A new study popping up in everyone’s newsfeed has many people wondering if a doobie a day keeps the ‘rona away.
While the headlines are seductive, the study never makes the claim that smoking cannabis can prevent Covid. However, the research doesn’t rule out the possibility that certain oral preparations of particular cannabis components could prevent the virus.
Researchers from Oregon State University, led by Dr. Richard van Breemen, a professor of medicinal chemistry, recently published their peer-reviewed findings in the Journal of Natural Products. The groundbreaking study reveals that three specific cannabis compounds “have a high ability to bind” to the SARS-COV-2 spike protein. In so doing, the compounds block the virus from entering human cells so easily.
So, what are these Covid-blocking compounds? Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), cannabidiolic acid (CBD-A) and cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A). At least two of those compounds you probably recognize, but they’re not quite what you think.
Notice that they all have one thing in common: the letter A. This is because they are acids – the precursors to the cannabinoids you recognize, but quite different in this context. Because they’re acids, they transform when exposed to heat. THC-A converts to the THC that gets you high. CBD-A becomes the CBD that eases your pain and anxiety.
That means smoking, vaping – even eating edibles, since the base material is heated up to activate the cannabinoids for commercial consumption – do not expose you to the compounds that researchers found can block the spike protein. “[W]e know that CBD, CBG and THC are not active against the virus,” van Breemen told VICE (emphasis added).
Even if they were, there is such a small amount of CBD and CBG in most cannabis products it would likely have no impact. This is important to note, because the effectiveness of the THC-A, CBD-A and CBG-A owes partly to the entourage effect that makes these components greater than the sum of their parts. They are more effective working as a synergistic trinity than alone.
But all is not lost. While smoking cannabis to prevent Covid remains a pipe dream, specially formulated gummies, on the other hand, could be effective. A supplement made from a complex extract of this holy trinity could indeed have the capability of preventing a Covid infection (though it wouldn’t treat or cure it). To be effective, Dr. van Breemen envisions “oral administration in the form of a dietary supplement like a pill or an oil or a gummy,” taken as soon as one discovers they’ve been exposed to the virus.
That is, if the findings of this study hold up in human trials. And that’s a big “if,” since compounds can react much differently once in a human body.
For anyone planning a celebratory sesh in honor of the promising findings of this study, Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, cautions that “[s]moking anything isn’t a good idea during a pandemic that affects the lungs; better to vape ground flower or use a tincture.”
So, it just may be that the best way to protect against the ravages of Covid is to keep those lungs fresh and sexy. I’ll vape to that!