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Should You Take CBD Oil When You Have the Flu?

Is CBD a potential support if you have the flu? Image Credit: By Orawan Pattarawimonchai on shutterstock.

Every family has their own time-honored methods for dealing with the dreaded flu, from chicken soup and Sprite to herbal tea and essential oils. Typically, these “treatments” don’t make things worse — but they don’t always help as much as we’d like. That’s why a growing number of people are wondering if CBD (the versatile, non-intoxicating cannabis compound that’s taken the world by storm lately) might provide a more effective solution.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of this highly accessible over-the-counter (albeit expensive) remedy. But does it actually work?

What Is “the Flu,” Exactly?

Known in scientific circles as influenza, the flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Most people recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some will develop complications which can lead to hospitalization or even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the number of U.S. flu cases each year in the tens of millions, hospitalizations in the hundreds of thousands, and deaths in the tens of thousands.

The flu usually comes on suddenly, as opposed to colds, which come on gradually. People with the flu will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The chances of catching the flu gradually fall as people age, but older adults are at greater risk of life-threatening complications.

What Does the Research Say About CBD and Flu Symptoms?

CBD has been shown in animal studies to have immunosuppressive qualities — one of the reasons it’s believed by some researchers to be effective against inflammation and in the treatment of autoimmune diseases is due to its ability to induce cell death in immune cells. However, other studies have shown that it has an immune boosting function in some cases, and does things like increase white blood cell counts in immunodeficiency disorders such as HIV.

The picture grows even more complicated when we consider the theoretical role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the immune system. Researchers believe CBD can “enhance” the ECS by interacting with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body — which could help the ECS regulate all bodily systems, including the immune system. The cell death that CBD induces in immune cells is also part of a properly functioning immune system.

But most people with the flu take CBD for its more tangible effects on pain and soreness, headaches, and nausea. While there aren’t any published clinical trials on CBD and pain, ongoing preclinical studies in animals show that CBD reduces pain and inflammation, and studies of CBD in humans provide evidence that it is well-tolerated and has few negative side effects.

“There are also observational studies that ask why people use CBD and if it’s effective, and results tend to be quite positive,” as Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., a research investigator at Michigan Medicine Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, told the Michigan Medicine blog. “People report using CBD for anxiety, pain, sleep — all things that go hand-in-hand with chronic pain.”

What about CBD’s effects on headaches? Though there have been no studies on pure CBD’s anti-headache effects, it has shown promise in the treatment of migraines, as detailed in a 2017 review in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. In addition, its hypotensive effects in lowering blood pressure suggest it might have headache-calming effects.

When it comes to nausea and vomiting — some of the flu’s most common and least pleasant symptoms — CBD has also shown promise. A 2011 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that the cannabinoid could help regulate nausea and vomiting within a limited dose range.

What Are the Most Effective Ways to Take CBD?

The most effective CBD delivery methods vary on a case-to-case basis. If you have a cough, inhaled CBD may not be the way to go. If you have nausea, skip the oral route. If you feel like you’re never going to get over the flu, you may want to avoid CBD altogether — its not-totally-known effect on the immune system may usher in a relapse.

However, these immunosuppressive qualities could come in handy when battling a fever or runny nose. These are both immune responses to the flu virus.

There are also products made specifically for cold-and-flu symptoms, like CBD saline nasal sprays created for the express purpose of unblocking a nostril or two.

Are There Any Potential Downsides to Using CBD When You Have the Flu?

CBD’s action on the immune system hasn’t been studied sufficiently to this point, and its potential effects on the flu, where immunity figures in so heavily, are hard to predict.

Also, since there are still no federal regulations governing CBD, contaminated products are unfortunately common. Common contaminants include pesticides, heavy metals, and even organisms like salmonella — none of which are particularly helpful in getting over the flu.

With that in mind, if you’re interested in using a CBD product while you have the flu, make sure it’s been tested by an independent third-party laboratory. And before you fork over your money, ask your doctor about potential interactions with other medications — while CBD is generally recognized as safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other respected institutions, it’s best to play it safe.

If you've ever had the flu, you know how miserable its symptoms can be. Could CBD help speed your recovery?

What Most Doctors Won’t Tell You About Colds and CBD

Very few people make it through the winter without an annoying cold or a runny nose. Some of us will also catch the flu.

With winter approaching, it’s important to know how you can protect and boost your immune system.

