Acid forms of cannabinoids prevent the coronavirus spike protein from binding to human receptor sites. Cannabinoids are the chief chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system—the complex network of cannabinoid receptors that influence the central nervous system and immune system, among others. While CBD and THC often steal the show when it comes to the powerful ch
Hemp compounds found to fight COVID-19
Acid forms of cannabinoids prevent the coronavirus spike protein from binding to human receptor sites.
New research that is creating quite the buzz found that two compounds commonly found in hemp have the potential to combat the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The compounds, cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA, and cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, block a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.
No, it does not mean you can smoke weed and prevent the ’rona.
No, it does not (necessarily) mean you can squirt some CBD oil from that tincture bottle and keep the ’vid at bay. The CBDA and CBGA are not usually found in commercial hemp CBD products, but some notable companies are out there, such as Ancient Cannabis out of Oregon and Essentia Scientific from Washington state.
“CBDA and CBGG are available commercially,”said Stacy Cason at Planetarie CBDa out of Colorado, “though definitely in the minority and not in your average CBD isolate in oil product.”
“The ‘A’ forms, these are the acid forms of CBD and CBG that are generally not in most commercially available hemp products,” said Lynda LeMole, a natural products industry consultant. “The acid forms are found in the fresh plant. There are processes that stabilize the acid forms so you’d have to look at the product’s test analysis to see if the acid forms are still present in the final product.”
CBDA and CBGA naturally exist in true whole-plant hemp extracts that are not overly distilled to raise CBD content. “The data on whole plant vs CBD isolated follows the basic tenet of true botanical medicine,” said Carl Germano, vice president at Verdant Oasis. “The synergism of the whole plant performs better than isolated components from them.”
The two compounds were identified during a chemical screening by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The compounds bind to spike proteins found on the virus and blocked the spike protein from binding to sites in a human host, thereby preventing a step the pathogen uses to infect people.
“The acid forms are significantly under-appreciated,” said cannabis consultant Richard Rose. “Even non-stony THCA.”
Heat inactivates the compounds and makes them unable to bind to the spike protein. That is why smoking marijuana would not work.
The researchers used the alpha and beta virus forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, not the latter-day delta variant nor today’s omicron variant.
But the researchers are confident these and future variants could be similarly thwarted by CBDA and CBGA.
“Regarding activity against other variants of the virus, we are hopeful that activity against the original strain and two early variants might mean activity against subsequent strains,” lead researcher Richard van Breemen, Ph.D., told Natural Products Insider. Van Breemen is professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Pharmacy at the Oregon State University Global Hemp Innovation Center. “That experiment, however, is yet to be done.”
Even so, the research continues the story of various natural products, like vitamin D, zinc and quercetin, that can be used as therapeutic agents against the pandemic. It also demonstrates the burgeoning possibilities into cannabinoid medicine now that the plant is being liberated from the clutches of a near-century lockdown.
“We’re just scratching the surface of what we know about cannabinoid mother and minors in the CBD family, and the positive and effective impacts it may have for preventive and therapeutic care including virus-based maladies as research is indicating,” said Thom Brodeur, CEO of Sky Wellness, a CBD brand. “There is more research to do, more ground to cover and more to discover that may—like this recent research suggests—show us use cases and value for CBD and its derivatives that have been right under our noses all this time. That’s the exciting part.”
Van Breemen concurs that the door is just being opened to hemp research.
“Hemp is a rich source of plant secondary metabolites, many of which are unique and not found in other organisms,” he said. “Already, CBD has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of some juvenile forms of epilepsy. Our findings suggest that other cannabinoids might also have medicinal properties.”
A major remaining roadblock is that coming from FDA, which gives every indication it would prefer cannabinoid medicine to be available to the public strictly through pharmaceutical drug pipelines and not through the more promiscuous dietary supplement route.
Not one week after the Oregon research was disclosed, FDA approved for use in clinical trials a CBD-based treatment for opioid use disorder. Ananda Scientific, the drug’s maker, was granted by FDA an investigational new drug (IND) designation for Nantheia ATL5.
8 Benefits of CBDA and CBGA
Cannabinoids are the chief chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system—the complex network of cannabinoid receptors that influence the central nervous system and immune system, among others. While CBD and THC often steal the show when it comes to the powerful chemical compounds associated with the cannabis sativa plant, they aren’t the only cannabis-related chemicals with tremendous health and wellness potential.
Recent data featuring both CBDA and CBGA, additional cannabis compounds, have yielded exciting results for their future in helping patients support overall good health. While research remains in very early stages, it seems reasonable to expect good things from both CBDA and CBGA in terms of health support in the future.
