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cbd oil and antibiotics

Antibiotics and CBD Oil: Safe to Take Together?

Written by Jason Brett — Edited by Cathy Rozyczko on April 1, 2021 — Reviewed by Sarah Neidler, PHD

With new health benefits constantly being discovered, CBD oil has been one of the most exciting medical developments of this century. But almost 100 years before cannabidiol came into the spotlight, antibiotics completely revolutionized medicine and have held their place as a staple of healthcare since.

Together, could this combination be a powerful dream team? Or a match made in hell?

People around the world take CBD oil for a range of conditions; whether for sleep, mood, muscle repair, pain relief, or inflammation control, it can become an important part of your daily routine. Understandably then, if you are told you need to take antibiotics, you’ll want to know whether you can continue to use CBD oil.

Understanding the potential advantages and disadvantages of using CBD oil in conjunction with antibiotics will help you to make an informed decision on how best to carry out your treatment. But as always, this article serves only to educate and should not be substituted for medical advice. Always consult your doctor before using CBD oil with antibiotics.

CBD Oil and Antibiotic Interaction

CBD oil is widely considered to be a safe product that is well tolerated by the majority of people and carries a low risk for side effects. However, when combined with certain pharmaceutical medications, care must be taken. This is due to the relationship between CBD oil and the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system.

Located in the liver, the P-450 system contains more than 50 enzymes that help your body break down toxins. Many common medications are processed through this system, though common antibiotics like penicillins are actually inhibitors of this system as well. The only antibiotics processed by the P-450 system are clarithromycin (Biaxin) and erythromycin.

If you’re taking either of these antibiotics, CBD oil could slow down the time it takes your body to process them in what is referred to as the ‘grapefruit effect.’ (Grapefruit also inhibits the P-450 system.) This inhibition increases the amount of time the medication’s active ingredient is present in your system, and can make it more likely that you’ll experience side effects.

Generally speaking, it isn’t necessarily unsafe to take CBD oil and antibiotics together, but it’s important to understand how the combination could affect you. So, talk to your doctor before you begin using CBD oil and antibiotics together. You can also consult a naturopathic doctor who specializes in using cannabidiol to treat certain medical conditions.

Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil and Antibiotics Together

CBD oil and antibiotics both fight infection, but they don’t do it in the same manner.

While different types of antibiotics vary in their method of fighting infection, they all have a general function: targeting the elements of bacterial cells that aren’t present in human cells. This is an incredibly thorough method of fighting infection; it wipes the slate clean, so to speak, destroying all bacteria in the body, even the good bacteria (probiotics) that keep your gut healthy. Your medication will also exclude any bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

CBD oil has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, making it another tool for fighting infection. While we don’t yet understand how CBD oil fights bacteria, studies have confirmed that this is the case, and that it is particularly useful in attacking bacteria that have become resistant to traditional antibiotics.

One such study investigated how various cannabinoids, including CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affect pathogenic bacteria. Each cannabinoid was tested against six strains of the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA. All of the cannabinoids showed “potent activity” against the bacterium, with researchers noting that “activity was exceptional against some of these strains, in particular, the multidrug-resistant (MDR) SA-1199B” and also “against EMRSA-15 and EMRSA-16, the major epidemic methicillin-resistant S. aureus strains occurring in U.K. hospitals.” In other words, cannabidiol was proven to be effective at fighting one of the most treatment-resistant strains of bacteria medicine has seen.

If you can get the dosages right, using CBD oil with antibiotics can offer a powerful, two-pronged approach to fighting bacteria-generated illnesses. Or, after consulting your doctor, you may choose to try using a high-concentration CBD product on its own to fight infection at first. This will preserve the good bacteria in your body and may help reduce the growing number of treatment-resistant bacteria in the world today, which come as a result of unnecessary and incorrect usage of antibiotics.

Side Effects of Using CBD Oil with Antibiotics

As mentioned above, CBD oil may slow down your ability to metabolize clarithromycin (Biaxin) and erythromycin. It’s important to note here that these two antibiotics can be prescribed on their own and may also be included in medications that contain a mixture of antibiotics. This is why it’s important you read your labels and consult your physician.

Since CBD slows the breakdown of these antibiotics, your chances of experiencing their side effects could increase.

If combining CBD oil and clarithromycin, you might be more likely to experience side effects like:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Weakness
  • Stomach Pain

If combining CBD oil and erythromycin, you could have a higher chance of experiencing side effects like:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Liver disease
  • Muscle weakness

CBD Oil for Side Effects of Antibiotics

Antibiotics have saved hundreds of millions of lives since penicillin was first discovered in 1928, but they come with some side effects, too.

Until CBD oil’s antimicrobial effects are better understood, its greatest use in combination with antibiotics may be mitigating their side effects.

Generic Name Common Side Effects CBD Oil
Amoxicillin Nausea; vomiting; stomach pain Combats nausea and vomiting and reduces the experience of pain
Azithromycin Nausea; vomiting; stomach pain Combats nausea and vomiting and reduces the experience of pain
Clindamycin Nausea; vomiting; joint pain Combats nausea and vomiting and reduces the experience of joint pain associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
Cephalexin Nausea; vomiting; stomach pain Combats nausea and vomiting and reduces the experience of pain

Because CBD oil has properties that counter the most common side effects of antibiotics, many people report that when combining the two, they don’t experience any side effects at all. While this is only anecdotal, it is certainly worth considering.

