated follows the basic tenet of true botanical medicine," said Carl Germano, vice president at Verdant Oasis. "The synergism of the whole plant performs better than isolated components from them."

The two compounds were identified during a chemical screening by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The compounds bind to spike proteins found on the virus and blocked the spike protein from binding to sites in a human host, thereby preventing a step the pathogen uses to infect people.

"The acid forms are significantly under-appreciated," said cannabis consultant Richard Rose. "Even non-stony THCA." 

Heat inactivates the compounds and makes them unable to bind to the spike protein. That is why smoking marijuana would not work.

The researchers used the alpha and beta virus forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, not the latter-day delta variant nor today’s omicron variant.

But the researchers are confident these and future variants could be similarly thwarted by CBDA and CBGA.

“Regarding activity against other variants of the virus, we are hopeful that activity against the original strain and two early variants might mean activity against subsequent strains,” lead researcher Richard van Breemen, Ph.D., told Natural Products Insider. Van Breemen is professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Pharmacy at the Oregon State University Global Hemp Innovation Center. “That experiment, however, is yet to be done.”

Even so, the research continues the story of various natural products, like vitamin D, zinc and quercetin, that can be used as therapeutic agents against the pandemic. It also demonstrates the burgeoning possibilities into cannabinoid medicine now that the plant is being liberated from the clutches of a near-century lockdown.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what we know about cannabinoid mother and minors in the CBD family, and the positive and effective impacts it may have for preventive and therapeutic care including virus-based maladies as research is indicating,” said Thom Brodeur, CEO of Sky Wellness, a CBD brand. “There is more research to do, more ground to cover and more to discover that may—like this recent research suggests—show us use cases and value for CBD and its derivatives that have been right under our noses all this time. That’s the exciting part.”

Van Breemen concurs that the door is just being opened to hemp research.

“Hemp is a rich source of plant secondary metabolites, many of which are unique and not found in other organisms,” he said. “Already, CBD has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of some juvenile forms of epilepsy. Our findings suggest that other cannabinoids might also have medicinal properties.”


A major remaining roadblock is that coming from FDA, which gives every indication it would prefer cannabinoid medicine to be available to the public strictly through pharmaceutical drug pipelines and not through the more promiscuous dietary supplement route.

Not one week after the Oregon research was disclosed, FDA approved for use in clinical trials a CBD-based treatment for opioid use disorder. Ananda Scientific, the drug’s maker, was granted by FDA an investigational new drug (IND) designation for Nantheia ATL5.

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