Experiments showed cannabidiol can squash microbes that cause staph infections. CBD oil has been shown to kill treatment-resistant bacteria. Can it replace or bolster antibiotics? This article answers whether you can take antibiotics alongside CBD products. The researchers tested the CBD against some strains of staphylococcus, which cause skin infections, and streptococcus, which cause strep throat.
CBD Might Work as an Antibiotic to Treat Bacterial Infections
Experiments showed cannabidiol can squash microbes that cause staph infections.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is growing in popularity as a stress-relieving wonder drug that may help ease anxiety, inflammation and pain. Many enthusiasts also say it can cure a smorgasbord of other conditions. CBD is a non-active ingredient in cannabis — it doesn’t get you high. And that’s helped retailers avoid legal problems while plopping the substance into all manner of products.
But does the CBD chemical craze carry any weight? There’s one surprising new way it just might. New research from the University of Queensland shows CBD may actually be an effective fighter against bacterial infections — although researchers don’t think you should disregard the doctor and start self-medicating anytime soon.
The findings were presented this week at ASM Microbe 2019 by Queensland research chemist Mark Blaskovich. His team carried out test tube experiments where cannabidiol effectively squandered strains of Staphylococcus aureus , including MRSA, VISA and VRSA, which cause staph infections and have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics over the years.
However, CBD was not effective on every type of bacteria. S. aureus are Gram positive strains, which, in general, don’t have an outer membrane. And that makes them easier to treat with antibiotics than Gram negative strains. Such bacteria cause infections like E. Coli , Salmonella and Chlamydia, and have an outer membrane that is tougher to penetrate, making it typically more resistant to antibiotics.
Blaskovich’s work was partially funded by an Australian drug company called Botanix Pharmaceuticals. The company’s stock rose sharply on the news.
But it’s actually not the first time researchers have found a link between CBD and antibiotic properties. A study was published in 1976 exploring the antibiotic effects of CBD and THC , finding that Gram negative strains were resistant to both. But since then, studies on the topic have been few and far between. And these days, well-funded antibiotic research is on the decline.
“There is very little research going on in antibiotics now compared to how it was 30 years ago,” Blaskovich says. With fewer pharmaceutical companies investing in the field, most of the interest comes from academics and independent companies.
Barriers and Breakthroughs
Blaskovich’s team is preparing to do another round of trials before moving on to tests in animals, and eventually humans, if all goes well. Then, results permitting, he wants to pursue approval from the FDA to market the drug as a topical antibiotic.
Marijuana has a checkered past in the United States, but with the FDA’s approval of CBD to orally treat a rare form of epilepsy last June , Blaskovich remains optimistic.
“The road to clinical trials (and) getting it approved is probably shorter than normal,” he says. The upcoming studies will also be completed in Australia, where laws about research on cannabis are more lax.
Despite the promising first tests, Blaskovich advises curious consumers to take caution.
“The results weren’t good enough to say yes … it works,” he says. “We don’t want people to try self-medicating.”
CBD Oil and Antibiotics: Is It More Effective to Take Them Together?
As medical researchers are constantly discovering new health benefits of CBD, the compound has become one of the most exciting therapeutic products of this century. However, 100 years before CBD came on everyone’s tongues, antibiotics gave medicine a completely new face — becoming a staple of healthcare.
What happens when you take these two compounds together?
Are they a perfect match or a dreadful combo?
People supplement CBD for many reasons, whether it’s to support their overall well-being or tackle specific health conditions, such as sleep disorders, mood swings, muscle pain, inflammation, and more.
So, when your doctor prescribes you antibiotics, it’s understandable that you’ll ask them if you can take them together with CBD oil.
Understanding the interactions between CBD and pharmaceutical substances will help you make a well-thought-out decision on how to best run your treatment.
Of course, consulting a doctor is always better if you want to get professional advice, so treat this article only as an educational piece.
