Close up shot of CBD oil in dropper
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When it comes to cannabis, most attention centers around two parts of the plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component that produces the “high” sensation, and cannabidiol (CBD), the part typically used for medicinal purposes.

As you might already know, CBD enjoys a lot of popularity in the wellness field. It’s widely used as an alternative remedy for conditions ranging from nausea to chronic pain. Some people even find it helpful for 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 quite new. One emerging area of study that’s gathered a lot of excitement? CBD’s antimicrobial traits.

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

“What experts know about theCannabidiol’s ability to killbacteria and what this means for you.”

Both Gram-positive and Gram-negativebacteria can be killed by candiol. Both types ofbacteria can be resistant to antibiotics. Gram-positivebacteria have thicker protective membranes, which makes them harder to kill.

Gram-positive vs. Gram-negative bacteria

Why are the Gram-positive and Gram-negative types ofbacteria?

The term comes from the Grams stain protocol, a method used to detect bacteria in tissue. Dye will stick to Gram-positive bacteria, coloring them bright violet. Gram-negative bacteria won’t hold the dye as well, so they will only show up as faint pink.

According to a 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:

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

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

It seems that theCannabidiol seems to show promise as a versatile antimicrobial agent.

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

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

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

Cannabidiol appears to kill many harmfulbacteria.

  • MRSA,which causes an estimated 323,700 hospital cases and 10,600 deaths per year
  • Clostridioidez difficile, which causes an estimated 223,900 hospital cases and 12,800 deaths per year
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes an estimated 900,000 people and kills 3,600 per year
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which infects an estimated 550,000 people per year

These numbers come from the 2019 CDC report Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States.

MRSA, in particular, appears to have a much harder time mustering resistance against CBD than against antibiotics. The 2021 study measured drug resistance by growing MRSA in petri dishes and measuring the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), or amount of substance needed to kill all the bacteria in the dish.

“The antibiotic daptomycin’s MIC increased over 20 days. The MRSAbacteria developed so much drug resistance that it took 26 times the original amount of daptomycin to kill it.”

“Cannabidiol’s MIC only increased by 1.5. MRSA barely developed resistance against the drug.”

It is not avoiding resistance just because it is new to the battlefield. It is harder for thebacteria to adapt to howCBD functions.

Drug-resistantbacteria prevent antibiotics from entering their cells. Antibiotic-fighting tactics are common.

  • Changing the cell walls to prevent the antibiotic from entering.
  • The antibiotics are destroyed by creating enzymes.
  • Building pumps to flush out antibiotics.

“It doesn’t need to enter the bacteria to kill it. It attacks the cells of thebacteria, popping them like water balloons. The way animal and plant cells do is not defined by the types of cells that are in them. Their guts are like a soup that spills out into the void when something breaks the membranes.”

But some traditional antibiotics, like penicillin, also kill bacteria by destroying their membranes. Further research may help experts determine which specific molecules CBD targets and why CBD appears more effective than antibiotics at breaking down certain kinds of bacterial membranes.

Despite this encouraging lab performance, CBD is far from ready to be used as antimicrobial treatment in the real world. This substance has a major weakness that keeps it from becoming a miracle drug: It binds to protein very easily.

When CBD enters your bloodstream, most of it will latch on to proteins in your plasma. CBD doesn’t kill human proteins like it does germs, but it does become “glued” to those cells. Only 10 to 14 percent of CBD will remain floating free and available to attack bacteria. Even if the CBD does reach the site of the infection, other tempting proteins might lure it away.

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

But research continues

Scientists are studying ways to take advantage of the potential of the drug. There are possibilities of using formulas to transport CBD directly to the bacteria in an infection or syntheticCBD that ignores human proteins and focuses only on attacking thebacteria.

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

While the current use of CBD gummies can not treat infections, it is possible that you could take an antimicrobial gummy in the future.

You may not be able to use it to its fullest potential. You might notice some benefits when using the drug.

A few helpful reminders before you try CBD:

  • There are many forms of candiol, including creams, lozenges, and pens. All of these products have different potencies, so you need to follow the instructions for each product.
  • Federal law allows cannabis products with a small amount of the drug. Products with higher levels of the drug are illegal in some states.
  • “The FDA doesn’t regulateCannabidiol products. Products that have undergone third-party laboratory testing are ideal for quality control.”

“The ability of the drug to kill certain types ofbacteria is known as theCannabidiol. It won’t replace antibiotics anytime soon.”

It is necessary for experts to conduct more research to determine howCannabidiol works in the human body before they can use it for infections.

Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA 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 her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.