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Being Cautious with Cannabis Research and COVID

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Cannabis research and development are by no means “junk science” (or a stoner “pipe dream.”) But they are more complicated than it seems at first glance—or than the late night hosts and local news make it sound. 

The work of cannabis research is really just getting started. We, too, hope for a more robust set of tools to fight Covid. But it’s still too soon to tell whether cannabinoids will be among them.

New Developments in Cannabis and the War Against SARS-CoV-2

Most recently, researchers at Oregon State University ran a computer simulation that suggested cannabinoids might, on a cellular level, offer some protection against covid. With the results of the simulation, they began further study using live samples of Covid mixed with CBDA, CBGA, or placebo.  (CBDA and CBGA are the “raw” precursors to CBD and CBG found in cannabis plants.) Covid reproduced significantly less when mixed with CBDA or CBGA than with the placebo.autoclaves for scientists and laboratory researchers

Without a doubt, this research is worth pursuing. But it’s still important that these results not be overstated. As San Francisco integrative oncologist and leading cannabinoid researcher Dr. Donald Abrams pointed out in a recent interview: “‘Things that happen in vitro, [i.e., in a lab dish], don’t necessarily translate into potential clinical benefits….Taking cells in culture and adding chemicals to them is very different than digesting something in the human body. Humans have a digestive system, detoxification systems, and an immune system….It’s much more complex than what you see in the test tube.’” 

While those are words of caution, Abrams by no means dismisses the role cannabinoids can play in health and wellness.

Taking Cannabis Research Further

When we last wrote about cannabinoid research and development, we noted that while past research pointed to possibility in the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis, the results of the most recent studies in 2020 were marred by criticisms of the state of the research as it then stood

With this most recent study from Oregon State, some of those weaknesses (the lack of peer review, the conflicts of interest) are not present. This kind of progress gives us hope for meaningful outcomes.  Promisingly, new reputable and rigorous research is being shared every day. For example, a similar study from the University of Waterloo found the synthetic CBD “seemed to prime the innate anti-viral system of cells, increasing their readiness to respond to viral infection imparting similar Covid-protective qualities. (This study is currently under review in the journal Life Sciences.)