What Are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are antibacterial medications that are prescribed to millions of people across the world every year. They are recommended as a treatment for a wide range of bacterial infections. Doctors use them to either treat or prevent further bacterial infections from being triggered.
Even in the modern world, antibiotics are essential for saving us from often lethal bacteria that would otherwise cause the death of many people back before antibiotics were invented in 1928.
Studies on antibiotics and their mechanisms indicate that certain chemical compounds can interfere with their efficacy, and as such, you should always consult your doctor before taking antibiotics alongside any other medicines or supplements.
CBD As Antibiotic: What Studies Say
There’s evidence that CBD possesses antimicrobial properties, which makes it a potentially useful tool for fighting infection.
Although the mechanism behind these effects isn’t well understood yet, studies have confirmed that CBD provides similar protection to antibiotics — especially against treatment-resistant bacteria that have become resistant to conventional methods.
One study analyzed how different cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, interact with pathogenic bacteria.
The authors tested each cannabinoid against six strains of the antibiotic-resistant super bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). All cannabinoids showed increased activity against all strains of the MRSA bacteria.
The study concluded that CBD could be effective at fighting one of the most treatment-resistant bacteria in the field of medicine.
Another study from the researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience found that CBD could kill numerous strains of bacteria in test-tube experiments — including VRSA, VISA, MRSA, and other treatment-resistant strains.
Interestingly, these strains developed resistance to all FDA-approved antibiotics over the years, but not to CBD.
CBD was able to outmaneuver the whole process of superbug growth despite exposing the strains to it for 20 days.
The research team found that CBD effectively disrupted biofilms, a microscopic mass of bacteria, mucopolysaccharides, and waste products that act as a physical barrier preventing antibiotics from inhibiting the bacteria growth — resulting in difficult-to-treat infections.
It seems that CBD uses a unique mechanism that works against bacteria resistant to other antibiotics.
A 2019 study from the UK has provided a deeper insight into that mechanism.
The said study examined the antibacterial properties of CBD on Escherichia Coli bacteria (E. coli) — specifically on its membrane vesicles, which the bacteria use for growth and communication.
The authors learned that CBD might help increase antibiotic activity and reduce the resistance of bacteria when used in tailored co-application.
Can You Take CBD and Antibiotics Together?
As mentioned above, CBD can enhance the activity of antibiotics, translating into higher efficacy against treatment-resistant bacteria. But, considering that CBD meddles with the system of enzymes that is responsible for metabolizing pharmaceuticals (including antibiotics), the answer requires more careful analysis.
How CBD Affects Drug Metabolism
Let’s shed some light on how CBD interacts with antibiotics. This comes down to understanding how CBD affects our body’s Cytochrome P-450 System, which processes potentially dangerous toxins.
Many of us aren’t aware of this system, but it’s a paramount component of the human body. If we lacked CYP450, we could be exposed to an array of toxic chemicals on a daily basis.
Over 60% of the drugs we consume are metabolized by CYP450, which is where things get pretty hazy.
This unique system is located in the liver and contains 50 enzymes that work to remove potentially dangerous compounds. Depending on the type of the drug and its dosage, CYP450 requires a different period of time to break down these substances. Certain drugs have a direct impact on the speed of the system’s metabolism.
CBD & Cytochrome P450 System
CBD is actually a potent inhibitor of CYP450. In other words, it can change the way the system metabolizes certain drugs that it encounters — including antibiotics.
When it comes to taking CBD and antibiotics together, the interaction between these two substances could result in taking less or more antibiotics than required — carrying the risk of overdose.
Fortunately, such hardcore interactions aren’t common. In fact, no study has yet found that regular doses of CBD compromise the liver’s ability to metabolize antibiotics. If anything, as the above studies, indicates, CBD could strengthen the effects of antibiotics.
However, this can only happen when you apply the right dose of both compounds.
