There have been numerous medical claims around cannabis. While medical research continues at a brisk pace, there’s still quite a bit we know — and don’t know — about the effectiveness of cannabis to treat certain conditions. We know it can help reduce inflammation, nausea and pain. We know that CBD and THC have specific medical purposes, and can be combined to more broadly treat certain symptoms. Some strains have even been engineered to help with specific conditions, like the THCV-heavy strain Willie Nelson procured that helps with anxiety. As we slide into cold and flu season, however, the question comes up, “is cannabis an effective remedy?” Well, it depends. Of course, a cold is different to the flu, but both will knock you out for a while if they happen to be a particularly virulent strain. So is there a strain of cannabis that can help?

There’s no cure for the common cold, of course, just medication to alleviate some of the symptoms. Additionally, the flu doesn’t really have a cure, just a preventative vaccine that may or may not protect you from the strains that pop up year to year. Thus, there’s nothing in cannabis that can prevent these things, just a potential remedy for the associated effects of having a flu or cold.

Both strong colds and the flu can cause body aches, and cannabis can definitely help with that. There is ample medical evidence to show that cannabis, both THC and CBD forms, can help with pain management. However, smoking isn’t going to be a great idea if you have a sore throat. Smoking of any kind, and that includes vaping, will irritate the nose and throat linings, causing more coughing and more irritation. So forget about toking while sick with these ailments, because it’ll just make things worse. 

Perhaps the real benefit is from marijuana’s anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation with a cold or flu can manifest primarily in the sinuses, and also pressure headaches and puffiness around the eyes. As you might imagine, this is all upper respiratory inflammation and is all connected. The sinuses, the eyes, the headaches, they’re all part of one system that can be affected by cannabis and its anti-inflammatory benefits. Unfortunately, there’s not been a lot of research on the specific benefits of cannabis for the cold or flu, so how effective it is remains somewhat of a mystery.

The good news is that smoking doesn’t seem to suppress the body’s immune system, so it won’t make a cold or flu last longer. Common cold medications can interact with cannabis, but only as far as making the side effects from both a bit worse. For example, a common side effect of cold medication is drowsiness. If you are taking an Indica while also taking that medication, you may find yourself even drowsier than usual. Not a bad thing if you’re off work and plan to sleep through the illness (a totally viable option, as the body simply needs to rest to heal), but obviously not a situation that works for driving to the doctor. Dry mouth, impaired cognition, even dizziness and feeling cold can all be exacerbated by smoking and taking over-the-counter medications for the cold or flu. It’s not that you shouldn’t take them and take cannabis while sick, it’s simply that you should be aware of the compounded effects.

So is cannabis a good treatment for the cold or flu? It looks like CBD is more effective for the inflammation, but THC would be good for nausea. A good dispensary may have cannabis teas or even soup infusions that provide help without smoking, and are good for the sinuses in general. But the best idea is to avoid getting sick to begin with by avoiding shared joints or other smoking devices as the season ramps up and more people are carrying those germs. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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