Can CBD, marijuana or hemp actually prevent COVID-19?

Stat explores the big debate over whether CBD, marijuana and other such plant-derived products have any potential to protect against COVID-19. It might sound outlandish, but it is a real area of research and there are no definitive answers. That is not preventing believers from making such claims, however…

The first, most basic research raised hopes. But even that researcher warned everyone not to jump to conclusions.

“We don’t want people running out taking random cannabinoids,” said Marsha Rosner of the University of Chicago, the senior author of one of the new studies.

The research also presents a new challenge for the Food and Drug Administration, which is already struggling to police the rapidly growing CBD market. While the agency has said CBD makers can’t market their products as medical treatments without conducting a clinical trial and submitting an application to the agency, few companies have actually invested in conducting those trials. Instead, companies have tried to tiptoe around the FDA rules by selling their products as dietary supplements and making only modest claims. Experts fear that the FDA’s job will only get harder with the increased hype around cannabinoids and Covid-19.

Here are two research projects that are getting the most attention:

Rosner and her team’s paper was published in Science Advances this month, soon after researchers in Oregon reported in the Journal of Natural Products that two chemicals found in hemp, CBGA and CBDA, could bind to the virus’ spike protein and thus prevent it from infecting cells in lab dishes.

Rosner herself keeps reminding CBD and pot enthusiasts that what looks promising in the lab may not pan out. Stat added this:

“These are the seeds of our knowledge related to how cannabinoids might interact with the SARS-Cov-2 virus,” said Ziva Cooper, the director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative. “We have a long way to go.”

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