New research shows promise that cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, may be able to help reduce cigarette smoking. 

A team, led by Washington State University researchers, found that CBD inhibits the metabolism of nicotine. For the nicotine-addicted, slowing metabolism of the drug could allow them to wait before feeling the need to inhale more of it along with the other harmful components found in cigarette smoke.

“The whole mission is to decrease harm from smoking, which is not from the nicotine per se but all the carcinogens and other chemicals that are in tobacco smoke,” says Philip Lazarus, PhD, senior author of the study and Washington State University professor of pharmaceutical sciences, in a press release. “If we can minimize that harm, it would be a great thing for human health.”

In the study, published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, researchers tested CBD and its major metabolite, meaning what it converts to in the body, 7-hyroxycannabidiol, on microsomes from human liver tissue as well as on microsomes from specialized cell lines that allowed them to focus on individual enzymes related to nicotine metabolism.

They found that CBD inhibited several of these enzymes, including the major one for nicotine metabolism, identified as CYP2A6. Other research has found that over 70% of nicotine is metabolized by this enzyme in the majority of tobacco users. The impact of CBD on this particular enzyme appeared quite strong, inhibiting its activity by 50% at relatively low CBD concentrations.

“In other words, it appears that you don’t need much CBD to see the effect,” says Lazarus in the press release.

Lazarus’ team is currently developing a clinical study to examine the effects of CBD on nicotine levels in smokers, measuring nicotine levels in their blood versus smokers taking a placebo over the course of six to eight hours. Then, they hope to do a much larger study looking at CBD and nicotine addiction.