Could cannabis cure common colds?

As the cold weather of winter hits regions across the globe, the dreaded cold and flu season also sets in.

The days of red noses, sniffles and sneezes are upon us and while sufferers tend to flock to the supermarket for temporary cures, cannabis has emerged as a dark horse in the race to battle the dreaded cold illness

Extensive research and tests have been conducted on whether cannabis can cure the cold or flu virus, and although many of those have come back as inconclusive, there is mounting evidence that suggests that cannabis can help the symptoms of a common cold.

The common cold is the result of a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) from one of many different types of viruses entering the body, with the majority of the time being from the rhinovirus, however there are around 200 different strains of the virus.

After being easily spread by hand-to-hand contact or sharing contaminated objects and touching the eyes, nose or mouth, the virus enters the body and attacks the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat. It then spreads down to the lungs, where the body responds by trying to fight the virus by creating inflammation and over-producing mucus to attempt to expel the bad bacteria from the body. This causes the associated symptoms of a cold such as sore throats, runny or blocked nose with coughing and sneezing.

A 2017 scientific journal found that weed smoke has anti-inflammatory properties which can relieve symptoms of a sore throat, swollen nasal passageways and fever. If the individual is otherwise healthy but suffering from cold and flu symptoms, cannabis use was found to decrease the production of certain inflammatory cytokines in human subjects, and similar findings have been presented in the same study in animal and cell-based subjects.


The same review also found that weed was effective in treating chronic pain, which although is very different to acute aches caused by the common cold, the relief received from the medicinal properties helps relieve pain relating to both short-term symptoms associated with colds as well as long-term chronic pain.

Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat minor illnesses, with it being touted more recently as useful for serious illnesses. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties it could well act faster and more efficiently than regular over-the-counter medicines, it also aids sleep and appetite which are often affected when someone catches a cold.

Another 2017 medical report on the link between cannabis and sleep found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) used short term can help sleep, however if someone is a long term user of cannabis, they may have a build-up of tolerance to the sleep-inducing components of THC therefore hindering the ability to enjoy a better night’s sleep.

Another component of cannabis – CBD - demonstrated a different effect in the tests and indicated at medium to high doses that it induced sedative effects and thus is beneficial for a variety of sleep disorders including insomnia, and can lead to not only improved sleep, but allowing the user to sleep for a longer time period, which can be extremely beneficial when someone is feeling unwell as the body restores its vitality much quicker when asleep.

Not for everyone

It’s worth noting that while cannabis can be extremely useful for some, it isn’t for everyone and ingesting cannabis via smoking could in fact worsen the symptoms of a cold and irritate the lungs further, and long term weed smoking can create excess phlegm production.

If someone feels they are experiencing the on-set of a cold and opts to smoke cannabis, it has a small chance of turning a minor sore throat into a bigger problem as the mucus membranes that are already inflamed will be working harder to create even more.

Although the risks of respiratory complications from smoking cannabis are relatively small and much lower than risks of smoking tobacco, the report found that heavy cannabis users may be at a high risk of developing chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A much better method of ingestion would be edibles, which is a growing market especially in Canada due to the recent wave of new legislation.

It may take some time for edibles to take effect, but once it does it will almost certainly reduce the aches, pains and chills while increasing the chance and quality of a much-needed rest.

CBD oil is most likely a better option as it has no ‘high’ inducing properties and has been found to be high in anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing properties which could aid in relieving blocked noses, sore throats and general aches while being considered as generally more safe than cannabis in bud form.

Despite the fact that there is no concrete evidence to prove that cannabis can cure the common cold, it is important to note that there is no certified cure for the illness at all - this includes over-the-counter treatments or herbal home remedies. However, cannabis can still be used to treat various symptoms of the dreaded cold and aid in increasing relaxation and getting a better night’s sleep.

Other medicinal benefits

Cannabis is undoubtedly a plant with numerous medicinal properties. Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive ingredient, is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, while cannabis itself has been used to treat all manner of issues from chronic pain in the body to eye conditions such as glaucoma.

But recent research has suggested it can do much more. There have been rallying calls from citizens in the UK stating that the NHS should make it legal to obtain for medicinal purposes as it helps patients who need prescription drugs that aren’t based on addictive opiates.

Despite Sajid Javid proposing cannabis be moved from Schedule 1, where the drugs have no supposed medicinal value, to Schedule 2, where doctors are allowed to prescribe them, few people can legally obtain medical cannabis for their ailments.

The stipulation for acquiring the cannabis being that the patient cannot be helped by any other licensed medicine, which leaves it at the end of an extremely long list of other prescriptions before a doctor will consider it.