Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis commonly known as CBD, stops the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in mice and human lung cells in a petri dish in a new study. In another arm of the study, a survey revealed that people taking CBD oil as a treatment for epilepsy were testing positive for COVID-19 at significantly lower rates than people who were not taking CBD.
Bear in mind, this is not to say that having a few CBD gummies will prevent you from catching COVID-19, as much more research is needed to confirm the findings – but the researchers believe their results are promising enough to start moving towards human clinical trials. Their study was recently published in the journal Science Advances.
Viruses, SARS-CoV-2 included, are simply genetic material surrounded by a protein coat. They affect host cells by entering them and hijacking their gene expression machinery to produce more copies of themselves, as well as their viral proteins. To see how CBD impacted this process, the team exposed human lung cells in a petri dish to SARS-CoV-2 and CBD.
CBD did not affect the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to enter the cell, but it did inhibit the virus's ability to replicate once inside. They carried out the same experiment on three variants SARS-CoV-2 and observed the same effect.
"We just wanted to know if CBD would affect the immune system. No one in their right mind would have ever thought that it blocked viral replication, but that's what it did," Dr Marsha Rosner, Charles B Huggins Professor of Ben May Department of Cancer Research at the University of Chicago, said in a statement.
The next part of the study found that a week-long treatment of CBD helped suppress a SARS-CoV-2 infection both in the lungs and nasal passages of mice. This was striking, but the team wanted real-world data. They looked at data on 1,212 patients from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative, finding that patients who were taking a medically prescribed CBD for epilepsy tested positive for COVID-19 at significantly lower rates than a matched sample of patients from similar demographic backgrounds who were not taking CBD.
The researchers stressed that these findings should be considered preliminary, and CBD is certainly not a substitute for vaccines and following public health measures. They also note that many commercially available CBD products are of inconsistent quality and their work was strictly based on high purity, high concentrations of CBD
“Going to your corner bakery and buying some CBD muffins or gummy bears probably won’t do anything,” explained Dr Rosner.
For now, the results are preliminary but promising.
"We are very eager to see some clinical trials on this subject get off the ground," Dr Rosner said.
"A clinical trial is necessary to determine whether CBD is really effective at preventing or suppressing SARS-CoV-2 infection, but we think this may have potential as a prophylactic treatment," added Dr Rosner.
"Maybe you're in a hot spot or you think you might have been exposed or you've just tested positive – that's where we think CBD might have an effect."
In similar news, scientists also recently discovered that certain hemp cannabinoids could have the power to block SARS-CoV-2 from entering human cells. Once again, it's early days for the research, but something scientists are keen to look into more.