Antibiotic resistance is growing to alarmingly high levels all across the globe, could cannabis stop it in its tracks?
Antibiotics are considered to be one of the greatest medical advancements of all time. If it weren’t for antibiotics, humans would still be dying of pneumonia and succumbing to deadly infections from a simple cut on the hand. However, bacteria are becoming immune to the effects of these medications which is leading to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality.
Many researcher are turning back to mother earth to find a solution and recent studies show cannabis has the ability to kill certain bacteria and potentially treat infections that have developed resistance to other medications.
What is Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is somewhat self-explanatory. Overtime, bacteria developed various mechanisms that changed the way they respond to antibacterial medications. Numerous different infections – including tuberculosis, pneumonia, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, foodborne pathogens, and others – are becoming more difficult, and sometimes impossible to treat.
The biggest factors contributing to antibiotic resistance are said to be the misuse and overuse of these medications. In many countries, no prescription is needed to get antibiotics, but even when they do need to be obtained from a doctor, misuse can occur. A lot of people make the mistake of discontinuing use once they’re feeling better, but the bacteria might not get killed entirely and can begin to morph if they don’t complete the entire round of treatment.
A well-known type of resistant bacteria is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This group of gram-positive bacteria are genetically unique from other strains of staph infection. MRSA is responsible for many hard-to-treat infections, many of which can be deadly for immunocompromised individuals.
Cannabis – The Ancient Antibiotic
Cannabis has been used medicinally for centuries – as an antiseptic, antibiotic, sedative, pain reliever, and more. And it was widespread even back then, with evidence of its use discovered in Europe, Egypt, Africa, and South America – to name just to name a few locations.
It was used as both an internal and topical remedy and was often the front-line treatment for many different illnesses. In the past, it’s been used to treat various bacterial infections such as gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and sepsis. There is further evidence from the mid-1800s that certain bacteria that caused tetanus and cholera were treated successfully with raw hemp resin.
For more information on the historical therapeutic uses of cannabis, I urge you to read ‘Hemp as a Medicine’, written by professors Dr. J. Kabalik and Dr. F. Santavy from Palacky University in the Czech Republic.
In addition to the ancient evidence, there is a great deal of research from the last few decades on the use of cannabis for treating infections and antibiotic resistance. In a 2008 study, researchers successfully treated MRSA with a combination of all five major cannabinoids – Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabinol (CBN) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Back in 1981, scientists discovered that CBC and CBG were effective at treating moderate antibacterial infections. Even further back in 1976, researchers found that dose as small as 1-5 micrograms per milliliter of THC successfully killed streptococci and staphylococci.
Overall, these studies indicate that cannabinoids have no effect of gram negative bacteria such as E coli and salmonella, but gram-positive bacteria like the infamous MRSA strain can be killed by the right combination of plant compounds.
So, can cannabis be used successfully as an antibiotic? Yes. Can it help solve the problem of antibiotic resistance that is taking the world by storm? Possibly. More studies need to be done to determine this but it looks promising. Let’s hope research in this area becomes more robust over the next few years so we can stop this problem before it reaches epidemic proportions.