CBD for Cold Sores: Does it Work?

Could cannabidiol be the answer?
Nicole Richter Nicole Richter / Updated on June 19, 2019

CBD For Cold Sores

Could CBD be the answer for cold sore outbreaks? We take a closer look…

Cold sores are a common problem that results from infection by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). Although cold sores can be embarrassing and are guaranteed to pop up at the worst possible moment, being infected with HSV is no reason to be ashamed. As many as 90% of the world’s population are estimated to be carriers of this virus; it’s just that not everybody with HSV suffers from cold sores.

Unfortunately, once you have the HSV virus, it will be with you for life. This means that any time you are run down or stressed out, you risk developing a cold sore. On the plus side, cold sores usually only last a few days and can generally be treated with over-the-counter remedies. And if you prefer an all-natural treatment, you could even try using CBD for cold sore outbreaks.

Read on to find out whether CBD could help cold sores and how to use it for this irritating condition.

Cold Sore Outbreaks: Overview

There are two types of HSV virus; HSV1 and HSV2. The virus generally associated with cold sores is HSV1, while HSV2 is more likely to cause genital herpes.

Although around 65% of Americans are estimated to be infected with HSV1, not everyone will suffer from cold sores. However, if you are unfortunate enough to have had a cold sore, you will know how uncomfortable and embarrassing they can be.

Cold sores can occur anywhere on the face, although the most common area is around the mouth and nose. They begin with a tingling, itching, or burning sensation and quickly develop into small, fluid-filled blisters in the affected area. After a few days, these blisters burst and scab over, but a cold sore can take up to 10 days to fully heal.

Triggers for cold sores include stress, illness, periods in women, and even too much sunlight. While you have a cold sore, the virus becomes extremely contagious, and special care must be taken not to pass it on.

Cold Sore Treatments

The most common cold sore treatments are over-the-counter creams. Some of these are merely designed to soothe the blisters (Blistex, Carmex, etc.), whereas others contain an antiviral drug called acyclovir (Zovirax). It is best to use antiviral creams as soon as you feel the tell-tale tingle of a fresh cold sore beginning to develop.

In severe cases or recurring cold sores, oral antiviral medication may be prescribed. These drugs include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. The major problem with these medications is that they can cause serious side effects including headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Many people prefer to use more natural remedies for cold sores, and these include aloe vera gel, witch hazel, peppermint oil, and herbal medicines such as licorice, rhubarb, and sage. However, there is little evidence that these remedies are effective, and they may not work for everyone.

One lesser-known natural remedy for cold sores is CBD, also known as cannabidiol. This compound is extracted from the cannabis plant, and modern research is revealing that it has a whole host of potential benefits.

CBD Benefits and Effects on the Immune System

CBD has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and could help to protect cells in the central nervous system from damage. It is showing great promise for a wide range of conditions including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Addiction
  • Some forms of cancer

You may be wondering how one substance can have such a wide range of effects on the human body. The answer lies within our cells, in something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a collection of chemicals called endocannabinoids, enzymes, and receptors which are found throughout the cells of our bodies. There are two known types of receptor in the ECS, CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are mainly located in the brain and nervous system. CB2 receptors are found elsewhere and are especially prevalent in the immune system.

CB1 and CB2 receptors are designed to bind with endocannabinoids produced by our bodies, but they can also bind with cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Although THC (the intoxicating chemical in cannabis) binds very readily with CB1 receptors to induce the typical marijuana high, CBD works differently.

CBD does not bind easily with CB1 or CB2 receptors, but it does influence CB2 receptors in a way that has a powerful effect on the immune system. This is why CBD is such a potent anti-inflammatory; inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to an attack by a bacterium or virus.

We still do not understand the exact mechanism for CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, but it appears to suppress chemicals called cytokines which play a major role in the inflammatory process. It also induces a process called apoptosis, encouraging damaged cells to self-destruct. This process is one reason why CBD could potentially stop the spread of cancer cells through the body.

These various effects on the immune system mean that CBD could also provide a new way to treat viruses such as cold sores, and researchers are working continuously to find out how.

CBD for Cold Sores: What the Research Says

There is no research currently available on CBD specifically for cold sores, but there is some evidence for the antiviral properties of cannabinoids in general. Research from way back in 1980 showed that the HSV1 and HSV2 viruses could not replicate in the presence of THC.

However, a later study found that vaginal HSV2 infections in guinea pigs were actually made worse by the same compound. These contradictory results make it hard to know precisely how cannabinoids affect viruses such as HSV, but research is ongoing, and we hope to have some answers soon.

Although it is still unclear whether CBD could help to suppress the herpes virus which is responsible for cold sores, there is plenty of research regarding CBD as an anti-inflammatory. And, of course, by reducing inflammation, CBD could help to relieve cold sore symptoms such as redness, swelling, and pain.

Furthermore, research has shown CBD to be safe and well-tolerated with a low risk of side effects. More than can be said for the powerful drugs which are sometimes prescribed for HSV!

Using CBD for Cold Sore Outbreaks

CBD is available in many different forms including oil, capsules, edibles, creams, and e-liquids. Although taking CBD by mouth means that your entire body will be affected, for cold sores it may be best to apply CBD directly to the affected area.

Applying CBD topically means that more of the active compound reaches the area where it is needed, rather than having to travel through the digestive system or blood stream. Luckily, CBD is readily absorbed by the skin, allowing for targeted treatment where you need it most.

Although there are many different CBD creams and rubs available, we suggest using a high-quality CBD oil and rubbing it directly onto your cold sore. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after doing this to reduce the risk of contamination.

Choosing CBD for Cold Sore Outbreaks

When selecting a CBD oil for cold sores, there are a few things to take into account. Firstly, bear in mind that the CBD industry is currently unregulated and there are a lot of inferior products on the market. Look for a reputable brand which uses CO2 extraction (considered the gold standard for CBD extractions) and publishes third-party lab reports on its website. Before making your purchase, read plenty of online reviews to ensure you are getting what you pay for.

Secondly, consider whether you want to use a CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD oil. While CBD isolate contains cannabidiol and cannabidiol alone, full-spectrum products also include other cannabinoids and terpenes. It is widely believed that the many compounds in cannabis work together synergistically in a phenomenon called the ‘entourage effect.’ This could mean that full-spectrum oils are more effective than isolates, but really it is a matter of personal preference.

Finally, it is important to think about the cost. Although CBD oils can be expensive and you might be tempted to go for the cheapest option, this is not necessarily a good idea. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for with CBD, and some more affordable brands contain little to no active ingredients. On the plus side, you should need relatively little CBD oil to rub onto your cold sore, so whatever you buy should last a while.

CBD for Cold Sore Outbreaks: Final Thoughts

Cold sores are a common and annoying problem, but CBD could offer a solution. With its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, this natural remedy could help to reduce cold sore symptoms such as swelling, redness, and discomfort. It is also possible that CBD could influence the immune system to relieve outbreaks, although research into this is ongoing.

If you have tried using CBD for cold sore outbreaks, we would love to hear from you. Did it work? Did it cause any side effects? Would you recommend it to a friend? Please go ahead and tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Article Sources:
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