In recent years, there has been growing interest and research into the potential antimicrobial and antiviral effects of cannabinoids like CBD and CBG. Many plants are renowned for their properties in defending from or killing microbes. For example, the tea tree plant produces oils which can kill bacteria and fungi. Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, have a role in combating viral and bacterial infections. For example, promising new research is showing a direct ability of cannabinoids in hemp to prevent infection from the COVID-19 virus. Let’s take a look at the antimicrobial abilities of cannabinoids, explore their effects in fighting viruses, examine scientific studies on their antiviral effects, explore potential therapeutic uses, and understand more about the future of cannabinoids in antiviral therapy.
- 1 Understanding Cannabinoids
- 2 Are Cannabinoids Antiviral and Antimicrobial?
- 3 Antiviral Benefits of CBD and CBG
- 4 Future Research
- 5 Challenges and Potential Risks
- 6 Conclusion
Cannabinoids, such as CBG (cannabigerol) and CBD (cannabidiol), are chemical compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in promoting immune function, plus homeostasis and other processes including mood, homeostasis and memory formation.
Hemp (i.e. cannabis sativa) contains more than a hundred different cannabinoid compounds and many other minor Phyto cannabinoids. Each of these has different pharmacology, effects and benefits in the body and for the immune system in particular. Not all are useful from a therapeutic standpoint or help fight microbes, but some such as CBG or CBD are powerful in this capacity.
How They Work
Cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body including the immune system such as lymph nodes and macrophage cells. CB2 receptors are particularly found in the immune system. Some, like CBD and CBG, help modulate the immune response via this path and can help in lowering inflammation plus supporting anti-microbial activity. Research into the therapeutic power of cannabinoids is still ongoing, and scientists are continuously uncovering new ways in which these compounds can influence human health.
While cannabinoids have primarily been associated with the treatment of chronic conditions such as pain and inflammation, emerging research suggests that they may also have antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. The most promising in this category are CBD, CBG and CBDA, each of which has a number of important clinical studies documenting their potent abilities to destroy or hamper harmful microbes. The interaction between cannabinoids and viruses or other microbes is complex and multifaceted.
Studies have shown that some cannabinoids can disrupt the replication and spread of certain viruses. One theory is that they inhibit the ability of viruses to enter host cells by interfering with viral envelope proteins or viral receptor binding. This interference disrupts the viruses’ ability to establish infection and replicate within the host. Viruses directly ‘take over’ cells to replicate, in the process destroying them and causing damage to the body. By intervening in their ability to do this, cannabinoids offer preventative mechanisms in lowering the risk of viral infections from occurring or spreading.
Cannabinoids like CBG and CBDA are also known to help in boosting the immune response. In particular they help the immune system signal accurately and effectively. Some cannabinoids help with T-cell signalling in identifying foreign bodies that need to be removed, while others support macrophage cells and other immune cells in functioning. They’ve also been shown to alter the production of inflammatory agents like cytokines, prostaglandins and TNF-Alpha, each of which causes inflammation in the body when infections occur. Modulating these factors can help to reduce the inflammation caused by viral infections. It can help alleviate symptoms and improve the immune system’s ability to combat pathogens.
Several viruses have shown susceptibility to the effects of cannabinoids. One of the most extensively studied viruses in this context is HIV. Research suggests that cannabinoids may have the potential to inhibit HIV replication and reduce the viral load in infected individuals. Simultaneously they help lower the extensive inflammatory response the virus causes. This finding opens up possibilities for developing novel therapeutic approaches to combat this devastating virus.
HIV/AIDS is a global health crisis, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the standard treatment. However, some studies have suggested that cannabinoids, when used in conjunction with ART, may have additional benefits. Cannabinoids have shown potential in reducing neuropathic pain, increasing appetite, and improving overall quality of life for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to HIV, cannabinoids have also shown promise in combating other viral infections such as hepatitis. Studies have indicated that cannabinoids can suppress hepatitis viral replication and reduce liver inflammation associated with the infection. CBD in particular was shown to have this property, inhibiting HCV replication by 86% in the study. This potential therapeutic avenue could provide new options for managing hepatitis infections and improving patient outcomes.
Hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, affects millions of people worldwide. Pharmacological treatments are available; however, they can have significant side effects and limited success rates. Some studies have explored the potential of cannabinoids as adjunctive therapy for hepatitis C, with promising results in reducing liver inflammation and improving treatment outcomes. However, more research is needed to determine optimal dosages and treatment regimens.
Furthermore, cannabinoids have demonstrated antiviral activity against herpes viruses, including herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. These viruses cause common infections such as cold sores and genital herpes. By inhibiting viral replication and reducing inflammation, cannabinoids may offer a new approach to managing these recurrent viral infections.
COVID and Respiratory Viruses
Respiratory viruses such as influenza and coronaviruses, have also been targeted in studies exploring the antiviral applications of cannabinoids. Preliminary studies suggest that cannabinoids such as CBG and CBDA possess antiviral properties against these respiratory pathogens but individual responses can vary significantly.
