Cannabis researchers have put in tons of hours researching the potential medicinal effects of cannabidiol (CBD), and they’ve found some promising results.
Typically, when we think about the therapeutic applications of CBD, we think about things like pain management, insomnia relief, and anxiety reduction. But what if these are just the tip of the iceberg? What if CBD could actually help fight off infections?
What Is CBD?
CBD is of the two most abundant compounds classified as a cannabinoid. The other is THC. Cannabinoids are found primarily on cannabis buds, and they are what give the plant its noted psychoactive properties. When consumed, cannabinoids interact with our bodies through a system of lipids and neurotransmitters known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and influence a whole slew of bodily functions, including memory retention, mood, sleep, and appetite.
Unlike THC, CBD is said to be non-intoxicating. This means that ingesting CBD won’t leave users feeling the signature “high” associated with marijuana. Because CBD doesn’t produce that mind-altering impairment and has few other side effects, it has a large amount of medicinal potential.
What Are The Benefits Of CBD?
What first brought the mainstream medical community’s attention to CBD was discovering that the cannabinoid helped reduce seizures in those suffering from extreme cases of epilepsy. Videos surfaced of children with Dravet Syndrome experiencing a reprieve from perpetual seizures for the first time, all thanks to CBD. Now, even the FDA has approved the usage of cannabidiol as a seizure-reducing treatment under the name Epidiolex.
Research suggests that CBD may also help with a myriad of other less severe ailments. For example, a 2011 study investigated CBD’s effects on patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Participants in the study were given either a 400mg dose of CBD or a placebo. Results indicated that those who received the CBD showed an overall reduction in anxiety.
Dealing with a sore back from spring cleaning? Some people who deal with chronic pain have found that CBD can help alleviate their symptoms without the negative side effects that come with opiate use. One recent 2018 study found that cannabidiol could effectively treat several types of chronic pain conditions on par with other analgesic medications.
A new avenue of research has begun looking into CBD as an alternative to antibiotics.
The Antimicrobial Properties Of CBD
Common bacteria, like the kind that can cause a urinary tract infection, are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics due in part to doctors over-prescribing the microbial killing drugs and in part to patients not taking them as directed. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs as they’re sometimes referred to, present a huge challenge to medical care providers and can be life-threatening since conventional treatment methods are ineffective.
In order to stem the proliferation of these so-called superbugs, medical researchers are desperately looking for alternatives to antibiotics. That’s what led Dr. Mark Blaskovich to CBD.
Blaskovich, who works as a senior research officer at the Centre for Superbug Solutions at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia, looked into the cannabinoid’s ability to kill bacteria using both test tube and animal models.
"The first thing we looked at is CBD's ability to kill bacteria. In every case, CBD had a very similar potency to that of common antibiotics,” Blaskovich said, describing his work at the 2019 American Society for Microbiology annual meeting.
In fact, his lab found that CBD killed the bacteria behind staph infections and strep throat nearly twice as fast as popular antibiotics like vancomycin and daptomycin, while being considerably less likely to create resistance. However, the lab only found CBD effective on gram-negative bacteria, not gram-positive bacteria like E. coli. This may have to do with gram-positive bacteria’s thick peptidoglycan layer since Dr. Blaskovich speculates CBD works as an antimicrobial agent by damaging the bacteria’s outer membrane.
Bear in mind that this research is still in its infancy, hasn’t been tested in humans, and has yet to undergo any peer review. Still, it’s exciting to see CBD studied in novel ways!