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CBD and the Microbiome

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, is a botanical that has been used as alternative medicine in many cultures for several centuries. The plant produces over 421 chemical compounds, including 80 phytocannabinoids which have psychotropic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).

A surprising discovery is that we have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies that is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors, endogenous ligands and ligand metabolic enzymes. The important role of this homeostatic system was summarized as “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect’. Endocannabinoids, which are very similar to phytocannabinoids are essential to keep inflammatory processes at bay. Blocking endocannabinoid receptors encourage immune cells to attack the gut lining or the gut barrier, leading to inflammatory gut diseases and result in a dysbiotic microbiome. Cannabinoids are involved in repairing a dysbiotic microbiome and endocannabinoid deficiency. Evidence suggests that endocannabinoid deficiency may result in migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and other functional conditions. The activity and the number of, for example, CB1 receptors, in the brain is called endocannabinoid tone. The concept of the endocannabinoid tone is orchestrated by the amount of the endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-Archidonoylglycerol, and the function of enzymes that metabolize them.

The microbiome, in the human gut measures 100 trillion microorganisms, exceeding the human cell count 100-fold. Any perturbation of the microbiome may have a ripple effect throughout the axis, leading to a variety of diseases and disorders. The gut microbiome is known to modulate the intestinal endocannabinoid tone. This, in turn, prevents leaky gut and reduces plasma levels of lipopolysaccharide, which is a key bacterial cell wall molecule that controls adipose tissue metabolism and thereby weight management. THC is known to stimulate the production of beneficial bacteria and suppressing disease-causing bacteria like clostridia.

We know from studies in animal models that THC alters the microbiome balance in obese mice significantly affecting the Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio. In fact, THC is known to prevent weight gain in animals being fed a high-fat diet and this phenomenon is linked to the microbiome. This is not only obvious in weight gain but also in health conditions that affect the nervous system, where a combination of THC and CBD in a mouse model of neuroinflammation increased the mucin degrading bacterial species, resulting in reduced disease signs. Consumption of foods like prebiotics which are non-digestible fibers that provide nutrition to the beneficial bacteria in the gut is also beneficial to the host. Evidence suggests that a well-fed and functioning microbiome increases endocannabinoid tone and contributes to overall health.

Joseph Antony, PhD, KGK Science.

A research scientist at KGK Science, who contributes to manuscripts, final reports and protocols for clients. He has extensive experience in academia as a researcher in stem cell biology, cancer, vaccine and antibody development and as an evaluator for the federal government. Joseph received his PhD from the University of Calgary, his MSc in Biological Sciences from the National University of Singapore and MFSc-BFSc in Fisheries Science from Bangalore.