More research is shedding light on how cannabinoids in combination with vaccines can enhance Covid protection and treatments, but more animal studies are needed to confirm the findings.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers found that cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) — which are non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in hemp — block the entry of the virus by binding to its spike proteins.
The affinity between spike proteins and the cannabinoids stops the virus from attaching to the so-called doorway of the cell, known scientifically as receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2).
“More importantly, both CBDA and CBGA block infection of the original live SARS-CoV-2 virus and variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351,” the study’s authors explain.
They say that given the widespread use of cannabinoids, resistant variants could still arise, but the combination of vaccines as well as CBDA and CBGA treatment could create a more challenging environment for the virus to exist in.
The Covid virus is composed of two subunits (S1 and S2) that bind to the ACE2 receptor of a cell, which is abundant on a cell’s membrane. By targeting these units, researchers predict a more robust treatment can be made to dampen the spread.
For the study, researchers used hemp extracts and isolates of specific cannabinoids, then tested which cannabinoids bound better to the spike protein.
It showed that CBGA binds more often to the spike protein S1 when in the presence of other cannabinoids. Non-psychoactive THCA-A and CBDA also showed a high affinity to the spike protein.
The researchers note other studies looking at possible mechanisms for inhibiting the spread of Covid found that CBD may activate the body’s innate immune mechanism after a cell is infected, while CBDA and CBGA act at the point of cell entry.
“These mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, and it remains possible that multiple cannabinoids in complex mixtures from plant extracts could act independently to inhibit SARS-CoV-2.”
A different recent study by researchers at the University of Waterloo found that synthetic CBD may trigger an immune response that offers protection against Covid.
It found that CBD increased the anti-viral response to three proteins that are produced by the virus after a cell is infected.
“When cells in the lungs or the digestive tract are infected with a virus, they have an ability to sense and respond, even before the immune system notices a virus is present,” lead researcher Robin Duncan said in a statement Wednesday.
“They do this by activating innate responses inside of cells, which form the first line of defence. In the case of Covid-19, however, this response isn’t very good, which has contributed to high infection rates.”
CBD enhances the anti-viral system that stops the virus from spreading, by causing apoptosis or the controlled death of cells that are infected.
“This suggests CBD at the right dose could help cells be in a better state of readiness to respond to a virus, but it doesn’t cause a response unless there is a need,” Waterloo researcher Maria Fernandes explained.
Researchers suggest more studies using animals before coming to conclusions on the effectiveness of cannabinoids in slowing the spread of Covid.