News channels and late-night comedy shows were flooded last week with the news-- 'cannabis may prevent covid'. Could it be true? There are many parts to the cannabis plant (over 200 cannabinoids!), and research on cannabis is heavily restricted. Let's do a quick dive into this subject to find out what the research really means...
We’re currently in year three of the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread continues to prevail in the face of vaccination and isolation. While hospitalizations and death tolls are decreasing, transmission is at an all-time high.
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Or does there?!…
New research out of the American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy, published in the Journal of Natural Products, suggests that the use of cannabis and its associated compounds may help prevent the spread and contraction of COVID-19.
Cannabinoids Effective Against Viral Infection
In this study led by Oregon State researcher, Richard Van Breemen, the findings regarding cannabis use as a solution to the virus discusses two isolated cannabinoid acids; CBG-A and CBD-A.
CBG-A and CBD-A's use shows effectiveness by attaching to the very spike protein that causes the virus, ultimately blocking its ability to enter and infect the cells, thus potentially preventing and/or treating the virus. Even more, while vaccine efficacy has diminished greatly under the traction of new variants of the virus (that’s not to say vaccines aren’t effective), these two isolated compounds have been shown to be equally as effective across the board, no matter the variant in question.
These cannabinoid acids are not to be confused by the controlled substance of THC that causes psychoactive effects on the human brain. They also are not the same as the popular cannabinoid, CBD. So no, your edibles at home right now are not likely to protect you!
So what are these cannabinoid acids? They are precursors to cannabinoids (like CBD and THC). The ‘A’ stands for an acid group, which can be removed from the molecule by heat. That means the heating CBD-A, will turn it into the activated CBD that we see in products out in the market today. All cannabinoid acids are non-psychoactive, and they are all thought to be safe and efficacious for human use; an extremely important factor when considering a solution for global treatment.
At this point, we know that the activated forms, CBD and CBG, are not effective against the virus. This has led researchers to favor the idea of oral administration (oils, pills, gummies etc) of the cannabinoid acids over inhaling/smoking/vaping them since those methods require heat and would activate the cannabinoid acids.
It's also interesting to note that THC-A (which is also found in trace amounts within hemp plants) was also identified to potentially have the same benefits during the initial screening. It could not be included in the study since it is considered a controlled substance in the USA. (THC-A is non-psychoactive, but if it is heated it can be converted into psychoactive THC.)
In short, the study's findings are promising, offering up the potential that the cannabinoids discussed, both isolated or combined, may be able to prevent and treat the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are likely to continue to arise, with no telling how long its spread is going to last. While vaccination has been proven to work in the effort to reduce severe disease, it’s certainly not an all-encompassing solution to the eradication of this pandemic.
Similarly, Breemen suggests that although his research has shown to be effective at fighting all existing variants, he’s not yet confident on whether or not it will persist to be effective in the face of future variants.
Nevertheless, in combination with the vaccine rollout, Breemen believes that cannabinoid treatment might just be the solution the world needs; not only because of its unequivocal safety but for its researched effectiveness against the virus itself.
While more research certainly needs to be done on the matter before conclusively suggesting its safety and efficacy, the preliminary results are promising, holding merit in the face of potential solutions.
Dr. Deb's Takeaways
We also asked our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deb, what we can take away from these exciting findings.
"Cannabis is a very important plant with many bio active molecules," she told us. "People can take away this-- science is important. Conducting research with cannabis will only strengthen our knowledge as to what it can and cannot do to benefit and support health."
Federal legalization will be necessary to create a pathway for research and patient access. Many researchers would like to evaluate the wide array of cannabis products along with the plant’s various uses in states where cannabis is legal, but federal law prohibits them from doing so because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level.
To date, most studies done on the therapeutic effects of cannabis have relied on synthetic formulations of cannabinoids. A few researchers have looked at the efficacy of whole cannabis plants to treat chronic pain, but no clinical studies have been conducted on cannabis products purchased from dispensaries. From 1968-2021, US researchers could only study the effects of cannabis using plant material grown by the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This just changed in 2021 to include a small group of other select farms across the US.
Not only has cannabis long been proven to be safe for human use but it has also been shown to boast several mental and physical health benefits ranging from anxiety relief to anti-inflammation and more.
Federal legalization and the opening of a pathway for research will help us to uncover possible health benefits, dangers, therapeutic use and effects, as well as medical uses. We look forward to the day when this can happen!
Pantry produces adaptogen and cannabis edibles for holistic health in California, Colorado and Canada.