Here’s where a consultation with a holistic doctor experienced in cannabis use may help.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you approach CBD and antibiotics irresponsibly, it could potentially lead to negative side effects. Since CBD affects CYP450’s ability to metabolize medications — either speeding it up or slowing it down — you could end up with higher doses of the drug in your system than what is considered safe.
You can easily minimize that risk by consulting your doctor first. Your doctor should be able to analyze your current dose of CBD and antibiotics — and adjust them so that they can benefit from one another without causing negative interactions.
This should be the first thing that you do before taking CBD with any medication.
Benefits of Taking CBD Oil with Antibiotics
CBD oil and antibiotics both fight infection, but they use different mechanisms to achieve their goals.
While antibiotics vary in their method of targeting bacteria, they all have one general function — wiping out the elements of bacterial cells that don’t occur in human cells. This is an incredibly complex way of tackling infection; it destroys all bacteria in the body, including the good bacteria that help your gut healthy. Certain bacteria can also become resistant to antibiotics over time.
CBD has demonstrated antimicrobial properties, showing itself as another useful tool for fighting infection. While we still need a better understanding of how CBD oil does it, studies have concluded that CBD is particularly effective against treatment-resistant bacteria.
At the same time, CBD can support the growth of healthy bacteria (probiotics), improving your digestive health, and thus can help with problems such as IBS.
In the aforementioned study on the antimicrobial effects of CBD and THC, each cannabinoid was highlighted as “showing potent activity” against the bacterium, with authors noting that “activity was exceptional against some of these strains, in particular, the multidrug-resistant (MDR) SA-1199B and also against EMRSA-15 and EMRSA-16, the major epidemic methicillin-resistant S. Aureus strains occurring in U.K. hospitals.”
In simple words, CBD was proven to be effective at killing one of the most treatment-resistant strains of bacteria medicine has seen.
If you combine CBD oil and antibiotics in the right dosages, you can achieve a potent, two-pronged approach to tackling bacteria-driven diseases. Or, if your doctor deems it right, they can recommend a highly concentrated form of CBD as a monotherapy.
The Side Effects of Using CBD Oil with Antibiotics
CBD oil may inhibit your liver’s ability to metabolize certain antibiotics, especially clarithromycin (Biaxin) and erythromycin. It’s important to keep in mind that these two antibiotics can be prescribed on their own or as a combination of antibiotics. That’s why it’s important to read product labels and talk to your doctor.
Since CBD may slow down the breakdown of these antibiotics, higher concentrations can circulate in the bloodstream — causing negative side effects.
The negative reactions to taking CBD oil and antibiotics as clarithromycin include:
- Mood swings
- Stomach pain
Does CBD Interact with All Antibiotics?
While any medication can interact with CBD, not every product within that category will — and the same goes for antibiotics. Not every antibiotic will be impacted by CBD, and sometimes, it can even enhance the antibiotic’s effects.
There’s one good way to find out if CBD can cause negative interactions with your medication.
How to Tell If CBD Will Interact With Your Medication
Most doctors will tell you not to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when taking certain medications.
That’s because grapefruit juice interacts with CYP450 in a similar way to CBD.
Therefore, if your medication has a grapefruit warning on it — or your doctor suggests that you abstain from eating grapefruit for the time of your treatment — you probably should consult your purchase of CBD oil with a medical professional who is experienced in using cannabis.
Key Takeaways On CBD Oil and Antibiotics
Taking CBD oil and antibiotics together can have a positive effect on the efficacy of the latter — that’s especially good news for people with infections.
However, it’s essential to note that scientists still don’t know what exactly is responsible for the mechanism behind CBD’s high efficacy.
All the research was conducted in a lab, using test tubes and bacteria cultures. More clinical human trials are needed to confirm the preliminary findings.
To date, no study has recommended combining CBD with antibiotics — nor there has been a paper that would definitely discourage from doing so.
