Cannabis could prevent COVID-19 infections by binding to the spike proteins found on the virus, a new study suggests.
Research by Oregon State University found two compounds, which are commonly found in hemp, could offer protection against the virus.
The study is yet to be peer-reviewed and did not involve THC, which is found in marijuana. Instead, it looked at two compounds in hemp - cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
It found both compounds have the potential to stop infections by binding to the spike protein on the virus and blocking a step the pathogen uses to infect people.
The researchers tested the compounds against the alpha and beta variants. They did not give people supplements or compare infection rates in those who used the compound versus those who didn't.
Lead author Richard van Breemen of Oregon State's Global Hemp Innovation Center said the compounds are abundant in hemp, which is widely available.
"They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans.
"They have the potential to prevent as well as treat infection by SARS-CoV-2," he said in a statement to Bloomberg.
Breenem stressed recreational marijuana would not have the same effect as the compounds and smoking weed would not protect you from COVID-19.
"The active compounds we've discovered in hemp are cannabidiolic acid, CBD-A, CBG-A, and THC-A," Van Breeman told Vice News.
"'A' stands for an acid group, a carboxylic acid — this group can be removed upon treatment. So if these hemp products containing these compounds are smoked or vaped, the heat exposure could cause the chemical decomposition or conversion of CBD-A to CBD, CBG-A to CBG, and THC-A to THC. So, we know that CBD, CBG and THC are not active against the virus."
While hemp is considered a cannabis plant, it differs from marijuana and is used for fibre, food and in beauty products and supplements.
Hemp products are legal in New Zealand, unlike marijuana which is a Class C drug.