CBG and CBDA were shown to ‘bind’ to the spike protein structure of the COVID-19 virus, stopping it from binding with cells and attacking them to replicate. The study from Oregon State University also indicated that these cannabinoids had high bioavailability (easily absorbed and used by the body) as well as being very safe for use. Importantly they functioned to stop SARS-CoV2 alpha and beta variants, plus may even help combat delta and omicron COVID types. They are thought to help both in preventing infection as well as treating those who are already affected by COVID.
Understanding the intricacies of how cannabinoids interact with respiratory viruses has become a pressing priority for scientists worldwide. The urgency to find effective treatments for respiratory infections has fueled a surge in research, with experts pooling their knowledge and resources to unlock the full potential of cannabinoids.
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for effective antiviral treatments. While cannabinoids are not a standalone solution, some researchers believe they may play a role in managing the disease. Cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and cytokine storm, a severe immune response associated with severe COVID-19 cases. Further research is ongoing to investigate cannabinoids’ potential as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.
Multiple cannabinoids and terpenes display the ability to neutralise bacteria and bacterial infections. For example, CBG has antimicrobial effects. It even can fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like MRSA. A study from Canada demonstrated this effect within mice, opening up the pathway for further research and development towards human trials. CBG can weaken the MRSA bacteria’s protective outer layer, helping antibiotics penetrate bacterial cells and destroy them before they can replicate further and take hold in the body. MRSA is a serious issue due to rapidly becoming more and more resistant to new and ever more powerful antibiotic drugs, creating a major problem for hospitals and susceptible immune-compromised patients. A single infection or exposure can be deadly in many individuals. While cannabinoids like CBG may not be enough to fight the bacteria on their own, in combination with other treatments or antibiotics they have the potential to amplify the efficacy of the combined treatment and improve patient outcomes. It may be the next tier of defence needed against deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains like golden staph and MRSA.
Terpenes as Antimicrobials
Other compounds found in cannabis offer added benefits in bolstering immunity and helping to build the immune system’s resilience to infections. Terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll and other antioxidants that hemp is rich in provide support for immune cells against viruses and bacteria. Terpenes are unique in their ability to stimulate the ‘entourage effect’ in the body via the CB2 receptors. This effect enhances the efficacy of other compounds like CBG and CBN in the body, improving their take-up and immune-supporting effectiveness. Terpenes can be found in many plants like lavender and tea trees and form part of a plant’s defence mechanism against insects or bacteria. This explains why similar terpenes in cannabis have powerful antimicrobial effects in humans.
Reducing Inflammation from Infections
It’s common for infections from viruses or bacteria to cause significant inflammation. This is the body’s natural response to foreign bodies or infections. However excessive inflammatory activity is detrimental and can damage tissue or our health. Anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids like CBG not only assist with immunity but also help with the inflammatory chaos that infections cause. For example, in severe COVID cases, rampant inflammation can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular issues or even death. This is known as a cytokine storm where the body’s inflammatory response runs out of control and becomes acutely dangerous. Mitigating these types of reactions from viruses or other pathogens is critical to avoiding the more detrimental health outcomes they can lead to.
As researchers continue to unravel the mysteries surrounding cannabinoids’ antiviral and antibacterial effects, the scientific community remains hopeful that these natural compounds could hold the key to a new era of antiviral therapy. The journey to fully harnessing the power of cannabinoids is ongoing, with each study and breakthrough bringing us closer to a future where viral infections can be effectively combated.
Continued research and clinical trials are crucial for understanding the full potential of cannabinoids in antiviral therapy. Large-scale clinical trials are needed to determine the optimal dosages, treatment regimens, and potential side effects of cannabinoids in different viral infections.
The importance of understanding and unlocking the antibacterial powers of cannabis can’t be understated. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, the use of CBA and CBG as alternatives to antibiotics may see increased research, funding and clinical trials. As an added advantage these cannabinoids don’t cause harmful side effects and issues such as gut microbiome disruption that antibiotics do or contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. They’re also highly bioavailable and quickly absorbed.
In the future, we may see cannabinoid topicals developed that can be used to treat skin infections and viral or bacterial conditions on the surfaces of wounds. Surgeries and doctors may look at prescribing CBD products for everyday infections or viruses. They might be used to help cover and treat wounds, both for their antibacterial properties as well as being able to soothe inflammation and reduce pain.
As research in this field progresses, the possibilities for utilizing cannabinoids in antiviral therapy are vast. The development of targeted cannabinoid-based therapeutics with specific antiviral properties may significantly improve treatment approaches for viral infections. However, it is crucial to approach these possibilities with careful consideration, scientific rigour, and ethical responsibility.
Challenges and Potential Risks
There are various challenges and potential risks associated with utilizing cannabinoids in antiviral therapy. Regulatory barriers and public perception need to be addressed to ensure widespread acceptance and availability of cannabinoid-based treatments. Additionally, the potential for drug interactions and adverse effects must be thoroughly studied to ensure safety.
In conclusion, the antiviral effects of cannabinoids are a fascinating area of research. While our understanding of their potential in antiviral therapy is still evolving, early studies and recent breakthroughs indicate promising outcomes. Further research and clinical trials will determine the extent of cannabinoids’ efficacy, dosages, and treatment regimens. The future of cannabinoids in antiviral therapy holds both challenges and exciting possibilities, shaping the way we combat viral infections in the years to come.