A Deeper Insight into the CBDA/CBGA COVID Study

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
February 2, 2022
Cannabis and COVID-19
Cannabis and COVID-19
Table of Contents

    We have known for years that cannabinoids can offer a lot of valuable properties beyond the intoxicating qualities that we associate with certain ones such as THC.  Study after study has shown that these hemp-derived compounds, like CBD, CBN, CBG and CBC, can all provide powerful effects to the body that affect how each system of the body functions to promote homeostasis.

    Ever since hemp became formally legalized throughout the United States, as a result of the passing of the Farm Bill of 2018, a lot of funding has gone into cannabis research that has advanced our knowledge of the usefulness of cannabinoids further.  Now, two cannabinoids in particular are getting a lot of attention thanks to a recent study that showed their effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2.  Those cannabinoids are CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) and CBG (cannabigerolic acid), and they show the value of raw cannabinoid precursors, which have been largely underestimated up until recently.

    CBDA and CBGA: The Basics

    CBDA (cananbidiolic acid) and CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) are naturally occurring cannabinoids found in raw hemp material.  We make this distinction because once the plant has been heated to a specific temperature, these cannabinoids are no longer raw, and no longer existent, in fact, as they are replaced with CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabgeriol), respectively.

    CBDA and CBGA are the raw, acidic precursors to CBD and CBG.  We are more familiar with the latter cannabinoids because they’re the result of decarboxylation, a process of controlled heating.  We are used to consuming cannabinoids after they’ve been heated, either when we smoke raw flower or use a product that contains a hemp extract that has undergone a decarboxylation process by the manufacturer.

    Technically, CBD and CBG don’t exist in raw hemp, but their raw precursors do.  The reason why we’ve never paid much attention to CBDA, CBGA, and other raw precursor cannabinoids is because the effects for which cannabinoids are best known come from their post-decarboxylated state.  When, say, CBDA is converted into CBD, certain properties are “unlocked” that we know to be highly valuable.  As an example, we know that delta 8 THC can only be intoxicating after it’s been decarboxylated.

    But, for decades, researchers have overlooked the value of these raw cannabinoid forms.  Now we know, thanks to more advanced methods of research, that these raw cannabinoids contain certain properties that are destroyed once decarboxylation has taken place.  And so, both CBDA and CBGA are finally getting the attention that they deserve by scientists.

    CBDA and CBGA: What Do They Offer as Far as COVID is Concerned?

    A new study released only in January of 2022 showed us that both CBDA and CBGA can greatly interfere with the trajectory of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in terms of how it eventually leads to the disease known as COVID.  This coronavirus becomes far more virulent when its spike protein gets absorbed into the cells of the lungs and other organs of the body.  Medical researchers at Oregon State University found that CBDA and CBGA effectively blocks the spike protein from absorbing into these cells of the body, by attaching itself to the protein to change its physical structure and prevent cellular permeability.

    The cells of our lungs are coated in what’s known as the ACE2 enzyme, and it’s through this structure that SARS-CoV-2 can infiltrate.  When the spike protein’s exterior is modified through its attachment to CBDA and CBGA, it cannot break through this enzyme effectively, and therefore the virus, theoretically, is unable to affect the lungs and other lower organs of the body, thus remaining a milder respiratory virus.  In the study, it was noted that high concentrations of both CBDA and CBGA were administered.

    It’s important to point out that the CBDA/CBGA study is not the only one to draw a clear connection between the properties of the hemp plant and the potential impacts of the virus.  Also in January of 2022, the Universities of Louisville and Chicago teamed up to test CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid that most of us are more familiar with, on SARS-CoV-2 patients.

    Their motivation was the observation that those treated with Epidiolex, a CBD-based, FDA-approved drug administered to epilepsy patients, were experiencing milder symptoms when infected with the virus than those who were not taking it.  Initially, the thought was that CBD’s well-known anti-inflammatory properties prevented the “cytokine storm” effect that caused the more dangerous symptoms associated with COVID due to elevated inflammation levels.

    But instead, the researchers discovered something unexpected: that cannabidiol can prevent the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from replicating in the body, and more specifically, the cells of the lungs.  The replication process can determine a lot about the lethality of the virus from one patient to the next, so this study is equally promising as continue working toward effective treatments against the illness.

    Cannabinoids and Drug Interactions

    The matter of safety cannot be overstated.  CBD, CBDA, and CBGA are all classified as nontoxic compounds that have no intoxicating properties.  But, all three may suppress an enzyme called CYP3A4, which’s the same enzyme used to break down many medications that we take, both over the counter and through prescription.

    This enzyme is responsible for metabolizing common drugs, and if it’s suppressed, the levels of the drugs can fail to break down, and instead accumulate in the body to the extent of becoming potentially dangerous.  This means that if you are taking any medications, whether they be prescription or over the counter, you must speak with your doctor before taking CBD, CBDA, or CBGA.  If you are currently being treated for COVID through the use of pharmaceuticals, your doctor absolutely must know that you plan to try one of these hemp derivatives.  Note that vaccination status plays no role in the importance of getting a doctor’s approval.

    We want to emphasize that corticosteroids (referred to more simply as “steroids”), including prednisone and cortisone, must be particularly careful.  These are potent anti-inflammatories sometimes administered to COVID patients with severe symptoms.  They’re used to treat other inflammatory conditions as well.  These drugs in particular require ample CYP3A4 to effectively metabolize in the body, and therefore CBD, CBDA, and CBGA could all interfere and cause a stronger interaction.

    FDA’s Role in the Hemp Market

    The United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has yet to approve hemp or hemp-derived products, except for Epidiolex, which we mentioned earlier.  While decades of research show the potential benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, the FDA has still not made the effort to formally approve of hemp and therefore allow it to be regulated.  This means that for the time-being, no hemp manufacturers can legally state that their products can have any effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

    For now, the Food and Drug Administration is focusing most of their efforts on COVID treatments and vaccines that are being produced by pharmaceutical companies.  Also, due to the length of time it takes for this approval process to be completed, it’s unlikely that CBDA, CBGA, or CBD will be FDA-approved by for use by COVID patients in the near future.

    CBDA and CBGA: Promising Implications for the Future of Viral Treatment

    Ever since March of 2020, the entire world has been eagerly awaiting safe and effective treatments to combat the potentially dangerous disease known as COVID, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  This new research offers even more hope as to the future of antiviral treatments that can be useful against not only this virus, but other viruses that affect us year after year.  In fact, we fully expect that more research will go into the potential antiviral potential of cannabinoids in the future now that science has made such a breakthrough with CBDA, CBGA, and CBD. In the meantime, we await word from the FDA about applying this new research to our present treatment protocol of SARS-CoV-2.  Good news is, you can purchase CBDA, CBGA, and CBD easily as they are fully legal and widely available cannabinoids that come in many different product forms on today’s market.