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CBD for Leishmaniasis: What does the Science Say?



CBD for Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a highly prevalent protozoan infectious disease. It is found in nearly 89 countries around the world. This disease is usually seen in Africa, Asia, America, and the Mediterranean region.

The disease is transmitted through a female sandfly. According to a study named Leishmaniasis- A review, around 12 to 15 million people around the world have been infected with the disease. About 1.5 to 2 million new cases occur every year, and nearly 70,000 people fall prey to this disease.

Nearly 350 million people around the world are at risk of acquiring this disease.

Leishmaniasis can start as a small lesion, but if left untreated, the disease can lead to dire consequences. Treating the disease can be quite tricky. Prevention and early detection are extremely important to avoid discomfort and unwanted consequences.

CBD for Leishmaniasis: How it works?

There is a recent growing interest in the role of CBD or Cannabidiol in treating diseases like Leishmaniasis. Researchers are studying whether cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components present in CBD can work effectively in treating Leishmaniasis.

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What is Leishmaniasis?

To understand how CBD can provide relief from Leishmaniasis, let us first understand what the disease is and how it can affect us.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease. A parasite named Leishmania is responsible for causing this disease. According to the CDC, an infected Phlebotomine fly acts as a carrier of this disease and is mostly found in tropical and sub-tropical environments.

When an infected fly bites a human being, it transfers the parasite into the human being causing Leishmaniasis.

According to the WHO, nearly 20 different kinds of Leishmania species exist and can cause different diseases, all grouped under Leishmaniasis.

Some people can have the Leishmania parasite in their body and still do not exhibit any symptoms. Leishmaniasis occurs when you start exhibiting the disease-related symptoms.

Which Population is Most Susceptible to Leishmaniasis?

The CDC classifies Leishmaniasis as a Neglected Tropical Disease or an NTD. This means that the disease is native to poor countries where medical care is limited and the disease can play havoc with the people’s health and lives.

This disease is most commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical countries with a high prevalence of the female Phhebotomine flies. These flies act as carriers of the parasite and transfer the disease to human beings by bite.

The top countries affected by various Leishmaniases include Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Somalia, etc.

Travelers to these countries should be aware of the risk factors and take the necessary precautions while traveling.

Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease, meaning that the parasite causing this disease survives in another organism, in this case, sand fly before reaching human beings.

Various animals like rats, dogs, cattle, etc act as host to these sand-flies but the spread of this disease mainly occurs through sand-flies.

Once a person gets affected by Leishman’s disease, the person-to-person transmission gets easier.

The worst part about Leishmaniasis is that the sandflies responsible for carrying this disease are extremely tiny and are often not visible. Their bite is painless too.

Often people may not recognize that they got bit by the fly. As a result, identifying the disease on time becomes difficult. Administering treatment also takes time.

For this reason, Leishmaniasis is a tricky disease needing a lot of care and attention.

Types of Leishmaniasis:

WHO classifies Leishmaniasis into three main categories:

  1. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis
  2. Visceral Leishmaniasis or Kala Azar
  3. Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis

1. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis:

As the name suggests, this type of Leishmaniasis occurs on the skin. It is the most commonly occurring form of the disease.

According to the PostGraduate Medical Journal, this disease is characterized by the formation of lesions on the skin. A small lesion forms in the area of the fly bite. The lesion increases in size gradually and forms into an ulcer.

Such lesions can take anywhere between 3 to 18 months to heal. The incubation period can range between 2 to 8 weeks.

In a person with a healthy immune system, the lesions may disappear on their own. But sometimes the lesions do not disappear, leading to life-threatening conditions.

In some people, cutaneous Leishmaniasis can heal and stay dormant. In later years, it takes the form of a much more potent form of Leishmaniasis called the Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis.


The US National Library of Medicine lists the following symptoms of cutaneous Leishmaniasis.

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Lesions on the skin which later turn into ulcers.

2. Visceral Leishmaniasis:

This kind of Leishmaniasis is also known as Kala Azar. Visceral Leishmaniasis is the most severe form of Leishmaniasis. If left untreated in time, this disease can turn fatal.

In Visceral Leishmaniasis, the parasite travels to the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, affecting those organs badly.

Symptoms include fever, weight loss, Lymphadenopathy – a disease of the lymph nodes, pancytopenia – low count of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, etc.

Skin pigmentation can also occur as a part of this disease. This pigmentation gives the name Kala Azar to this disease.


The US National Library of Medicine lists the following symptoms of visceral Leishmaniasis.

In kids, the symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomitings

Other symptoms in kids and adults include:

  • Abdominal discomfort.
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of hair.
  • Formation of scales on the skin.
  • Loss of skin pigmentation, leading to dark or ashen skin
  • Night sweats.
  • Infrequent fevers that last weeks.

Life-threatening symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Swelling of the liver and spleen.

3. Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis:

According to the PostGraduate Medical Journal, this category of Leishmaniasis usually occurs after the initial cutaneous leishmaniasis has healed.

The incubation period for this disease is about 1 to 3 months. In some cases, mucocutaneous leishmaniasis can occur several months after cutaneous leishmaniasis is cured.

This is a rarely occurring disease among all the three categories of Leishmaniases.

Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis affects mucosal glands present in your oral cavity, nose, or pharynx. If left untreated, this disease causes partial or complete destruction to the mucosal glands.

The US National Library of Medicine lists the following symptoms of Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis.

  • Ulcers and sores in the mouth, nose, throat, tongue, gum, inner nose, etc.
  • Stuffy nose, runny nose and bleeding in the nose
  • Difficulty in swallowing.

Long term damaging complications of Leishmaniasis include:

  • Bleeding or hemorrhage
  • Disfigurement of the face
  • Damage to the immunity system

Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis doesn’t heal on its own and requires extensive medical treatment and interventions.

Leishmaniases are of various kinds. Sometimes a person can get affected with different strains at a time. Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential to avoid long-term complications and reduce the healing time.

Different techniques are used to diagnose different kinds of Leishmaniases.

Leishmaniasis, in general, is diagnosed by conducting tests on tissue specimens. These specimen can be collected from:

  • Skin lesions – for cutaneous Leishmaniasis
  • Bone marrow – for visceral Leishmaniasis
  • Serologic testing provides a support testing option for visceral Leishmaniasis.

So, how is Leishmaniasis treated? Limited treatment options are available for Leishmaniasis . According to the WHO, various factors like the type of the disease, the species type, the pathology, and geographic location should be considered before drawing up a treatment plan.

More importantly, the affected patient should have a strong immune system to fight the disease. Medicines do not always remove the parasite completely from the body. if the patient isn’t strong enough, relapses can occur.

How can CBD help with treating Leishmaniasis?

Before understanding how CBD can work on Leishmaniasis, let us first learn the basic composition of CBD.

CBD or cannabidiol is an extract of the hemp plant, also known as Cannabis sativa. This plant has been used extensively in traditional medicine. Today, the extract of the hemp plant can treat a variety of conditions like anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, pain, and inflammation, etc.

What causes the cannabis plant extract to have so many therapeutic qualities?

Most of the properties can be attributed to the presence of compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes.

Full-spectrum CBD extracted from the cannabis plant retains all its cannabinoids and terpenes and proves an effective natural healer.

Cannabinoids have chemical compounds similar to the body’s internal cannabinoid system or ECS. ECS is responsible for controlling and maintaining various system functions and body mechanisms.

The ECS system regulates systems such as the cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system

The Cannabinoids present in CBD work in tandem with the ECS system. This is the reason for most of the healing properties of CBD.

Another important component of the full spectrum CBD is the terpenes. Terpenes are similar to essential oils. These are the aromatic compounds present in the cannabis plant.

Terpenes render the aroma and flavor to the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoids and terpenes together render what is called the “Synergistic effect” to the full-spectrum CBD.

This means that the combined effect is larger when compared to the individual component effects of the CBD. As far as Leishmaniasis is concerned, pinene is an extremely important terpene present in broad-spectrum CBD.

Pinene is present in two forms- Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene.

Both these pinene forms exhibit a range of therapeutic properties according to a study by Biomolecules published in MDPI.

The Pinene terpenes present in CBD acts as:

  • Anticoagulants
  • Antimicrobials
  • Antimalarial
  • Antioxidants
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-leishmania
  • Anti-inflammatory.

A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology stated that the essential oil obtained from Syzygium cumini, also known as the Skeels essential oil exhibited anti-leishmania activity in vitro.

Syzygium cumini contains alpha-pinene as one of its major components. Researchers attribute the anti-leishmania activity to the presence of pinene.

Let us take a broad look at the symptoms of Leishmaniasis. Key symptoms include:

  • Formation of ulcers and lesions on the skin
  • Ulcers and lesions in the oral cavity, throat, nasal cavity
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing

Since CBD also contains pinene, it exhibits a range of properties including anti-leishmania, antimicrobial, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic.

All these properties make CBD excellent for treating Leishmaniasis.

How can Leishmaniasis be prevented?

As of now, there is no vaccination or prophylaxis medication to prevent Leishmaniasis.

Preventive measures are the key to protection from this disease. If you stay away from areas where the prevalence of this disease is high, or you are traveling to one of these areas, the following precautions are extremely essential:

  • Stay fully covered at all times. Wear clothing that covers your entire body, like wearing full-sleeved tops and pajamas or full-pants.
  • Spray your rooms with insect repellants.
  • Have an insect-repellant handy. A repellent with DEET is preferable for complete protection. Spray the repellent on all the exposed body parts, and on your pants and sleeves.
  • Sandflies cannot fly at heights. You can sleep on the top floors to avoid being bitten by these flies.
  • Avoid going out when the flies are most active.
  • Use air-conditioners or fans in your rooms. Cover all doors and windows with mesh so that the flies can’t enter.
  • Use bed nets. Make sure that the nets completely cover the bed with no gaps, so that the flies can’t enter your sleeping area. 


To sum up, Leishmaniasis is a debilitating disease and can spread quite fast. Treatment options are limited and prevention is always better than cure.

Terpenes and Cannabinoids present in full-spectrum CBD can provide relief from the various symptoms of Leishmaniasis. Though research is still pending in certain aspects, CBD can form an excellent source for treating Leishmaniasis.

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