CBD for Rabies: Can It Help?

Illustration of CBD treatment for Dogs Rabies
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: June 29, 2022

Rabies develops as a result of a bite from a rabid dog. The virus that triggers rabies is better known as Lyssavirus, which can infect all mammals, including humans.

If neglected before the symptoms occur, it can be a lethal disease. CBD offers myriad benefits for pets, but it’s not a treatment for rabies by any means. Pet owners usually give their dogs CBD to manage the symptoms associated with rabies, such as anxiety, headaches, hyperactivity, etc.

But before we dive deeper into using CBD for rabies, let’s take a closer look at this condition — and why it should be addressed as quickly as possible.

What Are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Dog barking aggresively

Rabies ar a deadly disease caused by a viral infection that triggers inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. The World Health Organization (WHO) underlines the importance of immediate treatments after becoming vulnerable to rabies.

An early diagnosis can delay the onset of the disease and eventually save the life.

Common symptoms of rabies include (1):

  • Excess movements
  • Fatigue and pain
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Speaking difficulties
  • High sensitivity toward touch, lights, and sounds
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Seizures and paralysis

As the infection progresses, the disease starts to affect different regions of the nervous system.

Advanced rabies may show the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in the movement of facial muscles
  • Double vision
  • Strange movement of the muscles controlling breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing and increased saliva secretion (may lead to foaming)

The nervous system is always the primary target of the rabies virus. The severity of rabies depends on how the virus is transported with the fluids.

Rabies usually makes its way via the muscles and the nerve cells right after the injury. The later stages of infection include the synaptic points of the whole area of the afferent nerves.

Once the virus reaches the central nervous system (CNS), it can trigger severe inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), hydrophobia, and muscle spasms.

Seek Immediate Medical Care for Rabies

Immediate care is essential for effective rabies treatment. After being bitten by an animal, your dog should be taken to the vet where it will receive proper attention. The medical staff will also make sure to clean the wound for a minimum of 15 minutes. Wound cleaning is paramount because it significantly decreases the risk of rabies.

Doctors usually employ a strategy called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent rabies-induced death (2). On top of regular washing, the treatment includes a localized therapy followed by the rabies vaccine.

When administered in a timely manner, PEP can block the virus from entering the nervous system and consequently cease the progression of symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe some antibiotics to potentiate the effects of PEP.

Is CBD Effective for Rabies?

CBD pills and oil and rabies prescription

CBD isn’t a viable treatment for rabies, but it may be used for the management of its symptoms. This feature of cannabis was first acknowledged by the father of Western medicine, Dr. William B. O’Shaugnessy who documented the use of cannabis for rabies.

However, it’s worth noting that O’shaugnessy used whole-plant cannabis resin, not hemp-derived CBD oil, so its chemical structure could be different.

In 1843, he mentioned that one symptomatic patient who died as a result of rabies found some relief thanks to the administration of the resin on his final journey. The patient was also able to eat food and drink water, which is generally not an option when hydrophobia kicks in in the advanced stage of the disease (3).

O’Shaugnessy also noted that children with rabies who were treated with cannabis resin had lower pulse rates and were less anxious. They also showed greater appetite, and before they died, they hadn’t shown signs of further struggle.

CBD Has Potent Antiviral and Antibacterial Properties

The antimicrobial activity of cannabinoids is well-documented in the scientific literature (4).

They exhibit these effects by acting on the receptors of the endocannabinoid system which are spread all over the body and control a vast range of essential biological processes.

The studies on the pharmacologic effects of CBD on bacteria revealed remarkable antibiotic effects, especially against antibiotic-resistant gram-positive bacteria such as MRSA. It also potentiated the effects of conventional antibiotics.

It Can Promote the Healing of Wounds

CBD can effectively speed up the healing of wounds and scars by promoting healthy cell growth and blocking the malicious cells from spreading.

CBD appears to be particularly effective when used topically on the affected area. Through this mechanism, it reaches endocannabinoid receptors in the epidermal tissue. On top of that, CBD offers antiseptic properties, which may prevent secondary infections (5).

Whenever you suffer from an injury, the endocannabinoid system sends its own cannabinoids to the receptor sites to trigger a similar reaction. However, since CBD oil is a highly concentrated source of CBD and other cannabinoids, its antimicrobial effect can be stronger than that of your naturally produced messengers.

Cannabinoids Are Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

These aren’t just our words. A 2009 review of studies called cannabinoids novel anti-inflammatory drugs (6).

CBD inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines, preventing the overactivation of the immune system. By interacting directly with CB2 receptors, it also modulates adenosine, curbing inflammatory responses within the immune cells throughout the body, including the brain.

As a result, CBD may reduce the scope of brain damage caused by neuroinflammation.

CBD Helps Manage Epilepsy

People suffering from rabies are at the risk of experiencing epileptic, seizure-related, and delirium symptoms.

