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Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States every year. Studies have shown that cannabis possesses antibacterial properties and that its cannabinoids may help those diagnosed with Lyme’s disease better manage symptoms.
Overview of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by deer ticks, which are tiny arachnids typically found in wooded and grassy areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. In the U.S., Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria cause Lyme disease.
Lyme disease causes an array of physical symptoms, including a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrains. A small, red bump at the site of the tick bite appears first, and then resolves relatively quickly before the rash expands slowly over three to 30 days. Typically, the disease also causes fever, chills, body aches, headache, and fatigue. Nausea and vomiting can also occur.
Lyme disease is traditionally treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. If Lyme disease is left untreated, it can eventually cause severe chronic joint pain and inflammation, and potentially even neurological problems like meningitis, temporary paralysis of one side of the face, limb numbness, and impaired muscle movement.
Lyme disease can affect people of all ages and demographics. Those who live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas, where ticks live are at a higher disease of acquiring the disease. Using insect repellent, protecting the skin with long sleeves and pants, and removing ticks immediately can help prevent Lyme disease. Lyme disease transmission is unlikely if a tick is attached for less than 36 hours. The longer that an infected tick remains attached to the skin, the greater the chance that the disease is transmitted.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Lyme Disease
Research has long established that several of the cannabinoids contained in cannabis have antibacterial properties, suggesting they may be helpful in resisting the bacteria associated with Lyme disease3. While research examining cannabis’ effects on the specific bacteria that causes Lyme disease is lacking, cannabinoids have shown efficacy against other types of bacteria10. One study found that both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) “strongly reduce” the antibacterial activity of staphylococci and streptococci12. Another study found cannabis to have antibacterial effects against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Aspergillus niger2. Most recently, a study found cannabis extract to exert pronounced antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Enterococcus faecalis9.
Evidence also indicates that cannabis can be helpful in relieving the symptoms associated with the later stages of Lyme disease. The major cannabinoids found in cannabis – CBD and THC – have shown to have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-nausea properties. Cannabinoids have shown to significantly improve pain that had proven otherwise refractory to traditional treatments4. By interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD and THC have shown that they play an important role in regulating the immune system and suppressing inflammatory responses8. Cannabis has long been known to limit or prevent nausea and vomiting from a variety of causes11.
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Lyme Disease
No states with comprehensive medical marijuana legislation have approved cannabis specifically for those diagnosed with Lyme disease. Several other states will consider allowing Lyme Disease patients access to medical marijuana, provided it’s recommended by a physician. These states include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
Additionally, nearly all states with medical marijuana laws have approved cannabis for the treatment of pain, a symptom commonly associated with Lyme disease. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia have approved cannabis for the treatment of “chronic pain.” The states of Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio and Vermont allow medical marijuana to treat “severe pain.” The states of Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia have approved cannabis for the treatment of “intractable pain.”
For patients that suffer from Lyme disease-related nausea, medical marijuana can be approved in 19 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on Lyme Disease
- About Lyme Disease. (2017). LymeDisease.org. Retrieved from https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/lyme-disease/about-lyme/.
- Ali, E.M., Almagboul, A.Z., Khogali, S.M., and Gergeir, U.M. (2012). Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabis sativa L. Chinese Medicine, 3, 61-64. Retrieved from http://file.scirp.org/pdf/CM20120100009_13575513.pdf.
- Appendino, G., Gibbons, S., Giana, A., Pagani, A., Grassi, G., Stavri, M., Smith, E., and Rahman, M.M. (2008, August). Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A Structure-Activity Study. Journal of Natural Products, 71(8), 1427-30. Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/np8002673.
- Boychuck, D.G., Goddard, G., Mauro, G., and Orellana, M.F. (2015 Winter). The effectiveness of cannabinoids in the management of chronic nonmalignant neuropathic pain: a systematic review. Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache, 29(1), 7-14. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/R28LWD.
- Lone, T., and Lone, R.A. (2012). Extraction of cannabinoids from cannabis sativa L plant and its potential antimicrobial activity. Universal Journal of Medicine and Dentistry, 1(4), 51-55. Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/33954916/2012_Extraction_of_cannabinoids_from_cannabis_sativa.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1490893473&Signature=onwTZSCf6eJFWkHUdypmsH6Ixkc%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3D2012_Extraction_of_cannabinoids_from_can.pdf.
- Lyme Disease. (2016, August 19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/.
- Lyme disease. (2016, April 3). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/basics/definition/con-20019701.
- Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S.A., Hegde, V.L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Medicinal Chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828614/.
- Naveed, M., Khan, T.A., Ali, I., Hassan, A. Ali, H., Din, Z.U., Hassan, Z., Tabassum, S., Saqib, Majid, A., and Rehman, M.R. (2014). In vitro antibacterial activity of Cannabis sativa leaf extracts to some selective pathogenicbacterial strains. International Journal of Biosciences, 4(4), 65-70. Retrieved from http://www.innspub.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/IJB-V4No4-p65-70.pdf.
- Novak, J., Zitterl-Eglseer, K., Deans, S.G., and Franz, C.M. (2001). Essential oils of different cultivars of Cannabis sativa L. and their antimicrobial activity. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 16, 259-262. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.993/pdf.
- Sharkey, K.A., Darmani, N.A., and Parker, L.A. (2014). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. European Journal of Pharmacology, 722, 10.1016/j.ejphar.2013.09.068. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883513/.
- Van Klingeren, B., and Ten Ham, H. (1976). Antibacterial activity of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek, 42(1-2), 9-12. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00399444.