Story at a glance
- Two recently published studies test compounds from the cannabis plant against SARS-CoV-2.
- The research teams observed that these compounds could potentially prevent infection in cells or in mice in a laboratory setting.
- Clinical trials are still necessary to see if there is an effect, although the hype around CBD may boost sales on its own.
New studies may suggest that cannabinoids, like cannabidiol or CBD, found in the cannabis plant have some properties that may help cells fight off coronavirus infection. Importantly, these studies have only tested the compounds on cells in a laboratory setting or in animals. It would take more research and clinical trials to show that this could happen in human bodies.
One study published in the Journal of Natural Products found that two chemicals found in hemp, CBGA and CBDA, could bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevent it from infecting cells in lab dishes. Another study published in Science Advances suggests that CBD inhibits infection of cells and in mice by the coronavirus. The researchers think that this happens when CBD inhibits viral gene expression and simultaneously increasing the stress and immune response.
But external experts say that these papers sometimes report opposing results for how cannabinoids interact with the coronavirus, reports STAT. “These are the seeds of our knowledge related to how cannabinoids might interact with the SARS-Cov-2 virus,” says Ziva Cooper, who is the director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, to STAT. “We have a long way to go.”
However, companies making and selling CBD or other cannabinoids may benefit from the hype without doing the necessary work to verify the chemicals’ effects in clinical trials. They can market their products as dietary supplements instead of medical treatments. “We don’t want people running out taking random cannabinoids,” says Marsha Rosner of the University of Chicago, who is the senior author of the Science Advances study.
Another interesting finding from Rosner and her team was that when the compound THC, which is responsible for the high from marijuana, is present that counteracts the benefits from CBD. Rosner also recommends not going out and buying CBD to prevent COVID-19. It’s not clear, since there haven’t been clinical trials yet, what level of CBD would be necessary to be effective if effective at all, and many CBD products on the market may not clearly label how much of the chemical it contains.
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