8 Benefits of CBDA and CBGA
- Potentially Effective Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
- Supports Cardiovascular Health
- Regulates Metabolism
- Anti-Anxiety and Depression Properties
- Prevents Seizures
- Boasts Anti Inflammatory Properties
- Effective Anti-Nausea Agent
- Potential Cancer Treatment
The cannabis sativa plant is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops, and boasts a long history of human extraction and consumption in many different forms. In recent years, various chemical compounds found in the hemp plant and the cannabis sativa plant have garnered attention for their wide and varied documented health benefits.
Essentially, phytocannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants exist in two different states: either acidic, like THCA and CBDA, or neutral, like THC and CBD. But while neutral cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which have been extensively studied over the past four decades, typically have been viewed as the chief therapeutic compounds in the cannabis plant, some emerging data suggest that there may be a benefit to using the raw plant—gaining the benefits of acidic phytocannabinoids in the plant, including CBDA and CBGA. While the scientific world identified these compounds more than 50 years ago, it’s only recently that they have garnered interest for their therapeutic effects.
What Are CBDA and CBGA?
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) are lesser-known compounds found within the raw cannabis sativa plant, both of which may have exciting effects on the world of health and wellness based on early-stage recent research. In fact, some experts consider these compounds the next frontier when it comes to cannabinoid-based therapy—expanding the potential development of medications that are not only more therapeutically effective, but also less likely to cause unwanted side effects and/or long-term dependency than current options.
CBGA is a foundational compound of the raw cannabis flower, formed in the cannabis plant when geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid combine. The resulting enzymatic reaction converts CBGA into several different cannabinoids, leading to its sometimes being called the mother cannabinoid. In fact, CBGA is the precursor to three of the most commonly found cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) and CBDA. These are known as acidic cannabinoids. CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid) holds potential for treating diseases, but more data is needed to support anecdotal claims to suggest CBGA as a treatment option. Some data indicates that CBGA may make the body more receptive to other cannabinoids, plus assisting the body as it processes them. CBGA also has some reported analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-proliferative properties.
Through an extraction process called decarboxylation, acidic cannabinoids are converted into their decarboxylated forms, which are the main psychoactive cannabinoids—THC, CBC, CBD, etc.—that positively affect the body and with which most people are familiar with. While THC is the chief psychoactive compound associated with marijuana use, CBD has gained attention in recent years for its many health benefits that come without the mind-altering effects associated with THC. CBD is simply the decarboxylated form of CBDA. Decarboxylation occurs when the cannabis plant is heated, dried or processed.
In most cannabis plants, cannabidiolic acid appears in only small amounts, though hemp oil, in particular, is known for its higher CBDA content. And because it is non-intoxicating, CBDA is completely legal in nearly every state. Additionally, cannabidiolic acid has greater bioavailability; meaning it is absorbed by the body up to 11 times better than CBD when taken orally. There is also some animal-based data that CBDA is, in fact, stronger and more potent than CBD. This appears to be not just because CBDA is absorbed better, but because it actually acts more effectively in the body to address symptoms like nausea and vomiting, pain, inflammation and even seizures.
CBDA’s basic mechanism of action comprises interacting with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the Cox 2 enzyme, which is slightly different from how CBD works. In general, a CBD product works by binding to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, which produces a slightly different result.
8 Benefits of CBDA and CBGA
Now that we’ve explained what CBDA and CBGA are, let’s take a closer look at some of their chief benefits:
1. Potentially Effective Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
In a very exciting recent development, researchers have found that both CBDA and CBGA have some potential to combat the SARS CoV 2 infection (also known as coronavirus). Both compounds seem to block a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect patients.
According to researchers led by scientist Richard Van Breemen at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the two cannabis compounds are able to bind to the spike protein that is characteristic of the virus particles—this then prevents the protein from being able to bind to sites within human cells. This inability to bind effectively prevents a key step that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to infect patients.
It’s important to note that all testing thus far has incorporated only the alpha and beta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, not later strains like Delta or Omicron. Even so, researchers remain optimistic that the efficacy of CBDA and CBGA against early variants bodes well for their effectiveness against later iterations of the virus. Further research, of course, is needed, but both chemical compounds show potential as adjunctive therapy to vaccines for both the prevention and the treatment of COVID-19.
2. Supports Cardiovascular Health
More and more data supports the fact that regulating the endocannabinoid system with phytocannabinoids can have positive effects on cardiovascular health. In particular, the chemical compounds found in hemp and the cannabis sativa plant, including CBDA and CBGA, can be effective against cardiovascular issues, including myocardial infarction (heart attack), atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, hypertension, and metabolic disorders.
In particular, blocking CB1 receptors with phytocannabinoids has a tremendously positive effect when it comes to treating cardiometabolic disorders. In addition, one study has shown that CBGA may be effective in helping diabetic patients manage several of the disease’s complications and comorbidities—including cardiovascular disease.
