Cannabis for colds and flu? Here’s what the experts say
It comes on like a freight train: sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, body aches, and malaise. And that’s just the common cold. The flu ups the ante with all those symptoms plus fever, severe headache, and extreme exhaustion—in some adult cases vomiting and diarrhea, although those are more common in kids.
After about five to seven days (of eternity), most healthy adults will bounce back from both colds and the flu. But what can you do in the meantime?
The medical community agrees non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen or Tylenol) are good at treating aches and pains, but that’s about it. Even popular home remedies don’t cut it in the science world: randomized controlled trials of echinacea, vitamin C, and even garlic found these cold and flu go-tos were no better than placebos for reducing symptoms. And Mom’s chicken soup? A 2000 study found it had mild anti-inflammatory benefits to help alleviate symptoms, but not by much.
So…wouldn’t it just be nice to get high and feel better?
What the experts say
We tried speaking with the College of Family Physicians of Canada, but they declined to comment, saying there is not sufficient research to confirm the impact of cannabis on colds and the flu.
From a naturopathic perspective, we did reach Dr. Shawn Meirovici, a Toronto-based ND who specializes in pain management. He reiterates there is no direct link between cannabis use and treating colds and the flu. However, he said there is new evidence suggesting symptoms can be managed if cannabis is used responsibly.
“The cannabinoids THC and CBD have been shown to have pain-relieving, sleep-inducing, and anti-inflammatory properties,” he says. So, on your sick day when you’re wrapped in a blanket, he suggests cannabis may help reduce body aches, ease inflammation of the airways, and increase relaxation to help you sleep.
The cannabinoids THC and CBD have been shown to have pain-relieving, sleep-inducing, and anti-inflammatory properties.
As for flu symptoms, he says cannabis may also have “antipyretic or fever-reducing properties, due to its ability to suppress the immune system.”
Plus, if you’re one of those ounce-of-prevention types, he says some research suggests CBD has anti-viral properties.
But before you light up that bong…
Think about it: heat and smoke are the last things your throat needs when it’s already itchy and sore. Then, imagine hot smoke entering phlegmy lungs; Meirovici cautions that smoking can further irritate mucus membranes, making a cough or sore throat even worse.
And before you pop a canna-lemon drop, he points out the immune-suppressing properties mentioned earlier could potentially prolong a viral infection. “That being said, the research has been primarily in vitro or in rats; there hasn’t been any studies on humans to date,” he says.
Feel-better food ideas
If eating cannabis appeals to you on your sick day(s), we caught up with Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook. She says when she’s feeling under the weather she turns to:
- bone broth (store-bought or homemade) simmered with cannabis flower
- smoothies made with infused hemp milk, frozen blueberries, and probiotic yogurt
- overnight oats with apples, wild honey, and cannabis-infused coconut milk
In the end, the best way to avoid getting a cold or the flu altogether is to stop the spread: wash hands frequently, cough or sneeze into your arm, and stay home when sick.
Passing around a joint amongst friends is a fun but quick way to spread germs, so be careful who you light up with.
And Meirovici offers this parting wisdom: “Passing around a joint amongst friends is a fun but quick way to spread germs, so be careful who you light up with.”