Antiviral activities of hemp cannabinoids
Hemp is an understudied source of pharmacologically active compounds and many unique plant secondary metabolites including more than 100 cannabinoids. After years of legal restriction, research on hemp has recently demonstrated antiviral activities in silico, in vitro, and in vivo for cannabidiol (CBD), Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), and several other cannabinoids against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and γ-herpes viruses. Mechanisms of action include inhibition of viral cell entry, inhibition of viral proteases, and stimulation of cellular innate immune responses. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids are also under investigation for mitigating the cytokine storm of COVID-19 and controlling chronic inflammation in people living with HIV. Retrospective clinical studies support antiviral activities of CBD, Δ9-THC, and cannabinoid mixtures as do some prospective clinical trials, but appropriately designed clinical trials of safety and efficacy of antiviral cannabinoids are urgently needed.