Cannabis: The 21st Century’s New Antibiotic?
At a recent congressional hearing on the dangers of antibiotic resistance and “superbugs”, Dr. Beth Bell, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease, told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, “Antibiotic resistance is perhaps the single most important infectious disease threat of our time. Every year, more than two million people in the United States get infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result…Modern medicine is at stake.” 1
The coming antibiotic resistance crisis is not new news. Interestingly, for a very long time scientists have known that the cannabis plant is surprisingly effective at killing “superbugs”. As noted in a 1960 report, Cannabis as a Medicament, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cannabis has been used as an antibiotic since ancient times. The report states, “Experimentally we could evidence the bactericide effect of the substances from cannabis in vitro upon the following gram-positive micro- organisms: Staphylococcus aureus haemolyt, Staphylococcus aureus-resistant to penicillin, Streptococcus alpha, Streptococcus beta haemolyticus, Pneumococcus, Enterococcus, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Bacillus anthracis, Erysipelothrix rhusiopath. A significant antibacterial effect upon the Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro could be observed…” 2
In 2008, Professor Simon Gibbons, head of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry at the University College London School of Pharmacy and Professor Giovanni Appendino from Italy’s Piemonte Orientale University published a study in the Journal of Natural Products that stated they had used cannabis cannabinoids to fight methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, which is a life-threatening source of bacterial infections. Gibbons and Appendino tested cannabinoids on six strains of antibiotic-resistant MRSA and discovered they were as effective as vancomycin, the most powerful antibiotic that is used only after all other antibiotics have failed. In a follow-up article published in MIT Technology Review, Appendino reported that the most promising cannabinoids in their study were non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG). “What this means is, we could use fiber hemp plants that have no use as recreational drugs to cheaply and easily produce potent antibiotics,” 3 he said.
Although this is great news, there’s more work to be done. First of all, the press needs to report the findings. Second, more scientific studies need to occur. There are so many active chemicals in the cannabis plant that scientists need to confirm which cannabinoids are most effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, as well as optimal potency and frequency of the dosage. And that, of course, brings us back to the rescheduling cannabis conversation.
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We’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again: If you’re a political sort, we suggest that you contact your U.S. Congressmen and Senators and ask them to advocate for rescheduling—or even descheduling cannabis—so more scientists can study the plant and its myriad of potential medical benefits. Ask them the question: What is the possible downside of expanding research and learning more about cannabis, a 100% natural substance? And remind them of the upside: improving and possibly even saving human lives.
And oh yeah, you might want to suggest they look into Drs. Gibbons and Appendino’s work. Antibiotics from hemp—how cool is that?
1. CNSNews.com – http://cnsnews.com/news/article/jeannette-richard/cdc-
reports-first- cases-antibiotic- resistant-gene- found-bacteria- us
2. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime –
3. MIT Technology Review – https://www.technologyreview.com/s/410815/a-new-
Journal of Natural Products – http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/np8002673
ABC News – http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=5787866
Global Healthcare – http://www.healthcareglobal.com/hospitals/1800/These-
Professors-Believe- Marijuana-Can- Defeat-Antibiotic- Resistant-Bacteria
Herb – http://herb.co/2016/01/27/marijuana-next- big-antibiotic/
Leaf Science – http://www.leafscience.com/2013/09/18/can-marijuana- combat-
catastrophic-rise- drug-resistant- bacteria/
Reset.me – http://reset.me/story/marijuana-the- super-antibiotic- of-the- future/