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Can CBD make antibiotics more effective?

Antibiotics are one of the most essential tools that doctors have for fighting infection, and without them, millions have people would have lost their lives. But as more bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics that we have available, there’s an urgent need for more methods to prevent serious infection.


CBD has for many years been considered to have some antibacterial properties, but a recent study has shown that the cannabinoid may also increase the effects of antibiotics. So what does this mean for the way we treat bacterial infections and will CBD ever replace antibiotics entirely?

Results of the 2020 study

The study in question comes from the University of Southern Denmark and the results published in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers looked at the role that CBD could play in making antibiotics more effective, in particular, against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).


MRSA is a common bug found in hospitals, while it usually only causes mild infection, it can be lethal in some cases. It is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, which is obviously problematic in the more serious cases. The study showed that after treatment with the CBD-antibiotics combination, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria could no longer divide as normal, meaning it did not spread as quickly, and the membrane of the bacterial wall became unstable, making it easier to kill.


In summary, the authors stated, ‘When we combined CBD and antibiotics, we saw a more powerful effect than when treating with antibiotics alone. So, in order to kill a certain number of bacteria, we needed less antibiotics.”


Other research into CBD and antibiotics

The University of Southern Denmark study lends weight to other research that has been conducted along similar lines. An earlier study conducted by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, looked at CBG as a microbial agent. CBG is one of the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and is retained in oils that use the full-spectrum extraction process. The study revealed that CBG alone was effective at neutralizing Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).


Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have studied the effectiveness of CBD oil in particular on a range of bacteria. As well as MRSA, which is gram-positive, CBD was shown to be effective against some gram-negative bacteria, including that which causes gonorrhoea.  This is a particularly important development, as there have been no new antibiotics for gram-negative bacteria since the 1960s.

Antibiotics resistance

What makes this research so important is the issue of antibiotic resistance. The discovery of antibiotics in 1928 changed the world of medicine. It allowed doctors to cure diseases such as syphilis or tuberculosis, which were often fatal if left untreated. But overuse of antibiotics over the last century has led to more and more strains of bacteria developing a resistance to the treatment. And in the cases where there are no other treatment options, these diseases may once again prove to be a death sentence.


According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” There are now guidelines that encourage doctors not to prescribe antibiotics unless necessary, and to report the observation of any resistant infections. Even with these measures, resistance is likely to continue to rise, meaning we need new alternatives to antibiotics.


Can CBD replace antibiotics?

These studies only prove that CBD can increase the effectiveness of antibiotics, meaning that some quantity of antibiotics needs to be involved in the treatment. For now, the role of CBD is that of a “helper compound”, which is still a vital one.  The report explains, “This strategy may, therefore, decrease the likelihood of resistance development, and investigations to identify efficient helper compounds are thus important.”


While it may be some time before we see CBD prescribed for infections, either in combination with antibiotics or alone, these studies show that there is some hope in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

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