Best CBD Oils to Use with Antibiotics

If you are using CBD oil and need to take a course of antibiotics, speak to a medical professional to discuss the best way forward. Once you have the thumbs-up from your physician, it’s time to choose your CBD product!

To make sure you’re shopping with high-quality CBD oils brands, look for third-party lab testing and Certificates of Analysis. Certificates of Analysis give you the chance to see exactly what is in your CBD product, especially in the way of potency and safety. Finding an organic CBD product will further ensure you’re getting premium CBD oil without any dangerous pesticides or herbicides.

You may also want to think about the method you’ll use to take CBD. If, for example, you have a chest infection, you may feel more comfortable taking your CBD oil in capsule form as opposed to using a vape pen. Explore what your CBD brand of choice has to offer, and reach out to them for the most accurate information about how long it will take the effects to set in, and how long they will last for.

CBD Oil Dosage

Because the amount of CBD oil required to show effects depends on a number of factors like your metabolism, age, and weight, there is no one dose that can be applied across the board.

It’s best to start with the lowest recommended amount that appears on your product. From there, the dose can be adjusted up or down as needed. With no significant side effects, no intoxicating effects, and no risk for overdose or addiction, you confidently experiment with dosage and concentration until you find what works best for you.

For advice on how to find the right dose, check out our dosage guide.

If you found this article helpful you may also be interested in:

While CBD oil is generally considered safe, is it okay to use while on antibiotics? Get the answer here.

CBD as a Superbug Antibiotic?

June 24, 2019 — Cannabidiol, or CBD, already being researched and used for anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and pain, may be the next superbug fighter for resistant infections, a new study suggests.

The researchers tested CBD against a wide variety of bacteria, ”including bacteria that have become resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics,” says Mark Blaskovich, PhD, senior research officer at the Centre for Superbug Solutions at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia.

The development is important, as antibiotic resistance is reaching dangerously high levels, according to the World Health Organization.

What the Research Shows

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound taken from cannabis and hemp; it does not produce the high that regular marijuana does. To date, the FDA has only approved CBD for treating rare and severe forms of seizure, although it is promoted for many other health benefits.

Blaskovich presented the research Sunday at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting. The research includes work in test tubes and animal models. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

“The first thing we looked at is CBD’s ability to kill bacteria,” he says. “In every case, CBD had a very similar potency to that of common antibiotics.”

The researchers tested the CBD against some strains of staphylococcus, which cause skin infections, and streptococcus, which cause strep throat.

They compared how effective CBD was compared to common antibiotics, such as vancomycin and daptomycin. “We looked at how quickly the CBD killed the bacteria. It’s quite fast, within 3 hours, which is pretty good. Vancomycin (Vancocin) kills over 6 to 8 hours.”

The CBD also disrupted the biofilm, the layer of ”goop” around bacteria that makes it more difficult for the antibiotic to penetrate and kill.

Finally, the lab studies showed that “CBD is much less likely to cause resistance than the existing antibiotics,” Blaskovich says.

The CBD ”is selective for the type of bacteria,” he says.

He found it effective against gram-positive bacteria but not gram-negative. Gram-positive bacteria cause serious skin infections and pneumonia, among other conditions. Gram-negative bacteria include salmonella (found in undercooked foods) and E. coli (the cause of urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and other ailments), among other bacteria.

In another study, also presented at the meeting, the researchers tested topical CBD to treat a skin infection on mice. It cut the number of bacteria after 48 hours, Blaskovich says, although it did not clear the infection. That research is ongoing.

How It Might Work, Caveats

The researchers can’t say exactly how the CBD may prove to be a superbug infection fighter. “We thought it might work by damaging the outer membrane of the bacteria, to make it leaky,” Blaskovich says. “It doesn’t seem to do that. It might be a completely new mechanism of action.”

He says the research results are promising but in early stages. He also warns people that it’s much too early to self-treat infections with CBD.

The study was funded by Botanix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which is researching uses of CBD for skin conditions, and the Australian government. Blaskovich is a consultant for Botanix.

Perspective

Brandon Novy, a microbiology researcher at Reed College in Portland, OR, calls the study findings ”very promising,” since the results show the bacteria were not able to form resistance to the CBD, and since the bacteria were not able to form a biofilm.

Both findings are important. “The biofilm is an important part of the whole infection process,” he says. “It helps the bacteria attach [to whatever surface or host] and survive.”

At the same meeting, Novy presented a preliminary study, finding that CBD also looks promising to fight some gram-negative infections.

“It is an important study that deserves to be followed up on,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

He was not involved in the new study. But he cautions that ”it is important to keep it all in context. I think it is a good thing that people are looking at the use of CBD for infectious uses in a systematic way.”

But the work so far is only in test tubes and animals. Many question remain, such as looking at whether it is toxic, doses, and the best way to deliver the CBD, Adalja says. He, too, cautions against self-treating with CBD for infections.

Sources

Amesh Adalja, MD, infectious disease specialist and senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

American Society for Microbiology annual meeting, June 23, 2019, San Francisco.

Mark Blaskovich, PhD, senior research officer, Centre for Superbug Solutions, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia.

Brandon Novy, microbiology researcher, Reed College, Portland, OR.

World Health Organization: “Antibiotic Resistance,” Feb. 5, 2018.

The researchers tested the CBD against some strains of staphylococcus, which cause skin infections, and streptococcus, which cause strep throat.