CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study from Oregon State University has identified hemp compounds that show the ability to prevent the COVID-19 virus from entering human cells.
The study found that hemp compounds cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA, were equally effective against variants of the coronavirus.
Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, said the compounds are “not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.”
Hemp is a source of fiber, food, animal feed and is also used as a textile and in products ranging from cosmetics to lotions to dietary supplements.
The study’s abstract specifically states that hemp has a long history of safe human use and the isolated hemp compounds “have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2.”
According to the research, the compounds bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which blocks a crucial step in the process the virus uses to infect people.
“Cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells,” said van Breemen.
A screening technique invented in van Breemen’s lab was used to test a range of botanicals including red clover, wild yam, hops and three species of licorice before hemp compounds were found to fight against the coronavirus.
“One of the primary concerns in the pandemic is the spread of variants, of which there are many, and B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 are among the most widespread and concerning,” van Breemen said. “These variants are well known for evading antibodies against early lineage SARS-CoV-2, which is obviously concerning given that current vaccination strategies rely on the early lineage spike protein as an antigen.”
B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 are known as the alpha and beta variants, respectively.
Van Breemen said CBGA and CBDA were shown to be effective against the alpha and beta variants.
“We hope that trend will extend to other existing and future variants,” van Breemen said.