Does CBD Have Antifungal Properties?
Posted on July 21st, 2020
In the 21st century, we’ve seen scientists focus intense research on the potential benefits of plant compounds such as Cannabidiol(CBD). So far, they’ve discovered that this cannabis extract (categorized as a cannabinoid) interacts with our internal endocannabinoid system (ECS). Now, if you follow this blog closely, you’re probably already aware of some of those interactions, and the amazing potential benefits they could produce. They may include:
- Reduced stress
- Lowered symptoms of anxiety
- Relief from minor aches
- Improvements in lowered appetite
Now, these benefits could help a wide range of people, which is why they tend to dominate public CBD conversations. However, they only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our understanding of CBD. So what about CBD as an antifungal?
Well, over the last several years, experts have begun to dig deeper and research other properties of CBD and related cannabinoids. In 2011, research revealed an interesting new benefit: CBD and a few other cannabinoids may possess moderate antifungal properties.
This finding is especially interesting because it’s one of the few benefits discovered that does not rely entirely on CBD’s interaction with the ECS. Instead, it is a result of interactions between CBD molecules and fungus. It also appears to be a result of additional antifungal effects related to the other compounds found in the cannabis plant (terpenes). In short, CBD and other plant matter work together to destroy fungal infections in two ways.
This is great news for anyone who is suffering from a fungal infection and does not want to rely on potentially harmful pharmaceuticals. As our society becomes more health-conscious, many people are seeking safer, more natural methods of addressing common ailments. Fungal infections are included in that list. With that idea in mind, let’s take a look at what fungal infections are, how CBD oil may fight them, and what type of CBD oil you might need for the job.
What Is a Fungal Infection?
Fungal infections can be a very embarrassing topic for some people. Unfortunately, there’s a negative stigma attached to the concept of being infected by a fungus or having a fungus growing on your body. But the truth is that fungi are everywhere. These microorganisms are all around us, blowing through the air, floating in the water, and resting on our keyboards.
Fungi are very similar to bacteria in the sense that some of them are good, some of them are harmless, and some of them are harmful. There are millions of species of fungi and researchers have barely identified a small fraction of them. Of the ones we have identified, the harmful ones we don’t always love talking about can trigger the following:
- Yeast infections
- Athlete’s foot
- Fungal nail infection
Humans develop fungal infections when a specific type of fungus enters the skin and begins to reproduce. The infection will generally spread very slowly, but it is still too powerful an invader for your immune system to destroy on its own. It may grow in single round cells, known as yeasts, or as many cells in a long thread, which is a type of mold.
Fungal infections are rarely dangerous, but they do create unpleasant side effects. They can lead to itching, burning, pain, discomfort, discoloration, and more. The visual side effects may be the most unpleasant, and the reason many people are embarrassed by fungal infections.
As we mentioned, the only fungus that is too powerful for your immune system to tackle becomes problematic. This is why fungal infections are most common in patients who are taking a drug that suppresses their immune systems. Fortunately, even if your immune system can’t remove the fungus from your body, other types of compounds, known as antifungals, can help.
How Do Antifungals Work?
Antifungal medication can deliver results in one of two ways. They will either prevent fungal cells from reproducing and spreading. Or they kill the cells entirely. In the case of CBD, it actually accomplishes both of these goals by slowly starving the fungal cells.
A fungus cell is a type of eukaryotic cell. On the inside, it has a very sensitive nucleus that is protected by a strong membrane. The cells also rely on a compound called ergosterol. This common fungal cell compound works for a fungus the same way that cholesterol works inside of an animal cell. Without ergosterol to feed the fungal cell, it will die off and the infection will fade away.
Of course, breaking a cell membrane or preventing ergosterol production is no easy task for the average compound. But CBD is no average compound. It is composed of a single hydrogen atom and a single oxygen atom. Compounds with this composition naturally attract other compounds that contain oxygen molecules, including fungal cells.
Once inside the body, the CBD compound is attracted to fungal cells, ultimately binding with them. The chemical process of oxidation and the movement of electrons begins after CBD binds with a fungal cell.
As you might have guessed, this is bad news for the fungal cells. The oxidation process prevents fungal cells from producing necessary ergosterol. The cells are then not able to grow, multiply, or survive for long. This is the first and primary way that CBD might act as an antifungal.
This process is not necessarily any different from how many other antifungal medications work. The major difference is that CBD is a plant-based compound with no known serious side effects. It also appears to be fairly potent, while other natural antifungals are quite mild in contrast. But CBD oil may actually provide even more fungus-fighting power, beyond its interaction with fungal cells.
CBD Oil and Caryophyllene Oxide
Caryophyllene Oxide(CO) is a terpene that is naturally present in the cannabis plant. It’s also commonly found in certain herbs, including rosemary. Terpenes are best known for the scents and flavors that they provide to many of the products we use on a daily basis. Like the lemon smell in your cleaning supplies or the lavender scent in your perfume or body wash, assuming the manufacturer is not using synthetic alternatives.
Like CO, terpenes work to protect the hemp plant prior to harvesting. We know that hemp plants are hardy and resistant to many diseases and fungi. And we now believe that CO and terpenes majorly contribute to their natural defenses.
CO is also a powerful antifungal, but it works a little differently than CBD. It does not rely on the process of oxidation to starve the fungal cells. Instead, CO is considered a lipophilic compound. A compound with lipophilic properties is one that easily dissolves in fats or lipids.
The fungal cell membrane is made of a type of lipid compound. Thus, the CO terpene is able to enter its membrane and disrupt the fungal cell’s natural life cycle. This may kill the cell entirely, or it may slow down its growth. In either case, the interaction makes a noticeable difference in terms of infection progression.
Now, if other plants contain CO, why should you use CBD oil as your source? Why not choose rosemary or another herb? Well, the answer is simple: CO appears to work more effectively in combination with cannabidiol and other cannabis-specific terpenes. Something referred to as the “entourage effect” increases the effectiveness of these terpenes individually while they are also performing unique functions.
Therefore, when you consume CBD products, CBD compounds might help to starve the fungal cells and CO terpenes could disrupt or destroy them entirely. It would take an incredibly powerful nail fungus to stand up to this dual assault. And that is why CBD oil may be an important, natural antifungal agent.
Which Type of CBD Oil Should You Use?
When you begin researching CBD oil, you’ll have plenty of product options. But if you are shopping with antifungal needs in mind, then it’s very important you find an oil that contains cannabidiol as well as CO and the many other terpenes found in the cannabis plant.
The two major product categories are full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate. CBD isolate is created by extracting and destroying all compounds in the hemp plant except for CBD. The process leaves behind pure CBD in a crystalline form. Many people enjoy this purified product because they are worried about ingesting other cannabinoids, like THC.
Using CBD isolate for its antifungal properties would yield significantly weakened results. This is because the purification process removes CO and other terpenes. In other words, the fungal cells in your body would not be attacked by two different compounds, so they would be more likely to survive and continue growing.
In comparison, full-spectrum CBD oil contains all of the hemp-plant phytocompounds, cannabinoids, and terpenes. And yes, this includes a very small percentage of THC, but it is not nearly enough of a concentration to produce psychoactive effects.
Of course, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to fungal infections. But we can all admit we’d rather not have one. So, if you want to avoid potentially harmful chemical antifungals, we invite you to explore the effects of a full-spectrum CBD oil.