The Pharmacological Effects of Plant-Derived versus Synthetic Cannabidiol in Human Cell Lines

Med Cannabis Cannabinoids. 2021 Jul 29;4(2):86-96. doi: 10.1159/000517120. eCollection 2021 Winter.


Introduction: Cannabidiol (CBD) can be isolated from Cannabis sativa L. or synthetically produced. The aim of this study was to compare the in vitro effects of purified natural and synthetic CBD to establish any pharmacological differences or superiority between sources.

Methods: Six purified samples of CBD were obtained, 4 of these were natural and 2 synthetic. The anticancer effects of CBD were assessed in a human ovarian cancer cell line (SKOV-3 cells). The neuroprotective effects of CBD were assessed in human pericytes in a model of stroke (oxygen glucose deprivation [OGD]). The ability of CBD to restore inflammation-induced intestinal permeability was assessed in differentiated human Caco-2 cells (a model of enterocytes).

Results: (1) In proliferating and confluent SKOV-3 cells, all CBD samples similarly reduced resazurin metabolism as a marker of cell viability in a concentration-dependent manner (p < 0.001). (2) In pericytes exposed to OGD, all CBD samples similarly reduced cellular damage (measured by lactate dehydrogenase) at 24 h by 31-48% and reduced inflammation (measured by IL-6 secretion) by 30-53%. Attenuation of IL-6 was inhibited by 5HT1A receptor antagonism for all CBD sources. (3) In differentiated Caco-2 cells exposed to inflammation (TNFα and IFNγ, 10 ng/mL for 24 h), each CBD sample increased the speed of recovery of epithelial permeability compared to control (p < 0.05-0.001), which was inhibited by a CB1 receptor antagonist.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that there is no pharmacological difference in vitro in the antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, or permeability effects of purified natural versus synthetic CBD. The purity and reliability of CBD samples, as well as the ultimate pharmaceutical preparation, should all be considered above the starting source of CBD in the development of new CBD medicines.

Keywords: 5HT1A; Cannabidiol; Cannabinoid receptor 1; Pharmacology; Plant; Synthetic cannabidiol.