Updated: Jul 27, 2022
ECS Distribution aims to be a conduit of accurate and thorough cannabis information. A study investigating the protective benefits of certain cannabinoids against SARS-CoV-2 infection was published and has grabbed the media’s attention. Because few media outlets understand the nature of cannabinoids, this article hopes to offer some clarity on how beneficial cannabis is to those wanting to prevent COVID.
Oregon State University published a study titled Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants. This January, 2022 publication revealed how some cannabinoids protect against SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein binding to human tissue, thus preventing infection.
Some questions arise that traditional news outlets covering this study have missed.
- Which cannabinoids were tested?
- How were the tests performed?
- Where does a person find these cannabinoids for ingestion?
- What is decarboxylation, and how does smoking or cooking with cannabis remove potential protective benefits?
- How safe are these cannabinoids?
- Will these cannabinoids get me high?
This article offers a concise findings summary as well as answers to the previous questions.
What were the findings?...
The study investigated plant-based drugs that bind to the virus known to cause COVID-19. Naturally occurring compounds from the cannabis plant were investigated for their ability to bind with the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. Of the 11 cannabinoids tested, CBG-A and CBD-A were found to offer the most protection against infection from the novel coronavirus alpha and beta variants. These two acidic cannabinoids are equally effective in blocking infection according to the study. The CBD-A and CBG-A orally administered doses needed to block infection are estimated as being “high” but “achievable”. No human trials have been completed, so dosing protocols do not (yet) exist.
Which cannabinoids were tested?...
The following cannabinoids were included in this study:
Cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A)
Delta-9-THC Acid (THC-A)
Cannabidiolic Acid (CBD-A)
Cannabinolic Acid (CBN-A)
How were the tests performed?...
Multiple naturally occurring cannabinoids, found in both hemp and marijuana, were tested using a magnetic microbead affinity selection screening (MagMASS) procedure. The MagMASS process determines which proteins, in complex mixtures, have affinity for specific targets. More about magMASS can be found here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27802026/
Where does a person find these cannabinoids for ingestion?...
CBD-A and CBG-A occur in high concentrations on hemp plants bred for making CBD oil. CBD-A will convert to CBD after being exposed to high-temperature. This heating process (called decarboxylation), which removes the Acid from CBD-A, is applied to most extract products on the market today. Hemp plants bred for high CBD-A yield are common, so this cannabinoid is abundant. However, few hemp brands have created products with large amounts of CBD-A.
CBG-A is less abundant than CBD-A, but occurs in large enough quantities that we can expect manufacturers to be releasing products rich in both CBD-A and CBG-A in response to this study. For now, juicing raw hemp plants rich in CBD-A is the most accessible way to ingest this cannabinoid. For customers to be sure of what they’re buying, lab reports of ISO-certified labs should be requested before purchase. These Certificates of Analysis (COA) show the total CBD-A and CBG-A content of the products being purchased.
If a cannabis product does NOT have a COA, do not purchase it. Assume the product is contaminated with toxins in the absence of a lab report.
What is decarboxylation?...
Decarboxylation describes the heating process used to convert CBD-A (naturally occurring cannabinoid on hemp) to CBD (the well-studied, often-consumed cannabinoid). This process can either occur by smoking dried cannabis or from ingesting finished products where the heating process was performed by the manufacturer. Heat from the lit cannabis cigarette breaks this acid bond and causes the cannabis consumer to inhale CBD recently converted from CBD-A. Decarboxylation also applied to THC-A (cannabinoid that forms on a cannabis plant) converting to THC (the compound that results in a “marijuana high” feeling) as well as all other carboxylic cannabinoid acids.
What is the safety profile of these cannabinoids?...
Few studies investigating the safety profiles of CBD-A and CBG-A have been published. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention databases do not reveal any cannabis-related deaths from acute overdose or chronic use. There is no known lethal dose of any naturally-occurring cannabinoids. This anecdotal safety profile is often cited as a reason to believe there are no safety risks associated with any plant based cannabinoids, including CBD-A and CBG-A.
NOTE: Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the same cannabinoid receptors (CB1) as Delta-9-THC, but with stronger affinity and potency. These manufactured cannabinoids are molecularly dissimilar to plant-based cannabinoids and can result in death from overdose.
Can these cannabinoids cause a psychoactive high?...
No. Raw, carboxylated cannabinoids that are found on growing cannabis plants do not cause a psychoactive high. Tetrahydrocannabinol acids (delta-9-THC-A, and delta-8-THC-A) must be heated sufficiently to break the acid bond and create a psychoactive compound.
What else do we know about CBD-A?...
CBD-A occurs on the cannabis plant. Its precursor is CBG-A. CBG-A can also convert to THC-A, CBC-A, and CBG (the more stable, non-acid form of CBG-A). This cannabinoid chemical conversion occurs on the cannabis plant itself, as the plant matures, as a result of heat and light exposure.
CBD-A as it develops on the cannabis plant is unstable molecularly due to sensitivity to light, heat, and time. Most CBD products on the market today have only trace amounts of CBD-A. The most common cannabinoid extraction methods, alcohol and CO2, create high temperatures that convert almost all CBD-A to CBD. However, chemists have devised a way of extracting CBD-A from the plant and storing large quantities of CBD-A isolate.
CBD-A studies show the compound may have some of the following characteristics when ingested. To read more about each of these findings, please refer to this Realm of Caring article: https://realmofcaring.org/cbda-new-and-existing-research/?mc_cid=9be62a5cd4&mc_eid=12ff3d94d6
To read more information about CBD-A, refer to this Italian study:
The recent study showing how CBD-A and CBG-A bind to SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, and prevent infection, has created a new demand for cannabis products. While we do not yet know what doses of these cannabinoids are needed to provide virus protection, their excellent safety profiles will encourage people to seek products rich in CBD-A and CBG-A. We anticipate the cannabis market will respond quickly, and options for ingesting such products will become available in the coming weeks.