CBD ANTIVIRAL PROPERTIES: Cannabinoids and Viral Infections

Author :- Health In Vitro July 10, 2020, 12:33 p.m.
CBD ANTIVIRAL PROPERTIES: Cannabinoids and Viral Infections

Cannabidiol (CBD) has gained massive popularity for its acclaimed healing properties which includes treating medical ailments like chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, and alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It has also been found to be active against numerous types of bacteria and fungi. What can be said about CBD antiviral properties? Can this therapeutic plant-derived cannabinoid combat the infamous viruses?

CBD is one of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Unlike its main counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), It is non-psychoactive and has a low potential for addiction. CBD products containing a minimum amount of THC (of not more than 0. 3%) are considered legal for consumption in the United States.

The medical use of CBD dates back to many centuries and is fast gaining momentum as a therapeutic supplement for a wide range of medical conditions including arthritis, depression, and anxiety. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a CBD-based drug called epidiolex, to treat seizures in children with certain types of drug-resistant epilepsy.

In the wake of the devastating outbreak of the COVID 19 coronavirus pandemic, a number of discussions and questions have trailed the therapeutic effects of CBD, which centers around its antiviral abilities and if it can kill viruses or help contain the coronavirus. The correct answer to these speculations and questions will be;  the novel coronavirus currently has no known vaccine or cure, and the question of whether CBD or CBD based products can be effective against it, remains unanswered and the assumptions also remain unproven. But what of other viruses? Does CBD have any antiviral effect? Let’s take a look.


A few studies have supplied evidence that CBD has potential antiviral properties through certain mechanisms of actions.

Cannabinoids can bind to the G-coupled master protein receptors (GCPR). The GCPR is a network of hundreds of receptors that interact to regulate intracellular functions of maintaining the body’s cellular balance or homeostasis. This interaction also triggers a response from pathways that control other important functions such as apoptosis, through what is known as the second messenger system. Hence, CBD can induce apoptosis in body cells.

Apoptosis is a well-known response to viral infections. The apoptosis system operates to replace dead cells, kill cancerous cells and use accessory cells such as macrophages and killer cells to arrest the harmful effects of viruses, antigens, and other invading pathogens.

The second messenger system is also connected to the process of inflammation. Some viruses are known to cause systemic inflammation in order to take over the host’s body cells. With its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can stop the inflammation process of these sets of viruses and alleviate the resulting symptoms in the host.

The effect of inflammation can also lead to increased mucus production and clogged sinuses in the case of flu. The use of CBD oil for mucus reduction and other resulting symptoms is thought to be effective.  However, this beneficial property of CBD may be a double-edged sword. In the event, that it is used for a virus that doesn’t need inflammation to initiate and develop an infection, it may surpress the immune system.

This immunosurpression can make the infection worse and create more problems. Hence, more scientific research is advised to erase all potential problems that may result from anti-inflammation and immunosurpression.

A number of scientific studies have explored the antiviral effects of CBD against some viruses like Hepatitis C virus, kaposi’s sarcoma-associated  herpes virus (KSHV), and Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus ( TMEV).

An invitro study reported that CBD may have a direct antiviral effect against Hepatitis C virus(HCV) ,but may be ineffective against Hepatitis B virus(HBV). Following a culture test, the researchers found that concentrations of CBD stopped the replication process of HBV by up to 86.4%.

Another study found that CBD can reverse the effects of neuroinflammation caused by TMEV in mice. The mice were treated with 5mg/kg of CBD and results showed that it reduced microglia activation and leukocyte infiltration in their TMEV infected brains which worked to improve motor function and reduce the effects of neuroinflammation .

Additionally, CBD showed long-lasting effects when administered to mice immediately after displaying symptoms of TMEV infection for a duration of 10 days . The researchers partly attributed the antiviral effects of CBD on TMEV to the activation of Adenosine A2A receptors.

One study reported an indirect antiviral effect of CBD against KSHV. The researchers observed the effects of CBD on  a model of human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HMVECs) infected with KSHV. The  HMVECs were treated with different concentrations of CBD and then infected with KSHV.

The cells were cultured for 48 hours and results showed that certain concentrations of CBD did not have any effect on how KSHV infected HMVECs, but it reduced the proliferation of the KSHV cells,it also promoted apoptosis. To put it simply, CBD was able to prevent the transformation of normal cells into KSHV infected cells. These effects were attributed to the action of CBD in stopping KSHV cells from binding to GCPR among other actions.

Some animal studies using mice and monkey as case studies also suggest that CBD may be potent against viruses like betacorona virus (mouse hepatitis C), Herpes simplex virus, Human and Simian immunodeficiency virus, and Influenza virus. However these studies have not been conducted in humans, hence there is no way to verify it’s efficacy in treating diseases related to some of these viruses in humans.


In the fight against viruses, the human immune system plays a key role. CBD based products especially CBD  is said to boost the immune system in fighting off pathogenic microbes. But is there any truth to this claim. Is CBD oil good for the immune system?

The CBD oil and other cannabinoids can influence the immune system through it’s interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate the body’s major functions such as sleep, appetite, bowel movements, pain, reproductive and immune functions.

Scientists even acknowledge the endocannabinoid system as a gatekeeper of the immune system. CBD is able to bind to and activate certain receptors in the endocannabinoid system that are responsible for immune functions such as the  TRPV2 (transient receptor potential vanniloid 2).

CBD oil and other cannabinoids use both direct and indirect mechanisms for improving the immune system. CBD oil has been shown to create immune system balance in autoimmune circumstances by reducing the activities of immune cells such as B cells, T cells, T helper and T cytotoxic lymphocyte subsets.

Under normal and healthy immune circumstances, it has also been found to promote the function of a type of white blood cell known as the Natural killer (NK) cells and natural killer T-cells. NK cells play a key role in the body’s response to viral infection.

CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system also results in anti-inflammatory actions (as discussed earlier). It has also been found to support a healthy inflammatory response in the lungs.It also regulates the secretion of cytokines, which are proteins that are produced by specific immune cells.

Cytokines signal molecules that control the body’s inflammatory response, immunity and the production of white blood cells. In addition to this, it also surpresses chemokins, which are a group of cytokines that lead immune cells to an infection site, so that they can attack or kill the invading pathogens.

It stands to reason that CBD may actually possess some immune boosting properties which is especially beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases or an hyper active immune system because of it’s immunosuppressive functions. However, the immune boosting properties of CBD is yet to be properly linked to the inhibition of viral infections.Hence more scientific research is needed in this area.


So does CBD help with viruses or better still is CBD an antiviral? Based on the currently available scientific evidence, it will be safe to say that CBD may help curtail some viruses but not all viruses.

The fact is, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the full antiviral properties of CBD or CBD based products. However, CBD has shown promising antiviral potential, and it is more than likely that further scientific research and exploration will reveal more hidden benefits of this amazing constituent of the cannabis plant.

Photo by Christopher Lemercier on Unsplash