CBD Oil and Antibiotics

Since the first antibiotics were developed, hundreds of millions of lives have been saved from life-threatening infections. It’s extremely difficult to imagine a modern world without antibiotics. Unfortunately, some antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as bacteria become more resistant. For this reason, scientists worldwide are working hard to develop new classes of antibiotics that could combat these advanced forms of bacteria. But what if the solution everyone is looking for is somewhere right in front of us? Take CBD oil, for example. In this article, we will try to understand firstly the compatibility of CBD and antibiotics, and secondly, whether CBD can one day replace antibiotics. Here we go!

1. Taking CBD and antibiotics together: Is it safe?

When talking about CBD’s possible effect on antibiotics in the course of metabolic processes, it’s very important to consider the P450 system. But what is it? Well, sit back, and let’s get the story started.

Our bodies contain enzymes, proteins that act as catalysts in living organisms, regulating the rate at which chemical reactions occur without changing themselves in the process. Importance of enzymes for the body is hard to overestimate. Without them, many chemical reactions in the body would not proceed at an appreciable rate. Enzymes catalyse all aspects of cellular metabolism, and the human cell contains about 1300 different enzymes. These enzymes, in combination with coenzymes, can form nearly 100,000 different chemicals that allow us to see, hear, feel, move, digest food and think.

The enzyme cytochrome P450 group is one of about 75,000 enzyme groups believed to be present in the human body. This enzyme group is encoded by P450 genes and expressed as membrane-bound proteins, which are mainly found in the endoplasmic reticulum of the liver. They are also present in the small intestine (decreased drug bioavailability), lungs, placenta and kidneys. Many drug interactions are due to altered cytochrome P450 metabolism.

In some of our previous articles, we told you about CBD’s side effects, particularly its medical interactions with different products. CBD may inhibit the cytochrome P450 enzyme. For example, compounds in grapefruit inhibit the same group of enzymes, so doctors advise their patients not to eat grapefruit shortly before or after taking medication. By inhibiting cytochrome P450, CBD can either reduce or enhance the effects of other drugs. This phenomenon is called the “grapefruit effect”.

So, generally speaking, you shouldn’t take CBD and antibiotics together, but it is important to understand how the combination may affect you. We recommend that you talk to your doctor before using CBD and antibiotics together.

2. Can CBD improve the efficacy of antibiotics?

Let’s look at a 2020 study conducted by a group of scientists at the University of Southern Denmark and published in Scientific Reports by Nature. The research involved the characterisation of CBD as a potential auxiliary compound against resistant bacteria in combination with cyclic peptide antibiotic bacitracin or BAC. According to the study, BAC was paired with CBD against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, the main human pathogen that often causes disease, contracted in communities and hospitals. Three things happened to the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria when the researchers treated it with a combination in their study: the bacteria could no longer divide normally, the expression of certain key genes (for cell division and autolysis) in the bacteria was reduced, and the bacterial membrane became unstable. Overuse of antibiotics is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance, according to the researchers. The authors stated that the combination of CBD and antibiotics could be a new treatment for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Yes, the overuse of antibiotics is one of the key factors causing bacteria to become more resistant. In this case, the potential of CBD to reduce the amount of antibiotics needed for treatment can be extremely valuable. In addition, the combination of antibiotics and CBD can inspire scientists to develop innovative treatment strategies. Researchers around the world have confirmed that CBD can have the potential to be quite an effective antimicrobial compound, although the exact mechanism has yet to be discovered.

To sum up, at first glance, the latest research results show that CBD can improve the efficacy of antibiotics. However, there’s still a long way to go to uncover the true benefits of CBD in the context of positive antibiotic results in animals and humans.

3. Understanding antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is the state in which microbes such as bacteria and fungi develop the ability to resist drugs designed to kill them. It occurs when antibiotic-resistant bacteria are free to grow, multiply and cause infections in the host, even when exposed to antibiotics. As a result, certain antibiotics can no longer be used to treat selected infections successfully. This has implications for the treatment of various diseases, prevention times and the duration of recovery. So what do scientists think about antibiotic resistance? Well, there are a number of approaches to combating it. Also, specialists regularly analyse bacteria for their antibiotic resistance (the latest identified antibiotic-resistant bacteria is Ceftazidime-avibactam-resistant KPC-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae, whose resistance was determined in 2015).

