The many health benefits of marijuana have been firmly established – so tea bags that more than half the U.S. states and many European nations have already legalized it for medical purposes. It’s widely accepted that pot is beneficial not only for patients with glaucoma, cancer or multiple sclerosis, but those with less severe conditions like pain and anxiety.
But does it make any sense to consume cannabis while sick in bed with a cold or flu?
The answer is the same annoying one you often hear when asking a complicated question: it depends.
Let’s sort out the pros and cons.
The Benefits of Weed When You’re Sick
The two key cannabinoids in marijuana are THC and non-psychoactive CBD, and both have been shown to have substantial pain relief benefits. Additionally, each is effective at treating nausea, anxiety, and insomnia.
However, THC and CBD vary significantly in their ability to help with other medical issues. More specifically, CBD is believed to be responsible for the majority of weed’s benefits since it has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, while THC has neither.
Most common colds and flu aren’t caused by bacteria, though. They’re caused by viruses, which neither THC nor CBD can fight. So while both cannabinoids can ease the overall aches and pains which often accompany viral infections, only CBD can help relieve the headaches, sinus pressure and congestion that are some of the most aggravating effects of flu and colds.
That means that consuming CBD by itself may be just as effective as lighting up a doob to deal with the symptoms of a cold or the flu. It could even be an even better choice.
The Real Problems with Consuming Pot While Sick
The important word in this discussion is “consuming,” because how you consume weed when you’re sick is a crucial issue.
Most users either smoke their herb or use a vaporizer. And since some of the primary symptoms of colds and the flu are respiratory ones – coughing, wheezing and the production of mucus – it makes common sense that inhaling smoke or vapor through a compromised bronchial system isn’t going to hasten your recovery.
Some argue that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can ease those bronchial symptoms, but initial research shows that the smoke and heat can make them worse. And there have been some studies indicating that THC may inhibit the performance of the body’s immune system. That research is not conclusive and was focused on cancer rather than more simple viral or bacterial infections. Still, it’s something to keep in mind, particularly if you already have a compromised immune system.
One other problem may arise: mixing pot and some over-the-counter cold medications can make some symptoms worse rather than better. For example, the combination could lead to dangerous levels of sedation when taking OTC products (like Nyquil) that can put you to sleep all by themselves. Other common cold or flu medicines can cause low-to-moderate levels of dry mouth, confusion, and loss of balance, which are exacerbated when marijuana is introduced into the system as well.
Two conclusions can be drawn. The first is that it’s safer and almost as effective to consume CBD instead of cannabis when you’re sick. The second is that anyone who chooses to use pot while trying to recover from a cold or the flu would be better off considering other ways to get their buzz on, rather than smoking or vaping.
Options for Consuming Cannabis While Sick
When people are catching a cold or have a sore throat, they usually reach for one of two things: cough drops or a cup of hot tea.
The latter option is a perfect way to consume cannabis when you’re sick. You can buy pot- or CBD-infused tea at many pot shops, and CBD tea bags are available online. Or you can make your own at home. It’s easy to stir a few drops of tincture or a teaspoon of water-soluble weed oil into your tea; for a stronger high, D-I-Y’ers can blend decarbed herb with milk, vanilla, and butter or coconut oil, and then steep the mixture with their favorite tea.
One common side issue when you have a cold or the flu is loss of appetite. Substituting edibles for your smokeables when you’re sick can take of that problem, while you’re ingesting the THC and/or CBD that could help ease many of your other symptoms. If you’re usually a smoker, though, go easy on the edibles until you know what effect they’ll have on you; they typically take longer to kick in than when you smoke.
Your parents or grandparents may have sworn by Vicks VapoRub to treat achy joints and congested chests. You may swear by cannabis or CBD topicals after you’ve tried them for the same purposes. They’re available in balms, oils, and liquids, and work best if you wrap the area in a hot towel after application.
We hesitated to include this one for obvious reasons, but some people hold their breath and go this route because suppositories work faster than edibles, often produce a better high, and don’t affect either the lungs or liver. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone if you choose this option.