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Fighting COVID with cannabis? Viral study is promising but offers no definitive proof

The study found that certain cannabis compounds blocked the coronavirus protein from entering live human cells and causing infection.
Credit: Iarygin Andrii - stock.adobe.com
growing organic cannabis herb on the farm, close up of cannabis leaf

OREGON, USA — A recent scientific study testing the effectiveness of marijuana compounds on COVID-19 infection is going almost as viral as the latest omicron surge.

In the study, published by the "Journal of Natural Products" Monday, scientists from Oregon State University identified two cannabis compounds that could essentially bind to the live coronavirus protein and block it from entering human cells and causing infection.

The researchers concluded that widespread use of these hemp compounds, as a complement to vaccines, could be used to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection.

"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 study writes.

As expected, the findings caused a frenzy across the internet of people clinging to the idea that marijuana could help end the pandemic. 

News of the study even made it to the late-night hosts.

“This would be interesting. All this time we’ve been listening to the CDC., we should have been eating CBD," Jimmy Kimmel joked.

But before you roll up a joint, some researchers say the scientific findings are interesting, but we need more testing and human clinical trials.

Dr. Mikael Sodergren, who heads Imperial College London’s medical cannabis research group, told Forbes that the data does not prove the cannabis compounds can prevent COVID infection and provides “no evidence to support the smoking or ingestion of cannabis products to do the same.”  

Plus, according to Richard van Breemen — the researcher who led the study — the compounds used in the lab tests aren't the same ones you're used to seeing in different hemp and CBD products you can get at the store.

"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," Breemen said in a press release.

Breeman did say, however, that his team wants to continue testing what some would call unconventional compounds that could lead to a COVID-19 treatment.

"Our earlier research reported on the discovery of another compound, one from licorice, that binds to the spike protein too,” he said in the release. “However, we did not test that compound, licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding for that.”



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