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Cannabis to control COVID-19? Research finds a hemp compound blocks infection

CORVALLIS, Oregon (WISH) — A study released Friday by Oregon State University researchers says that compounds found in Cannabis sativa, or hemp, showed the ability to prevent the coronavirus from entering human cells.

The discovery came as part of a chemical screening technique under study by Richard van Breeman of the university’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

“Van Breemen and collaborators, including scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people,” says a news release from Oregon State.

The acids are the same ones used in COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapy, the release says.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen said in the release. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7 (alpha), which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351 (beta), first detected in South Africa.”

Using compounds that block virus-receptor interaction has been helpful for patients with other viral infections, he says, including HIV-1 and hepatitis.

“Our earlier research reported on the discovery of another compound, one from licorice, that binds to the spike protein, too,” he said. “However, we did not test that compound, licochalcone A, for activity against the live virus yet. We need new funding for that.”

Indiana first allowed farmers to grow hemp in the state in 2021 if they’re licensed to do so.