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Cannabis for colds and flu? Here’s what the experts say

October 21, 2019
cannabis cold flu tissue lemon vape
Jesse Milns/Leafly

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.
“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.

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.

Related

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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.

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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

Passing around a joint amongst friends is a fun but quick way to spread germs, so be careful who you light up with.
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.

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.”

Colleen Fisher Tully's Bio Image

Colleen Fisher Tully

Colleen Fisher Tully is a freelance writer and editor with recent work in Clean Eating, Today's Parent, The Walrus and Local Love. She posts random thoughts on Twitter @colleenftully

View Colleen Fisher Tully's articles

  • TuurboSpaggetti

    Wait, really? This article acknowledges that it’s about something that there is absolutely no data to cite? What a rip-off. Please start publishing medical cannabis literature that matters instead of feel-good clickbait

    • Keith Loreth

      Leafly didn’t like my opinion disputing their bashing supplements Vitamin C A and garlic being helpful for colds.

  • Keith Loreth

    I owned and operated health food stores for many years, and I never recommended echinacea because I think there is a lot of hype and it might be a little helpful in large doses. Vitamin C has been proven many times and garlic too. My favorite way to help when you have a cold is high dose vitamin A which is known as the anti-infection vitamin, Lots of Vitamin C and garlic and good levels of Vitamin D by blood testing. I don’t believe myth busters which bash all alternative medicine. Goggle-myth busters busted and find out. Dr Linus Pauling, Dr Abram Hoffer and many others proved themselves.

  • Keith Loreth

    I guess Leafly didn’t like my opinion on the helpfulness of Vitamin C, A, D and garlic being helpful for colds. They did publish my comment.

  • Keith Loreth

    How long does it take Leafly to approve a comment?
    They don’t like opinions on the truth.

  • Keith Loreth

    Its been 1 hr and no approval.