Since several labs have pointed to CBD’s potential in killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we should expect more research in this area, especially considering the current global situation with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Let’s now look in more detail at the most recent study at Australia’s University of Queensland conducted by a group of scientists headed by Mark Blaskovich, director of the IMB Centre for Superbug Solutions. The study confirms previous reports and expands the breadth of pathogens tested, including highly resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Clostridioides difficile. Cannabidiol affected not only the spectrum of Gram-positive bacteria, but also the Gram-negative ones, thanks to the new testing.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the key factors in preventing and treating numerous diseases as well as increasing recovery times. Therefore, fully understanding such phenomena and overcoming them could be a huge step forward for global medicine and the treatment of various diseases worldwide.

4. Gram-negative vs. Gram-positive bacteria

All bacteria are not the same and can be divided into two major groups: Gram-negative and Gram-positive. The former turn crystal purple when coloured, while the latter do not.

Gram-negative bacteria appear pale reddish when viewed under a light microscope after Gram staining. This is due to the fact that the structure of their cell wall is unable to retain the crystal violet colour, so they are only stained with the contrasting safranin colour. Examples of Gram-negative bacteria include enterococci, Salmonella species and Pseudomonas species.

Gram-positive bacteria have a characteristic purple colour when observed under a light microscope after Gram staining. This is due to the presence of a purple crystal violet spot in the thick peptidoglycan layer of the cell wall. Examples of Gram-positive bacteria include all staphylococci, all streptococci and some listeria species.

Why is colouring important in identifying bacteria? Well, it allows scientists to quickly identify the cell membranes of bacteria. Unlike their positive counterparts, Gram-negative bacteria have an extra outer membrane and pumps that remove unwanted proteins – two features that can confuse antibiotics, soap and the immune system.

Thanks to the latest findings, we have learned that even some Gram-negative bacteria (believed to be more complex and well-protected) can be targeted by cannabis extracts. According to one of the aforementioned studies, THC, CBD and CBG compounds could all demonstrate promising efficacy.

5. Could CBD oil replace antibiotics?

The first reports on the antibacterial activity of cannabinoids date back to the 1950s. However, given that the plant’s phytochemistry wasn’t well characterised, the possible bactericidal effect of Cannabis sativa could not be directly attributed to a specific component. Then, in 1976, it was discovered that ∆9-THC and CBD can have both bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties against a group of Gram-positive pathogens.

A 2020 study conducted at the University of Melbourne and Monash University was devoted to the antimicrobial activity of cannabinoids. According to the research, as bacteria rapidly develop resistance to existing drugs, cannabinoids can represent a new and exciting possibility as a potential new source of antibiotics.

The aforementioned study underlines the antimicrobial potential of CBD. In it, the researchers mention that CBD may have extraordinarily beneficial antimicrobial activity greater than previously reported, with potential clinical utility for nasal decolonisation.

Another study by an international group of researchers from the University of Eastern Piedmont, the University of London and the Industrial Crops Research Center found that CBD may have effects against pathogenic bacteria.

Despite the apparent evidence of antimicrobial activity and promising lab test results, it is important to point out that there are still no current results from studies in humans and animals, and the question of the possible replacement of antibiotics by CBD oil is likely to be deferred for the next few years.

6. Final thoughts

We definitely recommend that you avoid taking CBD and antibiotics together due to insufficient research. Also, you should consult with a medical professional beforehand if you need advice on dosage, product type, delivery method or any other information about CBD products. CBD is normally well-tolerated when taken in moderate doses, but if you ever feel any unpleasant side effects, you should stop consuming it or reduce your daily dosage.

Keep in mind that you should not use CBD to replace prescribed antibiotics because of the lack of scientific research and lab testing results that would allow the medical community to fully describe and analyse the mechanism of CBD antimicrobial activity. Further research will help produce evidence as to whether the combination of CBD, CBG or THC and antibiotics is safe for animals and humans.

Before you take any CBD product (including oils) with or without antibiotics, it is very important to have a professional consultation with your doctor.

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