New Study on Cannabinoids and COVID Opens the Door for Future Research

Recently, researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) published the results of their research into the ability of cannabinoids to fight COVID-19 and its variants. Two acidic cannabinoid precursors, CBDA and CBGA, were investigated in petri dish assays, and further cannabinoids were identified for research using computer modeling.

The researchers were hunting for natural substances that attach to and neutralize the damaging spike proteins contained in COVID-19 viruses. While this study doesn’t prove cannabinoids are useful for COVID, it did result in one very interesting finding: If cannabinoids are proven effective against SARS-CoV-2, they are likely to be just as effective against COVID’s variants.

This study opens the door to further research into the ability of cannabinoids to help in the ongoing fight against COVID. In this analysis, we’ll cover everything this groundbreaking OSU study did—and didn’t—say.

The OSU cannabinoid COVID study

Let’s start with the basics. Titled “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants,” this new OSU study was published in the Journal of Natural Products in January of 2022. Phase one of the study consisted of comparing the structures of COVID and its variants with the structures of cannabinoids using computer models. The OSU researchers were seeking “botanical ligands to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein,” which means plant substances that neutralize the COVID spike protein by attaching to it.

Eventually, three cannabinoids were selected as having the best affinity for spike proteins: cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). Due to the current legal status of delta 9 THC, the researchers were not comfortable taking their inquiries into THCA to the next level: chemical assays. CBDA and CBGA did make it into petri dishes, however, where they battled it out with COVID variants.

What did the OSU cannabinoid study say?

Let’s start by noting what the OSU cannabinoid COVID study didn’t say. While certainly very interesting, this groundbreaking piece of scientific research did not:

  • Include any animal subjects
  • Include any human participants
  • Provide any information that has been corroborated by further studies so far

With global authorities coming down hard on any natural substances touted to be effective against COVID-19 or its variants, we certainly don’t want to land cannabinoids in the same boat. Let’s stay optimistically cautious as we await follow-up research.

We would recommend reading the whole study to get a firm grasp of its contents, but we’ll summarize the results the researchers reached. After placing CBGA or CBDA in a petri dish with modified COVID viruses and human endothelial cells, the researchers noted reduced “entry of live SARS-CoV-2 into cells.” This means that in the assays that included either CBDA or CBGA, fewer COVID virus particles entered human cells.

Are cannabinoids effective against COVID?

We do not have enough evidence to make conclusions regarding the ability of cannabinoids to prevent or treat COVID infections. Contrary to what some voices on the internet are already declaring, this single Oregon State University study does not conclusively prove CBDA, CBGA, or any other cannabinoid offer potential as SARS-CoV-2. As with all scientific research, the results of this study must be independently reproduced, and even more importantly, the study’s parameters must be expanded into animal or ideally live human subjects.

Given what we already know about cannabinoids, it would be unsurprising if future research concluded that CBDA, CBGA, or some other cannabinoid might be useful against COVID-19 and its variants. Cannabinoids like CBD have been researched intensively for their anti-inflammatory properties, and scientists are almost unanimously certain that cannabinoids pose very little risk to human health. Even THC, which is known to have certain adverse effects, is still referenced as “well-tolerated” in the scientific literature, which is what regulators are looking for when they approve drug applications.

Are cannabinoids effective against COVID variants?

In the OSU study, the researchers found that “cannabigerolic acid and cannabidiolic acid were equally effective against the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant B.1.1.7 and the beta variant B.1.351.” Again, it will be necessary for further research to corroborate this point before we give it credence, but this aspect of the OSU cannabinoid is just as worthy of following up as the findings on cannabinoids themselves.

With new variants of COVID displaying vaccine-resistant tendencies, there is a pressing need for preventives and therapeutics that remain effective against all SARS-CoV-2 strains. We encourage cannabinoid researchers worldwide to fully investigate the cross-strain potential of CBDA, CBGA, THCA, and other cannabinoids as COVID treatments.

Does CBDA help with COVID?

