Cannabis And Herpes: How It Can Help
Herpes is an incurable virus. However, it may be that cannabis can help. And in fact, it appears that it can help treat symptoms, as well as potentially prevent viral outbreaks in the first place.
Herpes is not just one disease or condition. It is actually a virus family. It is, however, responsible for several serious and chronic human ailments. These include chickenpox, cold sores, genital herpes, and mono. When you are infected, the virus never goes away. Additionally, symptoms tend to pop up when the body undergoes severe stress. That includes when the immune system is depressed.
The most common forms of the virus are herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 (or HSV-1 and HSV-2). Oral herpes (HSV-1) might be present in between 30-95% of the population. About 20% of the US population has genital herpes (HSV-2).
The good news? It appears that cannabis might be able to treat these conditions. Why? Not only does cannabis have immune-boosting properties, it can also relieve stress in the first place. Cannabinoids appear to reduce the infectiousness of the virus, as well as some of its worst symptoms.
A LOWDOWN ON HERPES
Herpes is a chronic condition – one attached to a huge amount of social stigma, beyond just becoming infected. That can make disease management really difficult. Herpes is highly contagious. Oral herpes is spread fairly easily through simple contact. Sharing a lipstick or kissing can spread it. Unprotected oral sex is another major channel of transmission.
HSV-1 causes cold sores. These can be acquired through simple skin contact. HSV-2 comes from sexually transmitted infection. This causes painful sores on the genitals. Worse? This is a condition that comes back repeatedly and largely unannounced. The virus is reactivated with stress. This can include anything from menstruation to fatigue. It can also include overexposure to the sun.
For those who suffer, it is a constant management battle to keep the condition at bay.
No matter how it occurs, viral outbreaks can interfere with daily functioning and life in general. It is often embarrassing, painful, or both. There is still a great deal of stigma around sexually transmitted herpes in particular.
The three main drugs used to treat this virus all have serious side effects. Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir are the drugs most commonly prescribed. They can also cause headaches and diarrhea. Vomiting is common. In the worst cases, they can actually affect one’s psychology.
As a result, many sufferers look for other, more natural alternatives.
Cannabis is one of the main drugs they also turn to.
CAN CANNABIS TREAT HERPES?
The good news? It appears that cannabis certainly might help. Starting with preventing outbreaks in the first place. While clinical data is still hard to come by (of course), what is available already shows significant promise. Early studies  dating from 1980 and later repeated in 1991 and 2004 show the same thing: cells infected with either HSV-1 or 2 stopped replicating when treated with THC.
Even more exciting? A 1991 study  found that THC reduced infection rates too.
Topical therapies containing cannabinoids can also reduce the pain experienced by herpes sufferers, particularly shingles  .
All in all, cannabinoids seem to have exactly the right properties required to fight outbreaks of the virus. Cannabis also appears to be able to address, if not treat, physical and mental stressors that can cause its re-emergence.
HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHAT KIND OF CANNABIS IS RIGHT?
This is going to take some trial and error. If you have a canna-friendly doctor, by all means engage them. They might be able to suggest particular strains to help you start with. This is also a discussion you should have with your local dispensary, even if you are discreet about the actual condition.
It is likely that you will find both internal and external applications of cannabis to help your condition. By ingesting cannabinoids orally or smoking them, you are in fact boosting your immune system already. Cannabis also has strong anti-viral properties. Certain medical strains are even bred for this trait.
On top of this, consider topical treatment. THC oils and creams, even if you make them yourself, appear to halt both the progression and pain from sores.
Having the herpes virus means managing a life-long chronic condition. That means there are other lifestyle changes necessary to control the worst symptoms. Maintaining a healthy diet, regularly exercising, and getting enough sleep are critical.
When integrating medical cannabis into herpes management, also consider how this will fit into the healthy lifestyle choices you are now making.
While it may be difficult to hear the diagnosis at first, this too shall pass. Many people who are exposed to the virus are able to manage it with some lifestyle adjustments. And the best news of all? This is a condition that appears to be significantly more manageable with cannabis.
Medical use of cannabis appears to dramatically help herpes sufferers. First, it helps treat symptoms. But it may prevent outbreaks from flaring up too.
Updated on April 13, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Genital herpes, also known as herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) is a virus that commonly occurs near the sex organs and then spreads through close personal contact. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least one out of every six people between the ages of 14 and 49 in the U.S. have a genital herpes infection.