CBD has long been touted for its anti-epileptic properties. In 2018, the FDA approved a drug called Epidiolex, which contains synthetic CBD. It is prescribed to children with rare, treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy such as Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (7).

CBD has also demonstrated efficacy in reducing convulsions and muscular spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients in a pharmaceutical solution called Sativex (8).

Sativex is an oral spray containing a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC.

People Use CBD to Relieve Chronic Pain and Headaches

Not only can CBD relieve inflammation, but it can also mitigate pain signals in the brain by binding to the TRPV1 receptor in the brain that controls pain transmission (9).

Another benefit of using CBD for chronic pain is how it affects your anandamide levels. Anandamide is your natural endocannabinoid linked with pain regulation and mood stability. CBD inhibits the enzyme that breaks down anandamide so that higher concentrations can circulate in the bloodstream (10).

The final result? Increased pain threshold.

Beware of CBD Products With False Claims

Scam definition

While looking for CBD products to manage the symptoms of rabies, watch out for brands that use exaggerated health claims in their marketing strategy.

Such companies are often greedy and will do everything to lure you into buying one of their snake oils.

Why snake oils?

Because around 60% of CBD oils on the US market are either mislabeled or contaminated with toxins.

So how do you find a reputable manufacturer if the vast majority doesn’t play the game by the rules?

Follow these easy steps:

  • Check the hemp source – hemp easily absorbs and accumulates all substances from its environment; both the good and the bad ones. If there are heavy metals in the soil and the farmers spray pesticides on their crops, they will pass these toxins into the final product. That’s why you should always choose brands sourcing their hemp from organic farmers.
  • Opt for full-spectrum CBD – when it comes to managing the symptoms of rabies, such as pain, headaches, anxiety, and inflammation, full-spectrum extracts are more effective than pure CBD, as shown by one Israeli study in 2015. Full-spectrum CBD leverages the entourage effect, offering a unique synergy between cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils from hemp.
  • Choose CO2-extracted products – unlike cheap extraction methods, CO2 extraction doesn’t involve the use of hazardous solvents or high temperatures. It uses a naturally occurring element to yield pure and consistently potent extracts.
  • Read lab reports – third-party lab testing is the gold standard in the CBD space. Independent laboratories test the potency of CBD and its phytochemical profile and look for common contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and solvents. A product that has passed the test receives a certificate of analysis that includes all the said parameters. These lab reports should be visible on the company’s website or sent to customers with the product.

Final Verdict: Is CBD a Viable Option for Rabies?

If you or your dog have been exposed to rabies, seek medical care immediately. Doing so will help prevent the rabies virus from reaching the central nervous system and developing into a lethal disease.

CBD isn’t an acknowledged treatment for rabies, so you shouldn’t use it instead of the therapy prescribed by your doctor. You can, however, include it as part of your symptom management and to help your body return to balance once the treatment ends.

Always consult additional supplementation with your doctor, especially if you’re taking antibiotics or other medications that could negatively interact with CBD.

And don’t fall for companies that promise to cure you of any disease with CBD. It’s a versatile supplement, but it’s not an overnight fix.

Sources:

  1. Yousaf, M. Z., Qasim, M., Zia, S., Khan, M. u., Ashfaq, U. A., & Khan, S. (2012). Rabies molecular virology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Virology journal, 9, 50. [1]
  2. Shim, E., Hampson, K., Cleaveland, S., & Galvani, A. P. (2009). Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of rabies post-exposure prophylaxis: a case study in Tanzania. Vaccine, 27(51), 7167–7172.
  3. Houlihan, B. (2016). Sir William Brooke O’Shaugnessy – Medical Cannabis Pioneer. Medium. 
  4. Blaskovich, M.A.T., Kavanagh, A.M., Elliott, A.G. et al. The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Commun Biol 4, 7 (2021).
  5. Baswan, S. M., Klosner, A. E., Glynn, K., Rajgopal, A., Malik, K., Yim, S., & Stern, N. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 927–942. [2]
  6. 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. [3]
  7. Abu-Sawwa, R., Scutt, B., & Park, Y. (2020). Emerging Use of Epidiolex (Cannabidiol) in Epilepsy. The journal of pediatric pharmacology and therapeutics : JPPT : the official journal of PPAG, 25(6), 485–499. [4]
  8. Collin, C., Ehler, E., Waberzinek, G., Alsindi, Z., Davies, P., Powell, K., Notcutt, W., O’Leary, C., Ratcliffe, S., Nováková, I., Zapletalova, O., Piková, J., & Ambler, Z. (2010). A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of Sativex, in subjects with symptoms of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Neurological research, 32(5), 451–459.
  9. Costa, B., Giagnoni, G., Franke, C., Trovato, A. E., & Colleoni, M. (2004). Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation. British journal of pharmacology, 143(2), 247–250. [5]
  10. Deutsch D. G. (2016). A Personal Retrospective: Elevating Anandamide (AEA) by Targeting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) and the Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABPs). Frontiers in pharmacology, 7, 370.

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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