Sadly, COVID-19 seems intent on sticking around. As we learn to cope with the deadly virus’s mutations, it’s comforting to learn that cannabis - or at least components found in cannabis - may treat some COVID symptoms, and even stop us from getting the virus at all.
In early January 2022, a study by researchers from the University of Oregon found that three natural compounds in hemp (aka cannabis sativa) could block the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from entering human cells, and causing the virus.
It’s important to note that these compounds - CBG-A, CBD-A, and THC-A - are not produced by heating the cannabis plant, Katie McBride, a health science reporter for the online magazine Inverse, explains on CBC Radio. “...THC, in its raw form, it's called THC-A. And in order for it to have that psychoactive effect, you need to heat it up. And so what they found were these compounds sort of raw, not having been heated up, are the ones that have the potential to…attach to the spike protein and gum up the works.”
So, if you ate a raw marijuana plant, McBride says, “you would be getting THC-A, CBDA and CBGA on some levels. However, whether or not that would actually have any effect, if they'd be doing it in the right number of milligrams or whatever, that's going to be entirely dependent. You can get THC-A tinctures, but again, we don't know what the right dosage is. This is still a little bit in a theoretical stage, but it's very promising at this point.”
Meanwhile, a 2022 study by researchers at the University of Chicago found CBD and 7-OH-CBD, a byproduct created via edible CBD, may stop SARS-CoV-2 by manipulating the way the virus replicates once inside a cell.
While this study shows pure CBD may prevent mice being infected with COVID-19 infection, it does not mean commercial CBD will have the same or any effect on the purchaser.
Stopping a Cytokine Storm
CBD may also alleviate a cytokine storm, a rare but acute COVID-19 symptom that can attack healthy lung cells, with serious, and sometimes fatal, results.
“One study created 3-D printed tissue, damaged it and looked at how CBD could repair it. Others used mice with induced cytokine storms, and when treated with high levels of CBD, their oxygen levels and lung structure improved.”
Getting Better Sooner
Although plenty of evidence points to CBD as a pain reliever, the verdict is still out on alleviating symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. In early 2021, a human trial in Austria found 300 milligrams of CBD for three weeks allowed patients to clear the virus faster. But a similar study in Brazil found no positive - or negative - effects.
Conflicting findings may be caused by the strict regulation of cannabis research in the US, says McBride. “Bafflingly, [cannabis is] still a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. That puts really severe research limits on it…But I think by and large, the majority of the studies, whether done in animals or lab-grown tissue or humans, are all, for the most part, pointing in a really promising direction.”
While there is absolutely no reason to skip a COVID-19 vaccine in favour of CBD gummies, cannabis’ amazing compounds hold promise as a weapon against the deadly virus.