Could Cannabis be a ‘super-drug’? A list of herbs and phytochemicals that might help control some emerging super-bugs includes five cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa which are quite active against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Along with this important information about cannabinoids, a quick list of herbs and phytochemicals that have shown promise against MRSA and also methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), as well as some other species are cited herein as ‘anti-Staphylococcus’.
A particularly interesting paper compared the anti-Staphylococcus actions of the principal cannabinoids with pharmaceuticals. Under lead author Giovanni Appendino, the scientists studied four pharmaceuticals against a panel of six strains of Staphylococcus getting a wide spectrum of minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs): erythromycin MIC=0.25->128 ug/ mL; norflaxacin 0.5-128 ug/mL; oxacillin 0.25-128 ug/mL; and tetracycline 0.25-128 ug/ mL. Keeping in mind that the lower the MIC, the more potent the chemical, that makes the cannabinoids look pretty good indeed, with low MICs: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) 0.5-2 ug/mL; cannabidiol (CBD) 0.5-2 ug/mL; cannabinol (CBN) 1 ug/mL; cannabichromene (CBC) 1-2 ug/mL; and cannabigerol (CBG) 1-2 ug/mL (Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A Structure-activity Study). Surprisingly, no one has yet tried to encapsulate some of these in silver nano-particles.
Noted Cannabis researcher Ethan Russo posed the question, “Are Cannabis terpenoids relevant to the effects of Cannabis?” in a paper entitled “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”. Terpenoids are components of essential oils that give a plant (in this case Cannabis) its distinctive scent. Over 200 terpenoids have been identified in Cannabis, but Russo’s paper singles out eight, all of which are widely distributed in the plant world and are GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. They are listed below with examples of common plants that contain them:
- Limonene, found in lemons
- Alpha-pinene, found in pine
- Beta-myrcene, found in hops
- Linalool, found in lavender
- Beta-caryophyllene, found in black pepper
- Caryophyllene oxide, found in lemon balm
- Nerolidol, found in oranges
- Phytol, found in green tea
The study notes while each terpenoid has its own set of pharmacological actions ranging from anti-inflammatory to anxiolytic, they may also act synergistically with cannabinoids to treat various diseases as well as to counteract effects of THC. More to the point, the aromatic component pinene, commonly found in pine as well as in Cannabis, was found to be effective against MRSA. Combined with the powerful anti-MRSA actions of the cannabinoids mentioned above, Cannabis as an anti-MRSA agent is looking better all the time.
Big Pharma, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and FDA once praised antibiotics, often mono-chemical derivatives of fungi, as the wave of the future. That failed future has come and gone! “Better living through (synthetic) chemistry” was an illusion generated by synthetic chemists, failing to appreciate that new synthetics can have many unanticipated side effects. Still today, mono-chemical super-drugs are failing. They say they have nothing new on track for the super-bugs of the future. But there is still hope; the hope resides in our long-used herbs, those herbs the FDA has continuously and studiously tried to brainwash us into believing are useless (corporate crime is rampant in America).
Searching for the new “super-drug” (promising anti-MRSA herbs), via PubMed abstracts back to 2010, Manuka Honey seems very promising. There is no reason known why Manuka should be better than say, American honeys, especially if spiked with the more promising anti-MRSA herbs and phytochemicals listed below. Some synergies may make the combinations “super” i.e., superlative to the mono-chemical antibiotics, slowly or rapidly yielding to drug resistance, which should have been anticipated.
Many of the PubMed abstracts give a relative idea of the potency of anti-MRSA herbal extracts and phytochemicals with the MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) usually, but not always, less than the MBC (minimum bactericidal concentration). Frequently they are compared with the MIC’s and MBC’s of the many antibiotics, some lower, some higher. Most herbal and phytochemical studies are just as reliable as the PubMed pharmaceutical studies. Still some herbalists and phytochemists may be as aggressive and statistically manipulative at over-promoting their beliefs and products as Big Pharma scientists and representatives. They may not even publish the negative points (or may completely leave negative studies unpublished). Too often, like too many Big Pharma scientists, they just publish the data that prove their point and may sell their product. Unbiased clinical comparisons of the natural herbal polychemical alternatives with the mono-chemical synthetics … homoeostatic bias is the herb will usually outperform the synthetic, when cost, efficacy and side effects are all considered.
Many authors compared their species with pharmaceuticals (including ampicillin, azithromycin, carbapenems, ceftazidime, chlorhexidine, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, fluoroquinolones, gentamicin, levofloxacin, methicillin, norfloxacin, oxacillin, tetracycline and vancomycin). Many authors also noted the natural phytochemicals often potentiate the pharmaceuticals, often dramatically so. A warning: this superficial compilation is often based only on PubMed abstracts unless there was a free publication, or PDF’s. In all cases where authors did not cite the potency of their extracts or phytochemicals, it was assumed those extracts or phytochemicals were only modestly anti-MRSA.
If we can believe the PubMed authors the following are some natural phytochemicals which might individually be competitive or synergistically super-competitive with the failing pharmaceuticals with their reported MIC (in ug/mL). But, as someone should have told Big Pharma, using any one of these natural phytochemicals alone to fight a multi-drug resistant (MDR) ailment can rapidly lead to resistance, as in quinine long ago and now artemisinin. Using quinine alone instead of the mix of more than a dozen alkaloids cohabiting with quinine was a BIG mistake. We are better off using many anti-MRSA natural chemicals in synergy to avoid this problem and cannot imagine Big Pharma was not aware that using just one chemical, natural or synthetic, leads to resistance. The more chemicals, natural or synthetic, the less the probability of resistance. But why even bother to synthesise unnatural chemicals unknown to your genes. Your genes know the naturals (at least those consumed by your ancestors), not tomorrow’s synthetics. Viva la natural synergies!
Furthermore, it is suspected whole herbs, like Cannabis with its five anti-MRSA cannabinoids, or licorice, which contains dozens of antiseptic compounds, may synergistically be better anti-MRSA weapons than any one single compound. And better yet, continued use of the mixtures will not likely lead to resistance like monochemical approaches will. Many species of Hypericum contain anti-MRSA activities and/or phytochemicals, but no single species so far is reported to contain a huge number of anti-MRSA phytochemicals. Thirty-three of 34 chloroform Hypericum extracts showed anti-MRSA activity, 5 with MIC=64 ug/ml. This genus has great potential for anti-MDR activity (The Genus Hypericum, a Valuable Resource of Anti-Staphylococcal Leads). Many Hypericum species also contain hyperforin, one of the more potent anti-MRSA phytochemicals. Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) seems also to be well endowed with a variety of anti-MRSA phytochemicals.
Turning back the pages of time, let us look back to the safer herbs, many of which have 5,000-10,000 biologically active compounds in them, dozens or even hundreds of which are natural antiseptics. Many of the same natural phytochemicals can synergistically potentiate the failing pharmaceuticals. Unlike synthetics, these phytochemicals have been known to your genes for as long as your ancestors (primates or even earlier ancestors before) consumed them.
Adapted from an article that appeared in the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild (JAHG), Herbal Superdrugs For The Superbugs.