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CBD Can Kill Some Bacteria, But It Doesn't Replace Antibiotics

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The antimicrobial characteristics of CBD

When it comes to cannabis, attention is focused on two parts of the plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component that produces the high, and cannabidiol (CBD), the part typically used for medicinal purposes. As you may already know, CBD enjoys great popularity in the wellness field. It is widely used as an alternative remedy for issues ranging from nausea to chronic pain. Some people even find it helpful in easing mental health symptoms like anxiety.

Until 2018, it was difficult to get theapproval from the FDA to study CBD, so most of the research exploring its uses is fairly new. It turns out that CBD kills bacteria very well, even some strains that resistant to traditional antibiotics. Having a potential weapon against these super germs could save many lives.

What types of bacteria does CBD kill?

CBD can kill both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Both types of bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics. However, Gram-positive bacteria generally prove harder to kill because they have thicker protective membranes.

Gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria

Why are bacteria called Gram-positive or Gram-negative?

This term comes from the Gram stain protocol, a method used to detect bacteria in tissues. A dye adheres to gram-positive bacteria and stains them bright purple. Gram-negative bacteria do not retain the dye as well and therefore only appear pale pink.

According to one 2021 study, it takes very little CBD to kill most gram-positive bacteria. CBD can even destroy species that have developed resistance to multiple drugs, such as:

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes staph infections.
  • Clostridioidez difficile, which causes colon infections
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumococcal pneumonia or meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Of the Gram-negative bacteria also studied, 20 species survived exposure to CBD. This isn't terribly surprising, since scientists haven't developed new classes of antibiotics to treat gram-negative bacteria since 1962.

What did the researchers find surprising? CBD can kill four types of Gram-negative bacteria, all of which have a history of drug resistance and can be deadly:

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes sexually transmitted gonorrhea.
  • Neisseria meningitides, which causes meningitis or blood infections.
  • Moraxella catarrhalis, which causes bronchitis.
  • Leigionelle pneumophila, which causes legionellosis or Legionnaire's disease.

Overall, CBD shows promise as a versatile antimicrobial agent.

That said, the researchers reported numerous conflicts of interest, the main one being that pharmaceutical company Botanix funded much of the study. Botanix makes a topical CBD formula that is currently in clinical trials.

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However, other studies without conflicts of interest have reported similar results. For instance, a study of 2022 showed that CBD can fight Salmonella typhimurium, a Gram-negative bacteria that attacks your stomach and intestines. About 59 percent of Trusted Source salmonella infections resistant to ampicillin (a specialized antibiotic used to treat salmonella) involve the typhimurium strain.

Why is this important?

The ability of CBD to fight bacteria is potentially very important. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 2,8 million people develop an antibiotic-resistant infection each year and about 35 people die from it.

Cannabidiol appears to kill many of the most harmful species of bacteria, including:

  • MRSA, which causes approximately 323700 hospitalizations and 10600 deaths per year.
  • Clostridioidez difficile, which causes approximately 223900 hospitalizations and 12800 deaths per year
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes approximately 900000 cases and 3600 deaths per year
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infects around 550000 people a year.

These numbers are taken from the CDC's 2019 report titled Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States.

MRSA, in particular, seems to have a much harder time developing resistance against CBD than against antibiotics. The 2021Trusted Source study measured drug resistance by growing MRSA in Petri dishes and measuring the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), which is the amount of the substance needed to kill all the bacteria in it. the box.

The MIC of the antibiotic daptomycin was multiplied by 26 in 20 days of exposure. In other words, the MRSA bacteria developed such resistance to the drug after 20 days that it took 26 times the original amount of daptomycin to kill it.

During this time, the MIC of cannabidiol only increased by a factor of 1,5. Relatively speaking, MRSA has hardly developed resistance to CBD.

How does CBD kill bacteria?

CBD doesn't avoid resistance just because it's new to the bacteria battlefield. There's something special about how CBD works that makes it harder for bacteria to adapt.

Many drug-resistant bacteria defend themselves by preventing antibiotics from entering their cells. Common antibiotic control tactics include:

  • modifying their cell walls to prevent the antibiotic from getting inside creating enzymes
  • to destroy antibiotics
  • the construction of pumps to evacuate the antibiotics.

However, CBD does not need to enter the bacteria to kill it. Instead, it attacks bacteria membranes, causing cells to burst like microscopic water balloons. Bacterial cells do not have definite organelles like animal and plant cells. Their innards are more like soup spilling out into the void, once something destroys the membrane that holds everything together.

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But some traditional antibiotics, like penicillin, also kill bacteria by destroying their membranes. Further research could help experts determine which specific molecules CBD targets and why CBD appears to be more effective than antibiotics in destroying certain types of bacterial membranes.

The flip side

Despite these encouraging results in the lab, CBD is far from ready for use as an antimicrobial treatment in the real world. This substance has a major weakness that prevents it from becoming a miracle drug: It binds very easily to proteins.

When CBD enters your bloodstream, it largely binds to proteins in your plasma. CBD doesn't kill human proteins like it does germs, but it "sticks" to those cells. Only 10-14% of Safe Source CBD will remain free floating and available to attack bacteria. Even if CBD reaches the site of infection, other tempting proteins can lure it elsewhere.

In summary, taking cannabis or CBD oil is unlikely to help you fight an infection. CBD spreads too much in the body to launch a targeted attack on bacteria. And you can't really flood your system with CBD without risking an overdose.

But the search continues:

Scientists continue to investigate ways to take advantage of the bacteria-fighting potential of CBD. Possibilities include formulas that transport CBD directly to the bacteria present in an infection, or synthetic CBD that ignores human proteins and focuses only on attacking the bacteria.

Studies conducted so far on animals and humans have shown that oral formulas are the most effective (trusted source). Rather than an injection, future CBD treatments could come in the form of a nasal spray or a pill.

In short, although CBD gummies cannot currently treat infections, you may be able to take an antimicrobial CBD gummie in the future.
Important Considerations for Using CBD

You may not yet be able to harness the antimicrobial potential of CBD. Nevertheless, you might see some benefits from using CBD for pain or anxiety.

A few helpful reminders before trying CBD:

  • CBD can come in many forms: topical creams, poke pens, lozenges, and of course, edibles. All of these products have different potencies, so be sure to follow the instructions for each specific product you use.
  • Federal law allows cannabis products that contain at least 0,3% THC. Products with a higher THC content are illegal in some states. So check local laws before buying.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products. If you have any doubts about quality control, go for products that have been tested by a third-party lab.


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