How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Genital Herpes
Herpes doesn’t have a cure. However, if you are a carrier, life can be easier with herpes medications. Three common types of medications doctors prescribe for herpes are:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
Unfortunately, these herpes medications are extremely costly and aren’t always effective. They also often come with negative side effects like:
- Hair loss
- Kidney damage
Research shows THC — cannabis’s psychoactive cannabinoid — helps modulate the immune response of your body and its T-cells to counteract the herpes virus and keep it from replicating and spreading. According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Experimental Biology and Medicine, THC made the herpes virus ineffective because it inactivated it and reduced its viability by 80 percent. Another study published in BMC Medicine found that THC targeted the cellular and viral mechanisms of the virus needed for transmission.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Genital Herpes Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Medical marijuana for genital herpes helps patients in numerous ways:
- It helps reduce the anxiety patients might experience from big events or just from everyday life, which can trigger herpes outbreaks. Certain cannabinoids in marijuana treatments for genital herpes affect anxiety in different ways, with CBD appearing to reduce anxiety the most.
- The journal Neuropsychopharmacology published a 2011 study showing CBD reduces social anxiety disorder symptoms in individuals greatly. By reducing these anxiety effects, it could in turn help reduce the severity or frequency of herpes outbreaks.
- Both THC and CBD in medical cannabis may help reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks due to their anti-inflammatory effects and both could reduce the pain associated with an outbreak. The University of California at Davis conducted a study which found that THC could decrease neuropathic pain immensely, even in smaller concentrations of 29 to 3.53 percent THC. Around 61 percent of individuals in the study treated with medical pot experienced a decrease in their pain.
Additionally, dermatologists usually prescribe patients with the herpes virus an antiviral and corticosteroid ointment or an antibiotic to reduce their symptoms and kill the virus. Marijuana oils mimic this ointment.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Genital Herpes to Treat Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
If you’re considering using marijuana for genital herpes, below are five strains to consider:
- Green Crack (Sativa): A good strain for treating pain and for daytime use. It also helps with fatigue, depression and stress.
- OG Kush (Hybrid): A strain that produces a nice cerebral high that numbs your body. It’s used widely by patients looking to treat their pain and stress. It also works well for depression and insomnia.
- Sour Diesel (Sativa): A great strain with stress-relieving properties promising long-lasting relief. It works well for headaches, fatigue and depression, too.
- Northern Lights (Indica): This strain also numbs your body and is relaxing in nature. It allows you to sleep well, particularly if you’re struggling with pain. You may also use it for depression and stress.
- Granddaddy Purple (Indica): A go-to strain if your herpes is bothering you to the point where it keeps you from getting any sleep. While it’s great for insomnia, it’s also good for treating stress and pain.
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Genital Herpes
You can easily vape, smoke or eat cannabis to help reduce herpes-related pain. Tinctures or CBD terpene oils containing THC work medicinally when you apply them topically to your skin. Topicals may include:
- Cannabis lip balm: It relieves cold sore-related pain. It promotes healing with its high CBD content.
- Cannabis-infused honey: Buy this online or make it in your kitchen. Honey helps heal scars, wounds and scabs. Consuming cannabis-infused honey can relieve the itching you may experience during the healing process.
- Cannabis cream: Marijuana cream provides anti-inflammatory and pain benefits. It helps heal your skin and enhance your appearance. It also treats herpes lesions without scarring while offering relief from pain and itching.
Start the Medical Marijuana for Genital Herpes Relief Process
Physicians can make a recommendation if they believe you’d benefit from adding medical marijuana to your overall treatment plan and if you have a qualifying condition. For instance, headaches and chronic pain are qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in some states — and genital herpes can cause both.
You shouldn’t have a hard time finding a doctor to give you this recommendation for medical pot as long as it’s legal in your state. Additionally, in some states, you may need a face-to-face appointment with a doctor. In others, a video consultation online is enough to obtain your recommendation.
Once you find out if marijuana for genital herpes is legal in your state, any licensed doctor can provide you with a recommendation. Then, you’ll be all set to seek out a medical marijuana doctor and find a dispensary to purchase your cannabis treatment. Why go even one more day without relief?
What Is Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is a virus primarily spread through sexual contact. One of the things that makes it so difficult to prevent is that it’s highly contagious and transmissible even without visible sores.
There is no cure for the virus, but medication can relieve the symptoms and help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. Condoms have been instrumental in helping to reduce the spread of the herpes simplex type 2 infection. However, Avert — a leading organization promoting education about HIV and other STDs — warns even condoms do not provide full protection from the spread of genital herpes.
Genital herpes transmits primarily through bodily fluids, including:
- Vaginal fluids
Since men and women can carry the virus without even knowing they have it, you should be careful with all sexual partners and protect yourself. And it’s essential to get tested yourself the instant symptoms appear so you do not risk spreading the virus to others.
The CDC reports it’s possible for oral herpes, caused by herpes simplex virus one (HSV-1), to transmit to the genitals through oral sex. This means some cases of genital herpes result from exposure to HSV-1 rather than HSV-2. HSV-1 is the virus which causes some people to develop cold sores or fever blisters on their lips. Most people with HSV-1 get infected during childhood from non-sexual exposure.
