CHICAGO — Stoners, there's interesting coronavirus science news coming out of Oregon.
A study led by Richard van Breemen, an Oregon State University researcher, found that tiny molecules in three acid compounds found in hemp plants — CBD-A, CBD-G and THC-A — prevent coronavirus from infecting human cells.
Much like antibodies, the hemp compounds have the ability to connect to spike proteins on the virus, the study found. The hope is that further study finds this ability translates to the human body, and determines the ideal dose for preventing infection, van Breemen said in a telephone interview.
Legalized weed could be a reason why some states posted lower rates of coronavirus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the pandemic, he said.
"States where cannabis has been fully legalized, rates of infection, hospitalization and mortality is lower," van Breemen said. "And in states where there is no legalized cannabis, those rates are higher. There are a lot of good reasons that could also explain this, but maybe, just maybe, cannabis consumption will have some value in keeping people healthy and not getting COVID."
That might be wishful thinking. Coronavirus statistics do show legal weed states like Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska, Washington, Colorado and California have posted some of the lowest COVID-19 death and case rates in the nation. But van Breemen's hypothesis of the benefits of hemp acid compounds still needs more study.
His team of scientists identified the two cannabinoid acids using a mass spectrometry-based screening technique invented in van Breemen’s laboratory. They screened botanical from plants that are used in dietary supplements, including hops and three species of licorice.
The study found that cannabinoid acids — that are abundant in hemp and hemp extract products already sold in stores and have a good safety record in humans — were effective against the alpha and beta variants of the coronavirus.
Van Breeman said people who use hemp-based products can check the certificate of analysis for products to see how much of the acid compounds found to be effective coronavirus blockers — CBD-A, CBG-A and THC-A — a product contains.
The best way to administer those compounds, van Breeman said, is to take oral supplements.
Smoking and vaping don't get the job done because heating the compound removes the acid part of the molecule that is essential for activity against the virus.
"I hope that our preliminary evidence is predictive in efficacy in people," van Breeman said. "The next step is to continue the cellular study with different variants of the virus. We're going to test against omicron and do pilot studies to look for efficacy and the optimum dose."