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Finding Clarity Amid the Coronavirus Clickbait News


When news of a groundbreaking study on cannabinoids and the coronavirus by researchers at two Oregon universities went viral, I was skeptical. After many years in the hemp space, I’ve seen my share of wild claims about cannabis “curing” everything from night blindness to cancer. To be absolutely clear, smoking weed will not protect against COVID-19. But beyond a few misleading headlines, the study actually produced some extremely encouraging results that could help fight the pandemic. Consumers and industry members need to understand the real takeaways, how we can use the study results to prevent more infections around the world, and why we need to reform the stupid Nixon-era laws that make cannabis and hemp research so difficult.

First and foremost, recreational cannabis use does not reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 – and, of course, the authors of the study in question never made that claim. Instead, the researchers set out to test the theory that plant-derived molecules could prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from binding to human cells. “We decided to attack the virus at the starting point, where it enters the cell,” said Dr. Richard B. van Breemen, professor of medicinal chemistry at Oregon State University and leader of the study. Vice. “We were looking at black cohosh, red clover, and licorice, and we added hemp.”

Two compounds found in hemp—cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) – showed a strong ability to bind to the spike proteins of the virus (those ugly barbs you see in every illustration), thereby preventing the live SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering epithelial cells. The researchers also speculated that the compounds might be able to shorten the duration and intensity of infections in patients who have contracted the virus.

Now, as the cannabis and hemp people know (or should know), CBDA and CBGA cannot be smoked or vaporized; these are acidic precursor compounds, the raw forms of more well-known compounds like CBD and GBC, which are found in live or raw hemp plants. Combustion, cooking, or vaping the compounds is impossible, as the heat converts them to non-acidic compounds. Both CBDA and CBGA are best consumed orally in tincture or capsule form. So the next time someone asks if cannabis stops COVID, let them know that initial research has indicated that cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid can prevent the coronavirus from entering human cells. The truth may not be as exciting as the rumors touting cannabis as a miracle cure, but it’s a fantastic discovery nonetheless.

“In addition to vaccines, small molecule therapeutic agents are needed to treat or prevent infections…that cause COVID-19,” the study authors wrote. Like vaccination, hand washing, masking, and testing, certain cannabinoids could add to our arsenal of tools to prevent the contraction and spread of a potentially debilitating and deadly disease.

Many questions remain unanswered. Will the same results the Oregon team observed in the lab occur in the human body? What is the appropriate dose to protect against infection, and how long would its effectiveness last?

The study authors are candid in their conclusion: “With a long history of safe human use, these cannabinoids… have the potential to prevent and treat SARS-CoV-2 infection.” Dr van Breemen said Vice he wants follow-up studies to measure the dosage that would be needed to prevent infection. “I think we have a product that should be safe to use eventually,” he said. “I can imagine hemp extracts being used to help people stay healthy and prevent them from getting sick from COVID.”

While both CBDA and CBGA are present in the raw leaves of the hemp plant, a better way to measure dosage would be oral consumption via capsule or tincture. (Gummies are not an ideal delivery method, as the heat and spraying processes required to make them could alter the cannabinoid structure as well as the dosage). Although these products are currently not widely available on a large scale, manufacturers are racing to come up with new products containing the compounds. The study results could save lives while reviving the battered hemp industry, which has been left in limbo by the Food and Drug Administration and forced to endure years of market volatility.

Further studies and research are needed, but as the study notes, hemp has “a long history of safe human use.” Personally, I’ll be following any follow-up research closely, but I’ll also be looking for a CBDA/CBGA supplement in the meantime for an extra ounce of prevention.

That we are discovering the potentially protective properties of hemp two full years after the start of the pandemic is shameful. Since many states have legalized cannabis and the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, most Americans are unaware that research into many of these compounds remains exceptionally difficult and expensive, as federal law classifies the cannabis alongside heroin and cocaine as a Schedule I drug with no medical use. As a 2017 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine noted, federal law “continues to enforce restrictive policies and regulations on research into the harms or benefits of cannabis-based health products…. This lack of evidence-based information on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids poses a risk to public health.

Here’s just one example of how federal restrictions are hurting us: Dr. van Breemen discovered a third compound, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), with infection-blocking properties similar to those exhibited by CBDA and CBGA, but he and his team were unable to test THCA. completely because it’s a controlled substance. “We weren’t allowed to purify it and even test it on its own because it can be converted into THC,” he said. Vice. “There are always legal issues when the federal government makes one rule and the states make another.”

Another new study, this one by an international research team, indicated that CBD “can block SARS-CoV-2 infection in the early and even later stages of infection.” Why do we only hear about it now? We just haven’t studied these plant compounds enough because of stupid, outdated regulations.

The pandemic has been a wake-up call on many fronts. Recent studies should remind us that the federal government remains the biggest obstacle to research into potentially life-saving herbal medicines. This must change. As these latest studies show, the humble hemp plant contains countless untapped abilities that could potentially save lives.


Robert Johnson is managing director at Personalized Capsule Advisors, a leading California-based white-label supplement manufacturer and creator of the CBD is Better product line. Since 2008, he has worked as a consultant, product developer and consumer trend expert in the fields of hemp, cannabis and supplements.



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