Cannabis for Colds and Flu: What To Know

Cannabis for Colds and Flu: What To Know

Published on September 20, 2021 by Kristina Willis

Getting sick is one of those shared human experiences that everyone knows and hates. We’ll try anything to ease our misery, from over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to herbal supplements and grandma’s home remedies. As scientists continue to discover new applications for medicinal marijuana, it’s no surprise that people wonder if it can help with one of humanity’s oldest ailments.

Like non prescription medicines, cannabis won’t magically make you better. However, there is plenty of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy in treating cold and flu symptoms. Most importantly, it can alleviate symptoms that prevent a quick recovery. For instance, using cannabis to ensure better quality sleep can encourage your body’s natural healing processes and help your sickness dissipate quicker.

When we get sick, our lives come to a sudden halt, and all our focus shifts to getting healthy. Unsurprisingly, coming down with a cold is one of the most common reasons for staying home from work or school. The key to getting back to your daily routine is making the recovery process as endurable as possible.

Keep reading to learn more about how cannabis can help with the cold or flu.

Can Cannabis Cure a Cold or the Flu?

Once you get sick, the only solution is to hunker down and suffer through it. While antiviral drugs can treat the flu, there is no cure for the common cold. Moreover, antivirals are usually reserved for severe cases. The primary medical recommendation for treating a typical cold or flu is simply to stay home and avoid contact with others until you are no longer contagious.

As nice as it would be, cannabis is not a cold or flu medication—using cannabis after getting sick won’t make you better. However, it does possess numerous therapeutic properties that can help you get through being sick, like OTC medicines such as cough syrup and Tylenol.

So, while cannabis won’t make your illness go away, it can help you deal with irritating symptoms that impede recovery.

Is Cannabis an Anti-Viral?

There is suggestive information that cannabinoids may have antiviral properties. However, the scientific evidence supporting such claims is virtually non-existent. Most studies regarding marijuana’s antiviral properties are still in the initial stages. For example, preclinical studies show that CBD may be effective in treating hepatitis C and Kaposi sarcoma. More research is needed before cannabis can be definitively declared as an antiviral, and even further research needs to be conducted to really understand how it might work.

What Symptoms Can Cannabis Help?

According to anecdotal evidence, cannabis can treat a broad range of conditions. But, unfortunately, even if such claims are valid, the clinical studies aren’t there to back it up—yet. Ongoing research for medical cannabis applications shows a lot of promise despite their limitations. Moreover, ample research supports marijuana’s ability to manage several prominent cold and flu symptoms.

Aches and Pains

Cannabis has a long history of treating pain, tracing back to 2900 B.C. in ancient China. Of all the medical reasons for cannabis use, pain relief is the most common. There is plenty of evidence supporting its use for chronic pain, and topical application of CBD has become commonplace. Considering how dangerous the side effects of other pain medications can be, cannabis is a favorable alternative with a good safety profile.


Pain and inflammation go hand in hand, so it is no surprise that cannabis has been used for both. CBD, in particular, presents as an anti-inflammatory cannabinoid. For example, a 2015 study found that topical CBD provided pain relief and reduced inflammation evident in rats with arthritis. More recently, cannabis has been theorized to help COVID-19 inflammation associated with fatal cytokine storms.

Sleep Problems

Not only are many cold and flu symptoms uncomfortable while awake, but they also make it substantially difficult to sleep. Obtaining good quality sleep is linked to illness resistance and is integral to the healing process. Personal accounts attest to cannabis’s ability to help patients sleep; however, clinical evidence is not conclusive.

Cannabis Delivery Methods for Colds and Flus

Though cannabis might be able to help with your cold and flu symptoms, you need to take special care in how you consume it. While sick, the body suffers from massive inflammation, particularly in the throat and nasal passages. Smoking cannabis while sick can significantly irritate your airways, potentially worsening your symptoms. Therefore, consumption methods that do not involve smoking or vaping are strongly recommended. Such methods might include topical creams, tinctures, or edibles.

CBD Gummies

Taking CBD gummies in place of cough drops or other OTC medications is an excellent way to consume marijuana safely while sick. They are convenient and have a good shelf life compared to other edibles. As long as you store them adequately, it is easy enough to keep some around in case you find yourself under the weather. Plus, gummy candies can serve as a nice little “pick-me-up” when being sick has got you feeling down.

Cannabis Tea

A toasty cup of tea is a classic solution for throat and sinus irritation caused by a cold or flu. You can turn the comfort up a notch by adding cannabis as a medicinal ingredient. Cannabis tea can be purchased through a trusted retailer, or you can brew your own if you want more control over the dose. Rather than adding cannabis directly to the tea, some people prefer to infuse honey or milk with it.

Though THC does not degrade when boiled in water, it does tend to precipitate. A study of cannabis tea preparation found that only 17% of pure THC was recovered after 15 minutes. THCA had a much higher recovery rate at 63%. Other acidic cannabinoids have the potential to work well in tea, but sufficient studies on them have not yet been conducted.

Another thing to keep in mind is that cannabis tea quickly loses its potency when refrigerated. However, stabilizing the solution with coffee creamer can increase the potency period for at least 5 days. Though it is always better to prepare a fresh cup, keep in mind that you can store it for a quick fix.

Should You Use Cannabis for Colds and Flus?

No one likes being sick. The misery experienced is undeniable, and it is perfectly reasonable for you to want some kind of medicinal aid to help you through it. Though cannabis can’t cure your illness, it can certainly address some of your symptoms, such as aches and pains, inflammation, and sleep issues.

Some OTC medicines are prone to abuse and overdose, such as dextromethorphan (DXM) and loperamide. The upside of cannabis is that it has a strong safety profile and some cannabinoids like CBD are extremely hard to misuse. Though you can experience adverse side effects when taken in excess, they are not considered medically concerning.

If you do not currently use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, it probably isn’t the best to test your reaction or tolerance when sick. Instead, you should figure out how your body reacts beforehand. If you feel the overwhelming need to try something, stick with CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. CBD is notably safer than THC, with limited adverse effects on the body and brain.

As always, you should consult with your doctor regarding proper practice. Though research supports medical marijuana for therapeutical treatments, there is not enough precise information on effective and safe dosages for specific conditions. Your doctor can ensure your safety and keep you informed.