Medical Research

Can CBD Fight Viruses?

Written by Lydia Kariuki

Recently, researchers from the UK and Italy conducted a systematic review to establish if there is sufficient evidence on the antiviral properties of CBD.[1]

Three studies were included in this review of three different viruses:

Hepatitis Virus

  • One study investigated the potential benefits of CBD in treating Hepatitis C (HCV) and Hepatitis B (HBV) viruses.
  • CBD had no effect on HBV; however, it showed significant inhibitory effects (86.4%) on the HCV replication
    • Compared to a common treatment for HCV, CBD was as effective and at the same time less toxic to healthy cells; but, when compared to a more recent antiviral, CBD was less effective and more cytotoxic (damaging to cells).

Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus

  • Kaposi sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that mostly affects people living with AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy is commonly used to treat this condition and clear up the lesions.
  • The researchers observed the progression of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV) and noted that CBD slowed down the viral infection and inhibited the development of cancers linked to KSHV.

Theiler’s Murine Encephalomyelitis Virus

  • The third study investigated the potential of CBD in treating Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV); they used a pre-clinical model to study paralysis and multiple sclerosis symptoms.
  • CBD relieved neuroinflammation and consequently improved motor function, with greater effects over the long term; however, no antiviral effects were found.

Anti-viral Claims

  • The researchers looked at content on 24 web sites that mentioned claims for viruses like oral and genital herpes, among others
    • These claims were unsubstantiated and did not include scientific evidence to back them up
  • Anecdotal self-reported antiviral effects appeared to be explained by CBD’s anti-inflammatory, not anti-viral, properties

So, can CBD fight viruses?

It appears that there is potential in the case of HCV and Kaposi’s sarcoma but these data are very limited considering only three studies that evaluated different viruses were reviewed. Greater research, preferably in humans, will be key to better understanding its effects on these viruses and others. It would also be of interest to study CBD in relation to other cannabinoids as well as terpenes and their potential combined effects on viruses.

Image Credit: Arek Socha

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  1. Mabou Tagne A, et al. Cannabidiol for viral diseases: hype or hope? Cannabis and cannabinoid research. 2020;5(2):121-131.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki