Weed Has A ‘Hidden Antibiotic Potential’ And Can Defeat Feared Superbugs

Bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA, multidrug resistant bacteria Image: Shutterstock

A chemical found in cannabis can destroy a feared superbug and could save thousands of lives, scientists have claimed.

A team from McMaster University in Canada have found that a cannabinoid compound in weed called cannabigerol (CBG) can defeat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

This bug is resistant to many traditional antibiotics but has now been shown to effectively treat MRSA in mice. The cannabinoid is non-psychoactive, which means it won’t get you high.

‘In this study, we investigated 18 commercially available cannabinoids and they all showed antibiotic activity, some much more than others,’ said Eric Brown, professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster.

‘The one we focused on was a non-psychoactive cannabinoid called CBG, as it had the most promising activity. We synthesized that cannabinoid in mass quantity which gave us sufficient compound to go deep into the research.’

The research team found that CBG stopped bacteria forming biofilms – the name for communities of microorganisms that grow on surfaces – by targetting the microscopic killers’ cell membranes.

‘CBG proved to be marvellous at tackling pathogenic bacteria,’ Brown added. ‘The findings suggest real therapeutic potential for cannabinoids as antibiotics. ‘It opens a therapeutic window, but a narrow one, to develop this into a drug. ‘The next steps are to try to make the compound better in that it is more specific to the bacteria and has a lower chance of toxicity.’

The Brown lab has been studying the antibiotic potential of cannabis for two years since the legalization of marijuana in Canada.

‘This research became top of mind for us, in part, because we are in Canada,’ Brown continued. ‘There has been some stigma of investing in this kind of research, but there’s increasing anecdotal evidence of the medicinal use of cannabis. The stigma seems to be waning.’

In a separate piece of research, scientists recently found a new chemical in weed that could be more than 30 times stronger than THC – the herb’s famous ‘active ingredient’ that’s responsible for getting people stoned.

In a new report published in the respected journal Scientific Reports, researchers said they had isolated a substance which shares the ‘intoxicant activity of cannabis’. However, it is much more potent than THC. Describing the ‘novel compound’, the researchers wrote: ‘In the cannabinoid tetrad pharmacological test, 9-THCP induced hypomotility, analgesia, catalepsy and decreased rectal temperature indicating a THC-like cannabimimetic activity.’

What this means is that mice that were fed the chemical slowed their movements, became less active, felt lower levels of pain and went into a trance-like state. The stoned rodents also experienced a drop in the internal temperature of their bottom – which is not generally acknowledged to be the most popular effect of weed among the humans who choose to smoke it.

The new cannabis compound showed a ‘THC-like cannabimimetic activity’, which means it works a bit like THC and causes the afore-mentioned symptoms of being baked. It’s been called tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP).

Scientists tested how the cannabis chemical ‘binds’ with human cannabinoid receptors. The super-strong compound was found to be 33 times more active than THC. However, the exact effect on the human body is not known.

Scientists also recently discovered 16 different species of bees that gather pollen from cannabis plants.

A team of researchers went out into weed fields on farms in the state of New York armed with bug-catching nets. They found huge numbers of bees thriving around marijuana plants, which are a ‘newly introduced and rapidly expanding crop in the American agricultural landscape’.

The bees are unlikely to get too buzzing when romping around the weed fields because the plants are actually hemp crops and therefore have lower levels of THC. Rather than being rolled into massive joints and blazed in style of Bob Marley, material harvested from the hemp crops is used to produce fibre, grains and cannabidiol (CBD) – a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid produced by female hemp plants that is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy and also as a herbal supplement.

A report on the canna-bees suggested weed fields could help to sustain bees during seasons where they are ‘resource-limited’ and can’t find enough pollen.

The recent federal legalization and agricultural expansion of industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa, may influence the spatial and temporal distribution of pollen resources for bee communities in the United States. Industrial hemp offers a unique floral resource to bees in agricultural landscapes.

Hemp flowers late in the summer releasing an abundance of pollen during a period of native and agricultural floral dearth. As a result, hemp pollen may offer a vital subsistence resource to bees at a point in the season when they are resource-limited.

It’s illegal to grow weed at home in New York, but hemp can be commercially grown. Obviously, farmers need to keep an eye on THC levels in their crop because they risk arrest if their ganja turns out to be psychoactive. But they don’t need to worry about harming bees.

‘The presence of cannabinoids, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in hemp pollen is not likely to have an impact on bee development due to the loss of cannabinoid receptors in insects,’ the authors added. This means bees can’t get stoned because they lack the receptors found in herbalist humans.