Sure, you can go down the standard route, get a flu vaccine, that is laden with toxic chemicals, or you can shove conventional medicine down your throat once you’re sick. Another option is to let it run its course and protect your system using CBD.

What most doctors won’t tell you is that in most cases it’s best to let colds and cases of flu run their course while using natural medication to help ease many symptoms. In most cases, these natural remedies, such as CBD, could even help boost your immune system, preventing your body from catching these viruses.

How Do We Get Colds and Flus?

That is an extremely complicated question to answer, but in most cases, it comes down to the following reasons:

  1. We are constantly in confined areas with other people who spread germs. Viruses such as influenza become airborne when someone coughs, and it only takes a few breaths to become sick.
  2. Viruses causing most respiratory infections are constantly mutating, and unfortunately, our immune systems have trouble dealing with these ever-changing germs.
  3. Viruses can live on non-porous surfaces for hours on end. If you touch a table or pen, recently touched by a sneezing person, you’re likely to get sick.

How Do These Viruses Affect Our Body?

To understand how a cold affects our body, it’s important to understand that colds and flus are the outcomes of viruses in our body. These viruses are microscopic particles of genetic material, each coated with a thin layer of protein. Unlike the natural cells in your body, these viruses are not able to reproduce on their own, but instead, use the machinery and metabolism of your cells to produce multiple copies of themselves.

Once the virus enters a cell, it will either use that cell’s resources to replicate itself, eventually breaking the cell in search of a new cell, or, incorporating itself into the DNA of your cell. This allows the virus to be passed down through natural genetic duplication (mitosis) and cellular division (cytokinesis).

Why Let a Flu or Cold Run Its Course?

In most cases, the viruses that cause colds and cases of the flu will affect weak cells, ones that are already burdened and contain excessive toxins. These are cells that your body would anyway prefer to get rid of – and it’s natures way of helping. Most doctors would argue and prefer to prescribe some form of medication that they are affiliated with, but a cold or flu is actually a natural event that helps your body to identify damage cells, destroy and eliminate them. This means that the best remedy is to let it run its course.

So Why Protect Your Body Using Cannabis?

With that said, it doesn’t mean that you have to catch a cold or flu intentionally. If you look after your body, by living a healthy lifestyle and resting well, your cells will be strong enough to avoid infection. You simply won’t have weak cells that need to be flushed out of your system. And for that, we sometimes need a natural helping hand. Remember, most people do not die from viruses, but bad colds and the flu certainly do cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Cannabis and especially its two major compounds, CBD and THC, have been known to ease many symptoms of the common cold. CBD is a potential anti-inflammatory which can fight pain, such as sinus pressure, while THC can reduce common pains associated with these viruses which allow the body to rest and self-heal. While smoking marijuana isn’t recommended when sick as it can cause respiratory irritation, other forms of the plant can be used such as CBD oil . Furthermore, CBD has become a favorite item in recent years for its immune strengthening properties.

According to Dr. Robert J. Melamede, Chairman of the Biology Department of the University of Colorado,

“Contemporary antiviral medical technology is currently not able to meet the world’s immediate challenges,” said Melamede. “We believe that cannabis extract-based medicines can help to reduce influenza deaths.”

Dr. David Allen thinks that,

“Cannabidiol (CBD), may offer control of the immune system and in turn, protect from viral infections. Cannabis has already been seen to inhibit fungus and bacteria and can be considered a new class of antimicrobial because of the different mechanism of action from other antimicrobials.”

When the immune system launches an attack on a virus, it causes an inflammatory response that produces flu or cold-like symptoms. While the body uses its own endocannabinoids to moderate the immune response, it’s not always capable of controlling the inflammatory process. Cannabinoids in cannabis help in this aspect by giving the natural endocannabinoid mechanism a boost. Also, constant use of extracts may help to keep your body intact helping to prevent a future attack.

Final Thoughts About CBD and Colds

As colds and the flu are both caused by viruses, antibiotics are, in most cases, not required. They may make you feel better because they have a mild anti-inflammatory effect, but this is far outweighed by the negative impact that they have on the friendly bacteria throughout your digestive tract. If you really require help with pain management during a cold or flu, CBD oil could work as an effective treatment.

If you are new to cannabis and looking for a few trusted CBD brands, the following few might be a good place to start.

Can you use CBD to treat the common cold or flu? Here are a few interesting tidbits of information that your doctor may not be telling you.