The computer models the OSU scientists used identified CBDA as an effective ligand against COVID spike proteins. CBDA is the acidic precursor to CBD, and it naturally becomes CBD when exposed to high temperatures, UV light, or other environmental stressors. We’ll need to learn more about how this cannabinoid precursor interacts with COVID viruses before we make any conclusions, but further research into the usefulness of CBDA for COVID certainly seems indicated.

What are the benefits of CBDA?

CBDA hasn’t been researched as much as CBD, but initial studies into this acidic cannabinoid precursor have indicated that CBDA may have much greater affinity for your brain’s 5-HT receptors than CBD. Otherwise, CBDA does not seem much different from CBD, and many CBDA ingestion methods, including vaping and smoking, naturally convert CBDA into CBD anyway.

What are the best ways to use CBDA?

Since CBDA can decarboxylate into CBD at temperatures as low as 230°F, vaping or smoking CBDA is the same thing as using CBD. As a result, you’ll need to ingest CBDA in a way that does not involve heat if you’re after the specific benefits of this cannabinoid precursor. Some options include:

  • CBDA capsules
  • CBDA gummies
  • Other CBDA edibles
  • CBDA tinctures
  • CBDA topicals

If you decide to ingest CBDA in the form of edibles, just remember not to use a method that involves heat if you’re making them yourself. Plus, keep in mind that all strains of CBD flower contain high concentrations of CBDA until they’re heated.

Does CBGA help with COVID?

Along with CBDA and THCA, the computer models used by the OSU scientists also identified CBGA as offering enough affinity with COVID viruses to be included in chemical assays. Lesser-known than CBDA, CBGA is nonetheless often considered to be more important.

Many popular cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, would not exist without CBGA. As one of the first carboxylic acid cannabinoid precursors to form in budding cannabis flowers, CBGA transforms into other cannabinoid precursors when exposed to certain enzymatic synthases. Enzymes make CBGA transform into CBDA, which then decarboxylates into CBD.

What are the benefits of CBGA?

Aside from research into its usefulness in synthetic cannabinoid production, CBGA has been largely overlooked in scientific studies until recently. In 2021, though, scientists included CBGA in a study into cannabinoids and epilepsy, indicating that this carboxylic acid is finally getting out from under the shadow of its stabilized cannabinoid counterpart.

What are the best ways to use CBGA?

CBG is still less popular than CBD, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that products featuring CBGA, the precursor of CBG, are relatively scarce. One of the best places to source CBGA, however, is in raw CBD-rich hemp flower.

Even CBG flower that has been dried and cured still contains high concentrations of CBGA. One great method of getting high concentrations of CBGA from CBG flower is kief collecting, which follows these simple steps:

  • When you smoke CBG flower, keep the kief from your ground-up flower
  • You’ll need a grinder with a kief collector to do this
  • After a few bowls, you should notice a thin film of kief on the collector tray
  • Scrape it together, and sprinkle it over food you’re about to eat
  • Alternatively, mix your high-CBG kief into a smoothie

BONUS: Does THCA help with COVID?

The OSU researchers didn’t end up including THCA in the second phase of their study, so we’ll keep our remarks on this particular cannabinoid precursor brief. If you want to cover all your bases as you seek natural approaches to COVID, however, keep in mind that Secret Nature now offers a high-THCA flower strain, Banana Whip

The bottom line: Do CBDA and CBGA help with COVID?

We don’t have enough information to decisively conclude anything about the effectiveness of CBDA or CBGA against COVID-19 one way or the other. The results of this initial study may be extremely interesting, and they can certainly feel like vindication for those who have resolutely professed the benefits of cannabinoids even in the face of scrutiny.

When interpreting the results of scientific data, though, we must always be cautious. The process of receiving approval for drugs is laborious and resource-intensive, and cannabinoids are already in a precarious legal position without throwing their efficacy against COVID-19 into the mix.

Our advice is to thoroughly research the subject and draw your own conclusions. However they might help, cannabinoids are unlikely to harm, and we should keep our options open in the face of the ongoing pandemic conditions still gripping the world.

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