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Should You Use Cannabis When You Have a Cold or Flu?

  • The common cold and the flu are the most widely-experienced illnesses, but they currently don’t have a cure.
  • Luckily, natural medicine like cannabis can target multiple cold and flu symptoms while promoting sleep for faster recovery.
  • Before using cannabis for cold and flu management, consider certain factors like consumption method, tolerance, and medication interactions.

Cannabis is used to treat a host of prevalent medical conditions, from chronic pain, to PTSD, to insomnia. It can also benefit people recovering from one of the most widespread conditions of all: the common cold.

While there’s no true cure for colds and the flu, cannabis can help you safely and effectively manage pesky symptoms by reducing inflammation, relieving aches and pains, and promoting a rejuvenating night’s sleep.

Cold and flu relief is nothing to blow your nose at. Learn more about how cannabis uniquely targets cold and flu symptoms, and how you can benefit from its therapeutic potential. TeleLeaf has all you need to know and more.

Uncovering the Common Cold and the Flu

You can do everything in your power to prevent catching the cold or flu—washing your hands, getting your yearly flu shot, sitting on the opposite side of the bus from that person who’s coughing without covering their mouth—but sometimes, despite your best efforts, you catch a cold anyway.

Colds can be caused by 200-plus viruses that infect your sinuses and airways. Viral infections send your body into overdrive as it fights to expel biological intruders. This leads you to develop infamous cold symptoms, such as:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion and runny nose
  • Body aches and headaches
  • Fatigue

The flu is a more severe version of a cold, caused by one virus in particular: the influenza virus. In addition to intense cold symptoms, you may experience fever and chills.

Colds and the flu can lead to complications, but they usually clear up on their own. The downside, though, is that they can’t be cured—only managed. What are your options, then?

Traditional Treatments for the Common Cold and Flu

Antibiotics are literal lifesavers for patients with bacterial infections; sadly, they do nothing for viral infections like colds and the flu. If you have the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, but they’re usually reserved for more severe cases.

Instead of prescription drugs, you have several types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to choose from, including:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Cough suppressant medication

The best cold and flu treatment isn’t something you can buy at the drugstore. It’s simple, quality rest.

However, sleep is frustratingly elusive when your nose is stuffy and your throat stings with every swallow. Some OTC medications can make you drowsy to aid with sleep, but for some, they merely cause grogginess or restless sleep.

When a cold or flu has you down for the count, you’ll try anything to get back on your feet. If OTC medications aren’t doing the job, it’s time to look into a natural alternative: cannabis.

Cannabis and Your Endocannabinoid System: The Healing Duo

Many people associate cannabis with the psychoactive “high” it produces when consumed. While many types of cannabis do make you high (but not all), cannabis also offers vast therapeutic potential for those living with pain, inflammation, nausea, anxiety, and more. But how does it work?

In your body, you have chemical compounds known as endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids regulate several essential internal functions, such as:

  • Pain control
  • Inflammatory and immune responses
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Appetite

When one of these functions needs to be tuned up, the endocannabinoids activate CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, restoring you to perfect harmony. This network of receptors and compounds is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Cannabis has cannabinoids, too—and when consumed, they interact with ECS receptors practically the same way your endocannabinoids do. Here’s how the two most well-known cannabinoids work their magic on your ECS:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – THC is unique because it can attach to and activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors, promoting a plethora of internal responses. THC activation relieves pain, reduces inflammation, eliminates nausea, and produces a euphoric sensation, AKA a high.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD doesn’t actually bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it may increase the number of endocannabinoids circulating in your body by stopping them from breaking down. Like THC, CBD relieves pain and nausea, but it also boosts your immune responses, which are essential to recovering from a cold or the flu. It’s often used to treat anxiety and insomnia due to its deeply relaxing (but non-psychoactive) properties.

Like other cold and flu medicines, cannabis can’t cure the root cause of your sickness. But when you hand it the reins to your ECS, it’ll make quick work of your nastier cold symptoms and set you up for a quicker recovery.

Cannabis vs. Colds and Flu: Relieving Symptoms and Fast-Tracking Recovery

Most cold and flu symptoms are connected to one internal function: inflammation.

Inflammation is your body’s response to injuries or threatening particles; in this case, the virus causing your cold or flu. It can cause:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen sinuses
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Fever

Acute inflammation like this helps your body recover, but it tends to overcompensate, leading to achey, hot discomfort. Luckily, cannabis is a potent anti-inflammatory, particularly CBD.

Not only does cannabis calm inflamed sinuses and airways, it minimizes your perception of pain. Many patients use medical cannabis to treat pain, and cold/flu pain is no different.

However, sleep is your best defense against the common cold and flu. And cannabis can help you clock more restful Z’s. Cannabis relieves uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms like congestion and coughing that keep you from sleeping, but it also puts you in a deeply relaxed state conducive to quality sleep.

If you’re looking for cannabis products that double as a sleep aid, try CBD products or indica-dominant marijuana strains. Indica generally contains higher CBD levels than other strains, and has calming, sedative effects.

Important Considerations

A few factors can potentially detract from the therapeutic benefits of cannabis:

  • Consumption method – All cannabis has healing potentials, but not all consumption methods do. For example, smoking weed could irritate your lungs and throat, which may exacerbate cold and flu symptoms like coughing. If you typically smoke cannabis, you may want to try other consumption methods like edibles, oils, teas, or capsules.
  • Experience and tolerance – Some experts don’t recommend using cannabis for a cold or flu when you’ve never tried it before. You won’t know exactly how you’ll react to it or how much you can tolerate. In your cold- or flu-weakened state, it’s best to stick with what you know.
  • Medication interactions – Avoid using cannabis and other OTC medications at the same time, especially if they cause drowsiness. Since many cannabis strains are also sedating, the combined effects can leave you feeling overly tired and unfocused—not what you want when you’re trying to feel better.

FInally, you should always seek medical help when your symptoms worsen or last longer than the typical 7 to 10 days.

If your cold and flu symptoms are tied to a chronic medical issue, consider obtaining a medical marijuana card online to treat your condition long-term. TeleLeaf connects you with physicians who know the ins and outs of medical cannabis use. Schedule a telehealth appointment today to learn if cannabis is the right option for you.

Navigate the World of Medical Marijuana with TeleLeaf

At TeleLeaf, we’re committed to demystifying medical marijuana, one virtual appointment at a time.

Once you receive your medical marijuana recommendation from one of our experienced clinicians, you’ll gain access to more than just cannabis—you’ll stay connected to our dedicated care providers who will continue to guide you towards greater healing.

We care about your entire healing journey because we’ve been exactly where you are. We’re in this with you for the long haul.

Reach out for more medical marijuana guidance tailored to your needs, or renew your recommendation today.


Cleveland Clinic. Common Cold.

Harvard Health. The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious.

Healthline. A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System.

Cleveland Clinic. Inflammation. Cannabis for Colds and Flu: What To Know.

Healthline. Sativa vs. Indica: What to Expect Across Cannabis Types and Strains.

Healthline. Is It Safe to Smoke Weed If You Have a Cold or the Flu?

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