Before taking CBD oil to treat or prevent infection, do your research and consult your doctor to establish the right CBD dosage and routine so that you avoid the negative interactions with your antibiotic.
Did you take CBD and antibiotics together? Was it good or did you experience any side effects? Share your stories in the comments below!
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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
CBD as a Superbug Antibiotic?
June 24, 2019 — Cannabidiol, or CBD, already being researched and used for anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and pain, may be the next superbug fighter for resistant infections, a new study suggests.
The researchers tested CBD against a wide variety of bacteria, ”including bacteria that have become resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics,” says Mark Blaskovich, PhD, senior research officer at the Centre for Superbug Solutions at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia.
The development is important, as antibiotic resistance is reaching dangerously high levels, according to the World Health Organization.
What the Research Shows
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound taken from cannabis and hemp; it does not produce the high that regular marijuana does. To date, the FDA has only approved CBD for treating rare and severe forms of seizure, although it is promoted for many other health benefits.
Blaskovich presented the research Sunday at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting. The research includes work in test tubes and animal models. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
“The first thing we looked at is CBD’s ability to kill bacteria,” he says. “In every case, CBD had a very similar potency to that of common antibiotics.”
The researchers tested the CBD against some strains of staphylococcus, which cause skin infections, and streptococcus, which cause strep throat.
They compared how effective CBD was compared to common antibiotics, such as vancomycin and daptomycin. “We looked at how quickly the CBD killed the bacteria. It’s quite fast, within 3 hours, which is pretty good. Vancomycin (Vancocin) kills over 6 to 8 hours.”
The CBD also disrupted the biofilm, the layer of ”goop” around bacteria that makes it more difficult for the antibiotic to penetrate and kill.
Finally, the lab studies showed that “CBD is much less likely to cause resistance than the existing antibiotics,” Blaskovich says.
The CBD ”is selective for the type of bacteria,” he says.
He found it effective against gram-positive bacteria but not gram-negative. Gram-positive bacteria cause serious skin infections and pneumonia, among other conditions. Gram-negative bacteria include salmonella (found in undercooked foods) and E. coli (the cause of urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and other ailments), among other bacteria.
In another study, also presented at the meeting, the researchers tested topical CBD to treat a skin infection on mice. It cut the number of bacteria after 48 hours, Blaskovich says, although it did not clear the infection. That research is ongoing.
How It Might Work, Caveats
The researchers can’t say exactly how the CBD may prove to be a superbug infection fighter. “We thought it might work by damaging the outer membrane of the bacteria, to make it leaky,” Blaskovich says. “It doesn’t seem to do that. It might be a completely new mechanism of action.”
He says the research results are promising but in early stages. He also warns people that it’s much too early to self-treat infections with CBD.
The study was funded by Botanix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which is researching uses of CBD for skin conditions, and the Australian government. Blaskovich is a consultant for Botanix.
Brandon Novy, a microbiology researcher at Reed College in Portland, OR, calls the study findings ”very promising,” since the results show the bacteria were not able to form resistance to the CBD, and since the bacteria were not able to form a biofilm.
Both findings are important. “The biofilm is an important part of the whole infection process,” he says. “It helps the bacteria attach [to whatever surface or host] and survive.”
At the same meeting, Novy presented a preliminary study, finding that CBD also looks promising to fight some gram-negative infections.
“It is an important study that deserves to be followed up on,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
He was not involved in the new study. But he cautions that ”it is important to keep it all in context. I think it is a good thing that people are looking at the use of CBD for infectious uses in a systematic way.”
But the work so far is only in test tubes and animals. Many question remain, such as looking at whether it is toxic, doses, and the best way to deliver the CBD, Adalja says. He, too, cautions against self-treating with CBD for infections.
Amesh Adalja, MD, infectious disease specialist and senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
American Society for Microbiology annual meeting, June 23, 2019, San Francisco.
Mark Blaskovich, PhD, senior research officer, Centre for Superbug Solutions, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.