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Can CBD replace antibiotics?

Until 2018, it was not easy to get information about CBD. The most recent one that is generating a lot of excitement and anticipation is the possible antimicrobial properties of cannabidiol. It looks like CBD can kill some bacteria, even entire strains resistant to common antibiotics. But experts warn that cannabidiol has its limits and cannot fully replace the treatment. What is the reality?

What bacteria does CBD cut its teeth on?

The concept of "gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria" is unknown. The term comes from the Gram stain protocol, a method used to detect bacteria in tissue. In the test, a dye binds to gram-positive bacteria and stains them a deep purple, while gram-negative bacteria remain light pink.

From study from 2021 shows that a small amount of CBD can kill all gram-positive bacteria. Even those that tend to be resistant to antibiotics.

  • Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph - causes a variety of infections from mild skin and soft tissue inflammation to life-threatening sepsis)
  • Clostridioidez difficile (colon infection)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia and pneumococcal infection or meningitis)

Results for gram-negative bacteria exposed to CBD were not so satisfactory. More than 20 species survived contact. There has not been a significant shift because scientists have not come up with any new class of antibiotics that are effective against this type of bacteria since 1962. On the other hand, research has shown, in a major surprise, that CBD can kill four species of Gram-negative bacteria that do not normally respond to antibiotic treatment and put patients at risk of death.

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea)
  • Neisseria meningitides (meningitis, bloodstream infection)
  • Moraxella catarrhalis (bronchitis)
  • Leigionella pneumophila (Legionnaires' disease)

From the conclusions of the research, it seems that cannabidiol is a versatile helper with antimicrobial properties and could perhaps fully replace antibiotics in some cases. But the researchers warn of a conflict of interest, as the aforementioned 2021 study was funded by a pharmaceutical company that focuses on CBD products, among other things.

But the 2022 study confirmed (even without the conflict of interest) that CBD is effective in fighting the gram-negative bacterium Salmonella typhimurium, which attacks the stomach and intestines. Yet around 59% of Salmonella infections resistant to ampicillin (an antibiotic used to treat Salmonella) are of the genus Typhimurium.

The antimicrobial properties of CBD offer hope. The figures on infections and deaths point to millions of patients, with over 2.8 million people dealing with antibiotic-resistant infections each year and roughly 35,000 of them dying. The results for individual diseases are also frightening.

  • MRSA = Methicillin-resistant golden staph(323,000 infections, over 10,000 deaths)
  • Clostridioidez difficile (223 thousand infections, nearly 13 thousand deaths)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (900 thousand infections, three and a half thousand deaths)
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae (more than half a million infections)

Antibiotics are essential for treating some infections, unfortunately many bacteria are resistant to them.

In the 2021 study, researchers looked at the difference in resistance to MRSA infection in CBD and antibiotics. The experiment was conducted in petri dishes by measuring the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), or the amount of substance needed to kill the bacteria.

The MIC for daptomycin (a strong antibiotic) increased 26-fold over 20 days. This means that the MRSA bacteria developed such resistance in less than three weeks that twenty-six times the original antibiotic dose was needed to kill the infection. CBD fared much better. The level increased only 1.5 times, corresponding to almost zero resistance.

How does CBD fight bacteria?

Scientists are trying to figure out what causes such good results with CBD. It could be the specific way it attacks bacteria.

When antibiotics come into contact, the bacteria defend themselves in three different ways, and the drugs then cannot fully counteract the development of infection.

  • Changing cell walls to prevent antibiotics from penetrating
  • Forming enzymes that destroy antibiotics
  • Systems (called efflux pumps) that flush antibiotics out of bacterial cells faster

But cannabidiol does not need to penetrate the bacteria cell to kill it. It attacks its membranes. These cells do not have organelles like animal or plant cells. Their "guts" resemble soup, and once the CBD disrupts the cell membrane that holds everything together, they dissolve into nothingness. Penicillin has a similar effect.

Further research will likely seek to answer which specific molecules CBD targets and why it is more effective than antibiotics in some cases.

Black dot for CBD

Laboratory tests speak in favor of CBD, but the reality is elsewhere. Cannabidiol cannot replace antibiotics despite its proven antimicrobial properties. This is due to its ability to bind to proteins.

Once CBD enters the bloodstream, it "sticks" to proteins, leaving only 10 to 15% of cannabidiol to kill the infection. The problem is that the cannabinoid spreads too quickly in the body and cannot launch a targeted attack against the bacteria. A higher dose of CBD wouldn't help either. Cannabidiol would react the same way (sticking to the protein) and the patient could experience side effects from ingesting large amounts of CBD, such as nausea, dizziness or lethargy and drowsiness.

Chances for CBD

Scientists, however, continue to explore how CBD could be used in the fight against bacteria. They're trying it in two different ways. The first method involves CBD preparations to deliver cannabidiol to the bacteria in the infection. The second focuses on synthetic CBD and its ability to ignore proteins in the human body and target only bacteria. Ongoing studies suggest that the greatest potential is in nasal sprays and tablets. It's still a distant future, but it's possible that in time patients could be taking, for example, antimicrobial CBD gum.


CBD has the ability to kill certain types of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Even so, its use in treatment is unlikely. More research must be done to prevent cannabidiol from binding to proteins.

Simple and easy:

  1. Hemnia does not want to, nor can it, replace the expert care of your doctor.
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