3. Regulates Metabolism
At least one study has indicated that CBGA may help patients manage metabolic disorders. A 2019 computer simulated study revealed that CBGA helped stimulate lipid metabolism, which reduced excess lipid accumulation. Though these early results are promising, more research is needed, particularly studies with animal and/or human subjects.
4. Anti-Anxiety and Depression Properties
While the non-acidic CBD has long been touted as a potential treatment for both depression and anxiety, there is reason for excitement around cannabidiolic acid as well. In fact, researchers have seen that CBDA not only affects the same receptors as CBD—namely, the receptors that control feelings of anxiety and well-being—but that it is effective as an antidepressant at doses 10 to 100 times less than the dosage size required of CBD.
5. Prevents Seizures
Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD medication is an anti-seizure drug called Epidiolex, which is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. The manufacturer of Epidiolex also has conducted tests comparing the efficacy of cannabidiolic acid against that of CBD in seizure prevention. Some early data shows that CBDA may demonstrate better bioavailability and a faster-acting effect than CBD. This may mean that smaller doses of CBDA would be needed for effective seizure prevention, even further reducing the chance of any side effects associated with the product.
6. Boasts Anti Inflammatory Properties
While inflammation is a natural and necessary response to trauma, chronic inflammation can be the source of many health issues, not least among them, arthritis. Chronic inflammation is highly influenced by the Cox 2 enzyme. CBDA has shown powerful anti inflammatory properties, and may be effective against inflammation because of its characteristics as a selective Cox 2 inhibitor. This means cannabidiol acid works in much the same way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, but without the damaging long-term side effects to the gastrointestinal tract.
7. Effective Anti-Nausea Agent
Researchers have found that CBDA can be a powerfully effective agent against nausea and vomiting caused by toxins and motion sensitivity. In fact, a 2012 study revealed that CBDA treatment dramatically reduced nausea behaviors in mice. And perhaps most exciting, CBDA has shown promising effects against the anticipatory nausea many patients feel before receiving chemotherapy treatments. Since no current medication has been effective for this type of nausea, CBDA appears especially positive. In some tests, cannabidiolic acid showed an anti-nausea impact at a dosage size 1,000 times smaller than the dose of CBD needed to achieve the same effect.
8. Potential Cancer Treatment
In one preclinical study , researchers found that CBDA could potentially suppress the spread of a specific type of breast cancer cells (cells with a higher-than-average concentration of the Cox 2 enzyme). Specifically, CBDA treatment seemed to prevent the migration of breast cancer cells.
In theory, a therapy that could stop cancer cells from metastasizing would be able to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the body. In addition, in the course of the study, CBDA reduced the effectiveness of the Id-1 protein associated with catalyzing cancer cell growth and survival. CBDA also seemed to increase Sharp-1 expression associated with suppressing breast cancer metastasis. While more research is certainly needed to determine the exact effect of CBDA on cancer, early data indicates it may have great promise to help suppress the spread of harmful cells within the body.
In fact, both CBDA and CBGA have also been reported to demonstrate cytotoxic activity against colon cancer. In fact, CBGA has been shown to kill colon cancer cells, along with hastening early cancer cell death and arresting the cancer cell cycle. While more research is needed in this area, researchers are optimistic that CBGA could effectively target not only colon cancer cells, but could also prevent the growth of pre-cancerous polyps.
Are CBDA and CBGA in CBD Oil?
As it turns out, both CBDA and CBGA are absent from traditional CBD oil, which features neutral CBD compound only. It’s important to remember that the chemical compound of CBD is only produced after the decarboxylation of CBDA, so it’s no longer present in the final CBD product. In fact, CBDA and CBGA are not usually found in most commercial hemp CBD products.
This means you should make note that if you’re using CBD oil, you should not expect to get all the same therapeutic benefits we’ve outlined here; especially when it comes to potentially preventing or treating a COVID 19 infection due to SARS-CoV-2. The promising effects against COVID-19 are specific to CBDA and CBGA. These were the only hemp or cannabis-related compounds that have shown promise against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, while CBD won’t magically turn into a COVID-19 prevention or cure, it does offer a full range of other health benefits, including headache relief .
CBDA and CBGA Research Looks Promising
Early research around CBDA and CBGA as medical treatments has shown exciting results, but it’s important to remember that current research has focused chiefly on animal subjects. Until more human clinical trials are conducted, it’s impossible to say for certain how effective these chemical compounds may be against a variety of potential health issues—certainly not least among them, the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
However, early research shows some exciting and promising potential for these powerful chemical compounds when it comes to safely and effectively treating a variety of health conditions.