Hemp compounds can help prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells, according to a study led by Oregon State University Professor and researcher Richard van Breemen.
He specifically looked at hemp in dietary supplements. The hemp compounds most likely work best as a complement to vaccines, said Van Breemen, a researcher with OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute.
“I don’t recommend them as a treatment by itself for people who are infected,” Van Breemen said. “If I know I’m exposed, this would be a product one might be able to go to to prevent from getting sick. I wouldn’t take it every day but when I know I’ll be at risk.”
According to van Breemen, cannabinoid acids have a good safety profile in humans and are not controlled substances like THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
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Here's how it works: Two Cannabinoid acids that are abundant in hemp – cannabigerolic, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic, CBDA – bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step the virus uses to infect people.
The study, which was led by van Breemen with collaborators and scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, found that the cannabinoid acids were equally effective against variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.
These two variants are also known as the alpha and beta variant.
“We have not tested hemp compounds against delta or omicron yet, but we have demonstrated equal efficacy against two other variants,” van Breemen said. “As soon as we can get the money, we will follow up with the omicron test.”
The scientists studied a range of botanicals used as dietary supplements, such as red clover, wild yam, hops and three species of licorice. Van Breemen said the team found active compounds in licorice, but it did not test that compound for activity against the live virus yet.
Even low concentrations of the two cannabinoid acids are effective in preventing the virus. Van Breemen suspects that the combination of these compounds would be even more effective and active at lower concentrations, he said..
Timothy Bates, Jules Weinstein, Hans Leier, Scotland Farley and Fikadu Tafesse of OHSU also contributed to the cannabinoid study.
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.