How To Treat Herpes With Medical Marijuana

  • Is it possible to use medical marijuana to treat herpes? Recent studies are indicating that a compound found in marijuana kills the herpes virus in the lab. And patients using marijuana to treat herpes symptoms are reporting fewer and less severe herpetic outbreaks. In this article, we’ll discuss how marijuana may benefit individuals suffering from herpes, and how it can be used for symptom relief.

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Medical marijuana and herpes are two topics people rarely discussed in the past. But times have changed. Reefer Madness is coming to an end as medical marijuana becomes more mainstream. And it’s now common knowledge that a quarter of Americans carry a herpes virus. Although, many of them rarely experience symptoms. Many herpes patients find that marijuana not only helps relieve herpes symptoms, it also reduces the frequency and severity for some.

What is herpes?

Herpes is not just a sexually transmitted disease. The term herpes actually refers to several inflammatory diseases of the skin which are characterized by clusters of vesicles (sores). In addition to the more common forms of herpes, certain types of herpes virus are known to cause conditions such as mono, chickenpox, and shingles, or even flu-like conditions or seizures, in some cases. Many individuals are unaware that they are infected with a herpes virus because they exhibit no symptoms. 

The herpes virus has been around since the days of Hippocrates (46-370BCE). His journals spoke of “creeping, crawling” lesions covering the bodies of many individuals in the region. In fact, the word herpes was derived from “hepein” which means to creep or crawl. Herpes is also mentioned in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 

There are numerous varieties of the condition, the most common being HSV-1 and HSV-2 herpes simplex. However, there are in fact eight different types of herpes. 

  • HSV-1, more commonly known as herpes simplex is the most common and contagious version of the virus, infecting 65 percent of most humans between the ages of 14-49. The most common methods of spreading the virus are kissing and oral sex. 
  • HSV-2 herpes simplex is the second most common type of herpesvirus. This version is also highly contagious infecting about 11 percent of people aged 14 to 49. Shockingly, many of the infected individuals don’t know they have the virus and are symptom-free. HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes. It’s typically spread through sexual intercourse. In some cases, HSV-2 can spread from the genitals to the mouth to cause oral herpes. 
  • HHV-3 herpes virus, alternatively known as the varicella-zoster virus, is a common virus known to cause chickenpox in childhood, and often manifests as shingles in adulthood.
  • HHV-4, or human herpesvirus 4, or HHV-4, is an infectious virus that’s often called the Epstein-Barr virus, it often manifests in young adults as mononucleosis and is also known as “the kissing virus.”
  • HHV-5 is widely known as the cytomegalovirus (CMV). This virus can potentially affect individuals of any age and is known to be a lifelong condition. It affects an estimated 50 percent of all adults over the age of 40. HHV-5 causes individuals to experience extreme flu-like symptoms. Many people are asymptomatic, however, it can create drastic problems down the road for those with compromised immune systems. HHV-5 CMV typically is contracted from the mother during birth. The virus can also spread to infants via breast milk. It can also be transmitted among children who share toys and/or items that come into contact with the mouth.
  • HHV-6 or human herpesvirus commonly appears in infants and young children and in people who have received organ transplants. This virus is thought to account for 20 percent of all emergency room visits for children. Infection usually produces rashes, ear infections, fever, gastrointestinal distress, and in severe cases may induce seizures. HHV-6 The virus is also common in people that receive organ transplants.
  • HHV-7 is a form of the virus estimated to be present in the majority of humans. It is closely related to HHV-6 and was first identified in 1990. HHV-7 symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting roseola, flu-like symptoms, fever, and sometimes seizures. Some individuals with the virus may be asymptomatic. HHV-7 is thought to infect more than 95 percent of adults residing in the US with the majority of people becoming infected before six years of age. 
  • HHV-8 was recently discovered and is alternatively known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. It is believed that this virus has infected as many as 35 percent of AIDS patients. Individuals that have received organ transplants are also susceptible. HHV-8 was recently isolated in Kaposi sarcoma tumors, a type of cancer that may cause lesions to appear on the lymph nodes, internal organs, and skin of AIDS patients. 

How does marijuana help reduce and relieve herpes symptoms?

