Catching the common cold or the flu is really unpleasant, especially when you don’t know how your body is going to react. Sometimes you walk it off in a few days, and other times it knocks you down for a week or two.
Since both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses rather than bacteria, antibiotics are of little help and the best you can do is to protect yourself and let your body and immune system handle it.
Most people reach for some OTC medications to relieve their symptoms and some vitamins to strengthen their immunity, but some people reach out for cannabis as well.
Cannabis is well-known for its health effects, but can it help with common cold and flu symptoms? In this article, we’ll discuss whether smoking cannabis can help ease the symptoms when you’re sick or if it can make them worse.
Weed Consumption and Cold Symptoms
The cold and the flu cause inflammation in the body, which is the natural response of the immune system against perceived threats, like injuries and infections. In this state, the body starts to produce cytokines, which are chemicals that are sent to fight off the threat and restore balance in the body.
When your body catches a cold or the flu, the resulting inflammation produces different symptoms that manifest as:
- Sore throat
- Increased phlegm production
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Feeling of pressure in the sinuses
- Body aches
- Watery eyes
Now, when it comes to the effects of cannabis on the common cold, it’s fair to say that cannabis use isn’t a cure for the cold, but it can help alleviate some of the symptoms or at least help you sleep better when you’re sick.
That said, the cannabinoids in weed, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), bind to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system which plays a major role in a lot of processes in the body, including the anti-inflammatory response of the immune system.
The active compounds CBD and THC are thought to be able to influence the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines by decreasing their activity. This way, the inflammatory response is mildly neutralized which results in a decrease of symptoms.
Can Smoking Weed Worsen Cold Symptoms?
There aren’t any studies that have confirmed that smoking weed can make your cold worse, but anecdotal evidence goes both ways with some users claiming they feel better, while some users claim they feel worse.
If your preferred method of marijuana use is smoking, you should take into consideration that however beneficial weed can be, weed smoke can really irritate your respiratory tract. If your symptoms are primarily nasal, it may lead to further mucus production and congestion, and more frequent sneezing.
Additionally, hot weed smoke can make your respiratory symptoms more pronounced by aggravating your throat and lungs and increasing phlegm production. Your cough may also become worse at this point, especially if you’re suffering from bronchitis.
If you still like to smoke cannabis when you have a cold, you can try cooling the smoke by using a bong which will make it smoother for consumption and reduce the chances of irritation.
When it comes to other effects of weed on cold symptoms, you should also take into account that inhaling weed causes a drop in blood pressure which may make you dizzy and lightheaded. Cold symptoms can often make you feel weak and smoking weed may exacerbate that feeling.
Are There Drug Interactions With OTC Cold Meds?
Weed can interact with some types of over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications, specifically those that have sedative effects. These meds can alter how your body processes cannabinoids and may intensify some of the psychoactive effects of weed.
You may start feeling intense drowsiness and mental fatigue, like you’re unable to think straight. If this happens, avoid tasks that require you to concentrate, and if you can, stay at home where you can rest.
You should know that these drug interactions don’t pose a serious risk to your health, but to avoid adverse effects it’s best to be cautious with weed.
Other Ways to Use Cannabis When You Have a Cold
If you’ve found that weed helps you feel better when you’re sick, there are other ways you can make use of its anti-inflammatory effects. The most obvious one would be to use tinctures or take some edibles, but if you’ve never had edibles, you’ll need to be careful with them and not take too much because they take a while to work.
Another way you can use cannabis when you have a cold is to brew cannabis tea. This way you’ll get the health benefits of weed combined with the warmth of the tea, which can help soothe the symptoms.
You can also use topicals like lotions, ointments, or creams if you have any localized body aches, which are very common, especially with the flu. Oral sprays can help with a sore throat if it’s not too severe.
Can You Vape?
Contrary to popular belief, smoking and vaping are two different forms of marijuana consumption, even though they both involve inhaling weed.
To make it clearer, smoking combusts the plant material at a very high temperature, causing the release of different irritating chemicals in the smoke. These chemicals can irritate not only your throat but your lungs as well.
With vaping, on the other hand, the plant material is heated to a certain temperature in the vaporizer, making the vapor you inhale cleaner and lighter, and it’s much easier on your lungs and throat. Therefore, if your cold symptoms don’t involve respiratory issues, you can vape weed if it helps you.
What About Using CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a great active ingredient for many health issues due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it doesn’t get you high, so it’s often preferred by medical marijuana patients.
According to a 2016 review of literature on cannabinoids, CBD oil can be effective for treating muscle spasms and aches, which makes it suitable for when you need to alleviate cold or flu-related muscle aches.
The Verdict – Should You Smoke Weed When You’re Sick?
Clearly, weed can be beneficial when you’re sick due to its anti-inflammatory effects, whether to help you with your symptoms or to just help you sleep better, as we all know how important it is to rest your body when you’re sick. However, cannabis smoking may not be ideal for everyone because of the varying severity of the symptoms.
If you’re experiencing a cough or a sore throat, smoking weed will only aggravate your condition and make your cough worse, and may even prolong your full recovery. If, on the other hand, your symptoms are mild and you feel like you can tolerate the smoke, then you should proceed as you normally would. But, be mindful with the OTC medications for the flu or the common cold as some may cause side effects.