Yo, what’s good people? My name’s Dan, and I’m here to talk about cannabis and the common cold. As you all know, catching a cold or flu can be a real buzzkill, ruining your day and leaving you feeling like crap. But did you know that cannabis might be able to help alleviate some of those nasty symptoms?
Now, I’m not saying that lighting up a joint is a magical cure for the common cold. But there’s some research out there that suggests certain compounds in cannabis can help tackle some of the symptoms associated with being sick.
So, let’s start with what causes the common cold. Over 200 different viruses can cause symptoms of the common cold. Old wives tales blame chilly weather as the culprit, but really it could be any number of microbes. You’re vulnerable if you touch a contaminated surface or breathe in viral particles from someone coughing, sneezing or breathing near you.
The common cold can strike at any time, but infection rates increase dramatically during autumn and winter. The lack of humidity during these months causes the nasal passages to become dry, contributing to infection. The start of the academic year also means there are more people in close proximity, which helps cold viruses spread.
So, now that we know what causes the common cold, let’s talk about how it affects the body. Cold viruses cause upper respiratory infections, and when viral particles first enter the airways, your immune system rises to the occasion. You’ll experience physical symptoms like a stuffy nose, sneezing, hoarseness, coughing, earaches, low-grade fever and fatigue.
Now here’s where cannabis comes in. While there’s no cure for the common cold (you just gotta wait it out), conventional approaches like painkillers and decongestants are designed to reduce symptoms. And alternative treatments such as zinc, vitamin C and other herbal remedies also appear to help.
Cannabis might belong in this latter category. Humans have used cannabis to address many different ailments for thousands of years. And modern scientific analysis has shown that many of the compounds in cannabis possess therapeutic potential.
So far though, there’s little to no evidence that cannabis can alleviate the common cold. No human trials have demonstrated if the herb helps or hurts the body as it works to kill the virus. However, certain chemicals within the plant show potential to tackle some of the symptoms.
For example, all of the symptoms of the common cold stem from inflammation. Your immune system—not the pathogen—underpins symptoms such as a sore throat and runny nose. Although inflammation serves a purpose (to allow white blood cells easier passage through tissues to reach sites of infection), it can lead to uncomfortable sensations.
Fortunately, cannabis produces molecules with anti-inflammatory potential. Research published in 2019 tested the effects of CBD on airway inflammation in mice with asthma. They found that CBD was believed to exert these immunomodulatory effects via signalling of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CBD has also been found to improve lung function and inflammation in mice. Additional research examined the effects of THC and CBD on cytokine production in human immune cells – both cannabinoids were observed to strongly inhibit cytokine production.
Along with inflammation, CBD may help to reduce cold and flu-related pain when taken alongside THC. Researchers found that CBD enhanced and prolonged THC’s pain-reducing effects when given to mice in combination.
Lack of sleep seriously disturbs immune function. In fact, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a common cold virus. In turn, getting a good amount of sleep while sick can also change how fast your body recovers.
Studies suggest that CBD may help people fall asleep and stay asleep by reducing anxiety that otherwise keeps people awake. THC may also help to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep (but heavy and long-term use appears to actually decrease sleep quality).
So how should you use cannabis if you have a cold or flu? Well, you can consume cannabis in many different ways – even better, most of them don’t involve passing hot smoke down your sore throat.
You could make your own cannabis tea by brewing up a batch next time you feel a cold coming on – this avoids inhaling anything and produces more intense effects than smoking.
Cannabis topicals can be applied directly to the skin as a gel, lotion or balm – perfect for when you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing muscle aches.
Edibles allow users to bypass smoking by sending cannabinoids directly through the GI tract and into the bloodstream. They take longer to set in but often have more pronounced effects – you can even make cannabutter at home to infuse your favourite dish with high levels of THC or CBD.
And finally vaping – unlike smoking, vaping’s low temperatures preserve every cannabinoid in the bud or concentrate without burning plant matter.
In conclusion though folks, there’s no cure for the common cold so you simply need to endure it until your body defeats the pathogen – but hey at least with cannabis you might be able to take some edge off those nasty symptoms!