CAN CANNABIS HELP FIGHT THE COMMON COLD AND FLU?
Research shows that the cannabis plant has a plethora of health benefits. Countless ailments, including chronic debilitating diseases, seem to benefit in one way or another from the properties of the plant. But what about less serious conditions? Could cannabis also help against something as simple as the common cold or flu?
WHAT CAUSES THE COMMON COLD?
The common cold is a contagious viral infection caused by roughly 200 different strains of virus. Around 50% of the time, the common cold is caused by the rhinovirus, but other cold-causing viruses include influenza, coronavirus, and adenovirus.
When these viruses enter the body, they attack the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and mouth. After a few days, the virus might also make its way to the lungs. The body’s immune system will fight the virus in all of these areas, causing inflammation and an overproduction of mucus, which carries dead, infected cells and expels them from the body. This is what ultimately causes the telltale symptoms of a cold, like a runny nose and nasal congestion, a sore throat, coughing and sneezing, and (in case of the flu) fever.
CANNABINOIDS AND TERPENES CAN FIGHT INFLAMMATION
If you’re reading this, you may already be familiar with the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. Research shows that cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, and CBC can all help drive down inflammation all around the body. Some of the terpenes in cannabis, including linalool, limonene, and eucalyptol, all have anti-inflammatory potential too.
Our body’s attempt to fight cold and flu viruses automatically causes inflammation in the throat, sinuses, nose, and lungs. The cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis may help drive down inflammation in these areas, and therefore relieve symptoms like a runny or congested nose.
CANNABIS AFFECTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Current research has made it clear that cannabis affects the human immune system. How it does so, however, isn’t 100% clear.
Some studies show that cannabinoids help suppress the immune system, which is what ultimately gives them their anti-inflammatory effect. This is good news for people suffering from conditions characterised by chronic inflammation. However, it’s also important to remember that acute inflammation is a necessary bodily process and a sign that our immune system is actively fighting a threat in our body (like a virus, for example).
However, other studies show that cannabis can boost the immune system when necessary. HIV/AIDS, for example, is underlined by immunodeficiency that gets worse over time. Research indicates that cannabis can help strengthen the immune system of people with HIV/AIDS by increasing their number of T cells. This suggests that cannabis may be able to help strengthen the immune system when needed, such as when fighting an immediate threat like a cold virus.
CANNABIS, ECHINACEA, AND THE COMMON COLD
Echinacea is a genus of plant used to make health supplements that are commonly used to reduce the symptoms, severity, and duration of the cold and flu. Studies show that Echinacea concentrates can help significantly boost the immune system during a cold, as well as reduce symptoms.
It’s interesting to note that Echinacea contains a variety of alkylamides that—like many of the compounds found in cannabis—interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. This suggests that stimulating the endocannabinoid system may play an important role in helping our body fight cold and flu viruses. This is promising news for cannabis.A NOTE ON SMOKING CANNABIS DURING A COLD/FLU
There’s definitely some potential for cannabis to help with cold and flu symptoms. However, if you’re considering using cannabis when sick, it’s probably best to avoid smoking it.
Inhaling smoke from a pipe, joint, or bong directly irritates the throat and lungs, which can only increase inflammation in these areas. This may aggravate your symptoms and possibly even increase the time it takes for your body to fight off the virus. Hence, it’s best to avoid smoking while you’re under the weather. Instead, try the following alternative.