Cannabis compounds prevent COVID from entering human cells: study

The psychoactive THC is not effective against preventing COVID, but other cannabis components are, according to researchers.

Updated: January 12, 2022 - 8:13pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Certain cannabis compounds prevened COVID-19 from entering human cells in a study from Oregon State University, published Monday in the Journal of Natural Products and promulgated by the National Institutes of Health.

Cannabinoid acids from cannabis sativa hemp prevented the entry of the live COVID virus into human cells in the study.

"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 virus responsible for COVID, the researchers wrote.

"Initially, when we proposed this to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) back in 2020, one of the reviewers said, no one’s made the proof of principle that this can work. So they didn't give me the money," Lead author Dr. Richard van Breeman told Vice's Motherboard. "We did it anyway, and we've established this principle that small molecules including natural products, in this case from hemp, have the ability to stop the virus from infecting human cells."

Van Breeman said he envisions recommending "oral administration in the form of a dietary supplement" of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to prevent COVID. He said the useful hemp derivatives are cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A), cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A).

THC-A is a controlled substance, so it could not be tested completely on its own. When heated, it becomes psychoactive THC, which van Breeman said is not effective against preventing COVID.

"Our interest has always been in discovering natural products that have medicinal value. With COVID, we thought we'd go about trying to find natural products that can stop the virus from infecting cells or inhibit their ability to replicate and go on to infect other individuals," van Breeman told Motherboard.