Are you aware that cannabinoids — the main active compounds produced in cannabis flowers — have shown an ability to kill the herpes virus in the lab? Cannabinoids also seem to not only effectively reduce the symptoms of herpes but also the infectiousness of the virus itself.

In a study by Carol Shoshkes Reiss, the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids were found to be beneficial in the inhibition of persistent viral infections. Here is an excerpt from that paper:

Exogenous cannabinoids or receptor antagonists may influence many cellular and systemic host responses. The anti-inflammatory activity of cannabinoids may compromise host inflammatory responses to acute viral infections, but may be beneficial in persistent infections.

Furthermore, the severity of chronic pain during herpetic outbreaks might be successfully reduced with medical marijuana or cannabinoid-infused products. One study from the University of California at Davis showed that THC reduced neuropathic pain associated with a herpes outbreak. Around 61 percent of the individuals taking part in the study reported a decrease in pain and inflammation with the administration of medical marijuana.

Aside from all the studies on how cannabinoids effectively kill the virus, there is ample evidence showing that marijuana addresses many of the triggers such as stress, anxiety, and depression that may induce a herpetic outbreak. This might be why some cannabis users report fewer outbreaks. 

As we hinted at earlier, cannabinoids have been shown to kill the herpes virus in lab studies. In one study, when high levels of THC and viruses were incubated together, the THC appeared to kill HSV-1. And earlier studies from 1980, 1991, and 2004 showed that cells infected with either HSV-1 or -2 stopped replicating when treated with THC. 

Keep in mind that much more research needs to be done to determine the efficacy of marijuana and cannabinoids in destroying the herpes virus or stopping its replication before any claims can be made with certainty.

Moreover, cannabis, being an herbal remedy, affects all patients differently. While some patients might find cannabis to be effective at reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of herpetic outbreaks, not all patients will benefit. 

How is medical marijuana used to treat herpes?

Medical marijuana products come in a wide variety of delivery methods and formulations. While smoking cannabis flower or vaping cannabis-infused oils can provide fast relief of pain and quickly improve mood, other systemic delivery methods such as cannabis oil concentrates, tinctures, and edibles, albeit slower-acting, are safer to use. They are far less likely to cause or worsen long-term health problems such as bronchitis and high blood pressure. 

There are multiple types of cannabinoids, the two most common of which are THC and CBD. Products can be formulated with various ratios of the two. While THC causes intoxication, CBD does not. Each patient responds differently to these cannabinoids, so some experimentation is in order to determine the ideal dosage of each. 

Some amount of THC is often beneficial, especially for improving mood, relieving pain, and protecting cells. However, it’s important to point out that patients can buy CBD online without a medical marijuana card. Hemp flower, which is also available online, is THC-free can also be used for smoking, vaping, and cooking edibles in the same ways as marijuana. Products containing more than 0.3 percent THC must be purchased a marijuana dispensary.  

Cannabinoid-infused skin creams, balms, and ointments may be effective at shortening the duration of herpetic outbreaks as well as reducing their infectiousness. Topical application can also provide pain- and itch-relieving benefits. Cannabis lip balm has been shown to relieve cold sore-related pain. 

A cannabinoid-infused lotion was the subject of a 2010 study. The formula was applied to individuals suffering from postherpetic neuralgia, a disorder similar to shingles. Those who applied the cream reported an 87 percent decrease in pain. 

More information on how to determine the ideal dosage of marijuana and cannabis-infused products can be found here. Also, patients can get dosage advice from a healthcare provider and/or budtender. And, of course, always read instructions that come with a product.  

How do patients get a medical marijuana card for herpes?

Herpes is not specifically listed as a qualifying condition for a medical marijuana card in any U.S. state. However, some states permit medical marijuana doctors to make the decision as to who can be approved for access to marijuana dispensaries

Each state’s medical marijuana laws are unique. The first step in obtaining a medical marijuana card in your state is to make an appointment with a state-certified medical marijuana doctor to see if you qualify. 

If a patient is approved the healthcare provider’s staff will generally help the applicant register with their state’s medical marijuana registry. 

It’s important to understand that all types of herpes require the vigilant care of a healthcare professional with experience in herpes treatment. For best results, medical marijuana is often used in conjunction with traditional antiviral medications. 

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