There are more than 130 different types of herpes viruses, but only eight of them affect humans. We classify these strains by numbers (human herpes virus 1 through 8, or, HHV-1 to HHV-8). Each Human Herpes Virus has its own set of symptoms and treatments — only a few HHVs have been researched and believed capable of being treated with cannabinoids like CBD or THC.
The most well known of the herpes viruses, more than 4.1 billion people are estimated to have either HHV-1 or HHV-2. They both exist under the umbrella of herpes simplex virus (HSV) –– which affects the nervous system and typically causes cold sores or genital herpes, both of which are contagious and spread via skin contact. HHV-2 in particular can be dangerous because those infected are three times more likely to contract HIV.
Treatments for Herpes Virus 1 and 2 include antiviral medications that slow the growth and spread of the virus, decrease symptoms like pain and discomfort, reduce the risk of transmission to others, and speed up the healing process of sores. These drugs have been proven safe and well-tolerated in past studies though mild side effects may occur including nausea, vomiting, and rash.
In a study from the 80s, THC was shown to reduce infectivity of Herpes Simplex Virus. In addition, it can act as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever to treat HSV symptoms. THC oil is available in creams or patches which means it can be applied directly to sores for long-lasting relief, and since these are topical medications there’s no risk of psychoactive effects like with THC that’s vaped or ingested.
Cannabis compounds haven’t been established as an alternative to standard antiviral drugs, but could supplement other medications in treating HHV-1 and HHV-2 and recent studies are bullish on developing herpes medications using non-psychoactive THC derivatives, indicating that THC or CBD may be part of the future of antiviral treatments.
HHV-3, or the varicella-zoster virus, causes chickenpox and shingles, and can lead to postherpetic neuralgia, a complication that affects nerve fibers and skin causing burning pain for long periods of time which develops after the virus disappears.
While there is little to no scientific evidence about the ability of cannabis compounds to prevent or treat HHV-3, cannabis can treat the conditions it causes: in chickenpox CBD oil can help relieve itchy skin, in shingles CBD and THC oils can treat painful rashes, and in postherpetic neuralgia CBD oil can reduce pain and inflammation.
HHV-4 is also known as the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, and once you’ve been infected the virus becomes dormant in your body––the latent virus can then reactivate and multiply infected cells which “predisposes infected individuals to cancers such as Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease” according to the University of South Florida.
A 2004 study in BMC Medicine demonstrates how THC can inhibit replication of this reactivated virus, protecting individuals from developing diseases related to HHV-4. Since viruses are fought internally, taking lose doses of THC oil in capsule or edible form would provide a slow onset, and if you’re worried about THC’s psychotropic effects, choose a treatment that also contains CBD oil since this compound is known to balance the adverse effects of THC and enable patients to take higher doses to treat their ailments faster.
One of the more dangerous strains, HHV-8 is asymptomatic but can cause a form of cancer known as Kaposi’s Sarcoma which has become a common affliction of AIDS sufferers. A latent virus like all of its family, HHV-8’s reactivation can be inhibited if THC is present in the body. In the treatment of HHV-8 (as well as HHV-4), one professor of Microbiology and Immunology concluded that THC is more effective than standard antiviral medications, giving it strong implications for future pharmaceutical development.
In a 2012 cancer study, THC’s counterpart CBD reduced the spreading and cell death of HHV-8 in patients, so cannabis extracts can be beneficial in stopping this particular strain of herpes, and since all of HHV-8’s effects happen inside the body, capsules, edibles, or tinctures containing both CBD and THC would be suitable forms of treatment.
Human herpesviruses 5, 6, and 7 can cause mononucleosis, hepatitis, or infections in children that bring about diarrhea, fever, or roseola rashes; however, none of these have been studied for treatments with cannabis compounds, but the studies carried out on other strains of herpesvirus show that the medical world is interested in the benefits of cannabis for these viral conditions.
THC has shown to help stop replication of some herpes strains, and even has anti-herpesvirus properties, so using oils and creams with cannabis extracts can be beneficial for symptoms like cold sores, and THC capsules can help fight the virus inside your body.
CBD or THC oils are a safe way to complement your typical herpes treatments to help you stop the virus sooner, or they may soon be a complete alternative for certain strains like HHV-8––plus the side effects are either few and minor or can be overcome by using treatments that combine both compounds. In addition, when herpes viruses cause symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, or rash, CBD and THC oil have anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and other beneficial properties that can help.
CBD and THC as Herpes Virus Treatments
While more research is necessary to confirm all the benefits of treating different strains of human herpes viruses with CBD and THC treatments, existing evidence shows promise — and the interest of researchers — to explore these safe, natural options. If you’re experiencing symptoms of herpes virus, especially if the virus is recurring over time, talk to your doctor about t CBD or THC treatment options that could benefit you now and into the future — and look for future studies that may provide concrete new evidence about cannabis extracts as herpes treatment.
The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.