We're smack-bang in the middle of cold and cough season, and with news about a mysterious and deadly new virus from China hitting the headlines, it's no wonder Americans are seeking alternative therapies for the flu.
You've heard about the health benefits of cannabis a thousand times over — it can fight pain, reduce stress, and curb social anxiety. But can cannabinoids — the naturally-occurring chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant — actually fight superbugs and combat the flu? Let's jump into the science.
First, let's examine superbugs themselves. What are they, and how did they come to be? Superbugs are bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
Antibiotic resistance is far more common than you think, and, unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to stop it. This is because, in order to survive, bacteria adapt to the drugs designed to kill them, making antibiotics less effective (or completely ineffective!).
So, if antibiotics can't kill these bacteria, what can?
Just earlier this year, scientists screened five different cannabis compounds for their antibiotic properties. Surprisingly, one of these compounds, cannabigerol (CBG), killed MRSA, one of the most common superbugs found in hospitals.
Every year, around 90,000 Americans catch an invasive MRSA infection. Research shows that nearly 20,000 people in the United States die from this infection — and many of these people are children.
In a separate study, scientists discovered that CBG cured mice of MRSA infections. This result was similar to a drug called Vancomycin, often prescribed as a final measure against drug-resistant microbes. (The ACS Infectious Diseases journal is currently reviewing this study.)
Could cannabis be the medical breakthrough scientists are looking for? And could it kill other superbugs, too?
It's important to note that the compounds CBD and CBG could potentially fight superbugs, and not cannabis itself. CBD and CBG are non-intoxicating compounds from the cannabis plant that don't produce the same high as marijuana can.
The FDA has already approved CBD for treating some forms of seizure, and you can use CBG legally if it id derived from hemp. Scientists now believe these compounds could fight the superbugs that are common at this time of the year.
In both of the above studies, researchers looked at how long it took cannabis compounds to kill bacteria — and it was fast. CBG, for example, acted within around three hours, three to five hours faster than the drug Vancomycin. Researchers also found that CBG disrupted the biofilm around bacteria — the layer that's hard for regular antibiotics to penetrate.
This isn't a recent discovery. Cannabis ingredients have shown promise in battling superbugs for more than ten years now, and scientists have known that cannabis contains antibacterial substances for even longer. However, with harder evidence, medical professionals are finally taking cannabis seriously when it comes to antibiotic resistance, and this could have a positive impact on many lives.
We've already talked about how cannabis could potentially cure the common cold, but this new research about superbugs is even more encouraging. While cannabis is not a silver bullet, cannabinoids could fight superbugs and keep you healthy in the future.