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Scott Sparks, owner of the Vermont Hempicurean in Brattleboro.

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BRATTLEBORO — Compounds found in hemp might play a future role in preventing COVID-19 from infecting people.

But one local shop owner is warning caution.

Just the same, Scott Sparks, at the Vermont Hempicurean in downtown Brattleboro, said he is intrigued by a new study that says two substances found in hemp, CBGA and CBDA, bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people.

While there is more to learn about the efficacy and dosage of the two compounds, said Sparks, CBDA has many other benefits.

“It can’t hurt,” said Sparks. “There’s value there.”

He has CBDA products, but not CBGA. So far, he said, he hasn’t had a run on his products containing CBDA, though he has heard from other people who are also intrigued by the study.

The study was led by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen explained in a news release.

The study has been submitted but has not yet been peer reviewed.

The spike protein the cannabinoids bind to are the same proteins the vaccines and antibody therapy bind to.

Van Breemen, Ruth Muchiri of the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, and five scientists from OHSU identified the two cannabinoid acids via a mass spectrometry-based screening technique invented in van Breemen’s laboratory.

“These compounds can be taken orally and have a long history of safe use in humans,” stated van Breemen.

Van Breemen wrote in an email to the Reformer that his study did not determine the optimum dosage amounts for efficacy.

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“The next step will be clinical trials that establish optimum dosage and efficacy,” he wrote.

All cannabinoids in cannabis and hemp come from CBGA, which has been characterised as the mother of all cannabinoids, including CBD.

CBDA is most often found in the live or raw hemp plants bred for high CBD levels.

CBDA oil can be consumed or absorbed via tinctures, raw cannabis juice, topical creams, and raw CBDA oil.

Sparks noted that CBDA is not found in the seeds or in the oil from the seeds.

“These cannabinoids come from the flower and the resin,” he said.

There are four ways to get CBDA and one of them is to visit Sparks. But people also warm up hemp in coconut oil or butter at about 325 degrees and let it cook for a while before straining the vegetable matter out. There is also a process involving ethanol or grain alcohol and then there is a rosin press, like a vice that squeezes the cannabinoids out.

Van Breemen told Vice that you can’t get the compounds from smoking hemp or marijuana.

“[I]f 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. So, we would recommend in favor of an oral administration of these compounds instead of smoking them [or] inhaling them from vaping.”

To learn more, visit visit the Vermont Hempicurean or projectcbd.org.

Hemp does not produce THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Hemp is also a source of fiber, food and animal feed, and multiple hemp extracts and compounds are added to cosmetics, body lotions, dietary supplements and food, van Breemen said.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.