Does CBD kill bacteria? What there is to know

When it comes to cannabis, attention is mainly focused on two parts of the plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component that produces the “high” sensation, and cannabidiol (CBD), the part generally used for medicinal purposes. medicinal.

As you may already know, CBD enjoys great popularity in the wellness field. It is widely used as an alternative remedy for conditions 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 government approval to study CBD, so most of the research exploring its uses is fairly new. An emerging field of study that is generating a lot of enthusiasm? Antimicrobial characteristics of CBD.

It turns out that CBD actually does a pretty good job of killing bacteria, even some strains that are resistant to traditional antibiotics. Having a potential weapon against these supergerms could save a lot of lives.

Read on to find out what experts know about CBD’s ability to kill bacteria and what it means for you.

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

According to a study 2021, 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:

Of the Gram-negative bacteria also studied, 20 species survived exposure to CBD. This wasn’t too surprising, since scientists haven’t found any new classes of antibiotics to treat Gram-negative bacteria. since 1962.

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

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.

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

CBD’s ability to fight bacteria is potentially a big deal. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate 2.8 million people develop an antibiotic-resistant infection each year, and approximately 35,000 people die from these infections.

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

  • MRSA,which causes approximately 323,700 hospitalizations and 10,600 deaths per year
  • Clostridioid difficult, which causes approximately 223,900 hospitalizations and 12,800 deaths per year
  • Streptococcus pneumonia, which causes around 900,000 people and kills 3,600 a year
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infects around 550,000 people a year

These numbers are from the CDC’s 2019 report 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 study 2021 measured drug resistance by growing MRSA in petri dishes and measuring the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), or the amount of substance needed to kill all the bacteria in the dish.

The MIC of the antibiotic daptomycin was multiplied by 26 in 20 days of exposure. In other words, the MRSA bacteria developed such drug resistance 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 barely developed resistance against CBD.

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

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

  • changing their cell walls so the antibiotic can’t get inside
  • create enzymes to destroy antibiotics
  • build pumps to remove 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 defined organelles like animal and plant cells do. Their innards are more like soup spilling out into the void, once something destroys the membrane that holds everything together.

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 at breaking down certain types of bacterial membranes.

Despite this encouraging lab performance, 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 wonder drug: it binds to proteins very easily.

When CBD enters your bloodstream, most of it will cling to proteins in your plasma. CBD doesn’t kill human proteins like it does germs, but it does become “sticked” to those cells. Only 10 to 14 percent of CBD will remain free-floating and available to attack bacteria. Even if the CBD reaches the site of infection, other tempting proteins could attract it.

In a nutshell, taking cannabis or CBD oil probably won’t help you fight an infection. CBD spreads too much in the body to launch a targeted attack on bacteria. And you can’t exactly flood your system with CBD without risking an overdose.

But research continues

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

Animal and human studies to date have found the most success with oral formulas. Rather than an injection, future CBD treatments could come in the form of a nasal spray or pill.

In short, although CBD gummies cannot currently treat the infection, it is possible that you will take an antimicrobial CBD gummie in the future.

You may not yet be able to harness the antimicrobial potential of CBD. Still, you may notice some benefits when using CBD for pain or anxiety.

A few helpful reminders before trying CBD:

  • CBD can come in many forms: topical creams, vapes, 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 higher THC levels are illegal in some states, so check your local laws before purchasing.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products. If you have concerns about quality control, opt for products that have undergone third-party lab testing.

CBD has the ability to kill certain species of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Even so, it probably won’t replace antibiotics anytime soon.

Experts need to conduct more research to determine exactly how CBD works in the human body before it can be used as a treatment for infections.


Emily Swaim is a freelance writer and writer specializing in psychology. She holds a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MA in Writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of his work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find it on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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