An active herpes infection can lead to breaks in the skin of your mouth, vagina and rectum, which in turn provide gateways for HIV to enter your body. If you have a sexual partner who has both HIV and genital herpes, the risk of becoming infected is higher for this reason, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
The problem with genital herpes, and one of the primary reasons why it’s so prolific in modern society, is that you can get infected and spread the disease without having any overt symptoms. The first outbreak is typically mild and follows a pattern similar to the one listed below:
- Inflamed skin near the sex organ, which may include burning, itching and general pain.
- Blisters appear on or in the area around the sex organ. They often appear as tiny red bumps or white blisters.
- Blisters rupture, ooze, scab over and heal.
Other symptoms you may experience during an initial herpes outbreak, along with those listed above, include the following:
- Swollen glands
- Muscle aches
- Painful or burning urination
Some people complain of general flu-like symptoms when experiencing a herpes outbreak. These symptoms can last up to 20 days before clearing up. However, outbreaks will occur again in time. Symptoms of a reoccurrence include things like:
- A tingling sensation in the genital area
- Painful blisters appearing around the genitals, rectum or thighs
- For women, blisters and ulcers on the cervix
The good news about reoccurrences is that your body becomes more efficient at fending off the virus over time. This means the duration and severity of the infection will diminish in subsequent outbreaks.
Types of Herpes
There are two types of herpes:
- HSV-1: While not identical to the HSV-2 virus, which is responsible for causing genital herpes, the HSV-1 virus can spread to the genital region via oral sex.
- HSV-2: Known as genital herpes, this virus spreads through sexual secretions and saliva. It may be transmitted anally, orally or vaginally.
A Brief History of Genital Herpes
While the herpes virus can be traced anecdotally back to Ancient Greece, it wasn’t recognized officially by scientists until Emile Vidal’s contributions in 1893. It also wasn’t labeled as an infectious disease until 1919, with confirmation of its infectiousness by Lowenstein. Researchers at the University of California believe they’ve traced the origins back even further to chimpanzees living six million years ago.
The Physical, Mental and Emotional Effects of Genital Herpes
Rare physical side effects of genital herpes can happen when the blisters become infected and allow the virus to spread to other parts of the body, such as your hands, lips or fingers.
Women who are pregnant should inform their doctor right away if they have genital herpes. If there is an active infection at the time of delivery, your doctor may choose to perform a cesarean section rather than risk transmitting the virus to the baby. Mayo Clinic warns women with active infections at the time of delivery may pass the virus to their babies, which can result in any of the following:
- Brain damage
- Death of the baby
Don’t take this condition lightly if you are pregnant.
While some of the effects of genital herpes result in physical pain, particularly in the genital regions, and can increase risks for other sexually transmitted diseases, the most profound impact can be mental and emotional.
Some people avoid talking about having genital herpes because of embarrassment. They can suffer significant emotional difficulties and even depression as a result. Even though it is quite common, few people will ever discuss it with friends or family.
Many people feel ashamed about their having genital herpes and may even stop dating or pursuing intimate relationships for fear of infecting another party unknowingly or having to reveal their condition. Some of the feelings you may experience while adjusting to the news of your infection, according to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), include the following:
It’s possible to have HSV-2 and still manage a satisfying sexual life. The key is being with a partner you trust enough to be honest and open with. The other vital component is following certain protocols to manage your condition and to protect your partner.
Genital Herpes Statistics
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, genital herpes is a virus that affects nearly one in every six adults — accounting for more than 50 million cases in the U.S. alone — and is more common among women than men.
The American Sexual Health Association cautions that because the symptoms of genital herpes are often unnoticed until outbreaks occur, nearly 90 percent of people infected with HSV-2 don’t know they have it.
Global estimates indicate two-thirds of the world’s population have an HSV-1 infection, or more than 3.7 billion people. Among those, 140 million people are infected with genital HSV-1.
Current Treatments for Genital Herpes and Its Side Effects
Physicians routinely order antiviral medications to treat HSV-2, believing these medications accomplish the following:
- Allows sores to heal faster
- Reduces severity and duration of symptoms
- Reduces frequency of recurrent outbreaks
- Minimizes transmission of HSV-2 to others
Most medications prescribed for HSV-2 have few, if any, side effects and are mild in nature when they do occur.
Recent Developments in Genital Herpes
A new drug, Pritelivir, is on the horizon for HSV-2 patients. It can not only help lessen symptoms and outbreak frequency, but also help reduce the likelihood of spreading HSV-2 to their partners. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of transmitting the infection, many thrilled patients welcome this breakthrough.
The key to remember for anyone who is living with HSV-2 is that the condition is manageable. It’s possible to have a satisfying sex life with genital herpes as long as you take appropriate precautions.
See how medical marijuana could help your genital herpes. Learn about treatment options and find recommendations on doctors in your area, at Marijuana Doctors.