There’s a possibility that cannabis may treat yet another surprising condition. It has been known for a while that many cannabis patients use topical application of the herb for skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and other abrasions. Now, recent research provides evidence that the plant may treat herpes outbreaks.
The herpes virus family consists of a group of viruses responsible for many human ailments. Some of these include chickenpox, shingles, common cold sores, genital herpes, and Epstein-Barr (the virus that causes mono). In those affected, the virus is present in the body at all times.
However, symptoms pop up when the immune system is suppressed. This is why cold sores and other herpes outbreaks are linked to times of stress when the increased output of stress hormone cortisol decreases immune function. Though the herpes family consists of many viruses, two of the most common include herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2.
Herpes simplex one is the common cold sore, which is acquirable through skin contact with the virus. Herpes simplex 2 is considered a sexually transmitted infection and causes outbreaks of painful sores on the genitals. Not only are herpes sores uncomfortable whenever they pop up, but they can also be embarrassing and inconvenient in daily life.
Though chickenpox and Epstein-Barr have their own standard treatments, herpes outbreaks affecting the genitals and the upper-body are treated with three mainstream drugs, acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex).
All of these drugs can come with rare but serious side effects. Acyclovir, for example, has been associated with mental changes and hallucinations. Though nausea, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea are more common.
many patients are eager to find alternative treatment options. Fortunately, a unique natural option may be on the horizon. Pre-clinical evidence shows that cannabis may ease outbreaks.
The research available is not from large, replicated human trials. In fact, most of it is fairly low-quality. However, what is available gives reason to look into the plant as a new approach to the virus.
The idea of using cannabis products to treat herpes was introduced quite some time ago. A study published in 1980 treated human cells cultured outside of the body (in vitro) with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive found in the cannabis plant. The cells were infected with either herpes simplex 1 (HVS-1) or herpes simplex 2 (HVS-2).
After the administration of THC, both forms of the herpes virus stopped replicating. Similar results were reported in research from 1991 and again in 2004.
In the 1991 study, scientists found that THC reduced the infectivity of the genital herpes virus in cells cultured outside of the body, potentially suppressing the disease.
The 2004 study also found that THC treatment reduced replication of the herpes family viruses in vitro.
A small human trial from 2010 tested a facial cream containing synthetic cannabinoids against postherpetic neuralgia, which is a pain condition associated with shingles. Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus. The cannabinoid treatment was a great success. Five of eight participants experienced an average pain reduction of 87.8%, which is quite impressive.
The cannabinoid cream was well-tolerated produced no adverse effects.
So, does cannabis treat herpes virus? More pre-clinical evidence and human trials are needed to make the call. However, the information presently available suggests that the cannabis plant may one day prove to be a new effective weapon against the herpes virus.