Guess what — you probably have herpes. Even if you don’t have any active sores, it’s estimated that between 50 and 90% of the general population (depending on who you talk to) is carrying the virus, which is responsible for the painful and unsightly breakouts in oral and genital regions.
And if you do have active sores? Well, we know how incredibly uncomfortable, painful, and embarrassing they can be, and fully understand the need to clear up them up as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As it turns out (surprise surprise), CBD for herpes is an incredibly effective treatment for the viral breakout, and is one that a lot of people have never heard of and would never think of trying. In this article, we’ll talk about what exactly the Herpes Simplex Virus is (HSV), and how CBD works to both clear up active sores and help to prevent/suppress breakouts in the future.
The Herpes Simplex Virus — What is it, exactly?
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding herpes and the virus(es) that cause it. Namely, most people want to know whether or not oral herpes (cold sores) and genital herpes are the same thing.
Yes and no, as it turns out.
In order to quickly and efficiently clear up some of the common myths and inconsistencies surrounding the virus, here’s a short FAQ on all things HSV:
- What is herpes?
Herpes is a virus, plain and simple. The vast majority of the time it lies dormant in cell bodies in the oral and genital regions, but things like stress and illness (which suppress the immune system) can cause the virus to flare up, which produces the stereotypical sores and blisters.
- How many different types of herpes are there?
Generally speaking there are two kinds of herpes; HSV Type-1 and HSV Type-2. HSV-1 is by far the more common form of the virus, and is the one mostly responsible for the common cold sore (and is also the one that up to 90% of us are currently carrying).
HSV-2 is less common and is the one primarily responsible for breakouts in the genital region.
- Can HSV-1 cause genital herpes? And/or can HSV-2 cause oral herpes (cold sores)?
Yes – via oral sex, a person can easily get genital herpes from someone infected with oral herpes (HSV-1). Likewise, a person can also get oral herpes from someone with a genital (HSV-2) infection. (In fact, it’s estimated that up 50% of genital herpes cases arise from the HSV Type-1 virus).
However, for whatever reason the nature of the HSV-1 virus is much more suited to the oral “habitat,” and HSV-2 to the “genital habitat.” That is to say, if you get genital herpes from someone with oral HSV-1 (or vice-versa), the virus is unlikely to stay in the genital region – it will eventually “relocate” to the mouth region. The only way to know which form of the virus you have is to do a swab and have a laboratory type it.
- How long does herpes last? Does it ever go away?
Unfortunately, once you are infected with HSV you have it for life — there is no cure. However, the vast majority of the time the virus is in the latent stage, which means it lies completely dormant in cell bodies. This is why most people who have the virus aren’t even aware of it. When flare-ups do occur, they typically only last between 4-7 days.
- Is herpes always contagious?
The herpes virus is highly contagious, but only when the virus is “shedding”. (Viral shedding refers to the progeny that’s released when a virus reproduces).
While contagiousness is much higher during an active breakout, viruses can (and do) shed while dormant, and thus it is entirely possible to contract HSV from someone with no active symptoms.
- How do you get herpes?
Herpes is transferred either through saliva (kissing, oral sex, sharing drinks), or direct skin to skin contact – contrary to popular belief, it cannot be transferred through the blood (HSV does not occur in the bloodstream) or through things like public toilet seats or shared restrooms/showers.
Conventional Herpes Treatments (Not CBD)
The majority of people with active herpes breakouts simply let the body’s immune system take care of it, and the sores generally clear up within several days. However, in instances of severe or especially unsightly/painful breakouts, it is sometimes necessary to seek treatment.
Some common household herpes remedies have included things such as:
- OTC painkillers for pain/soreness relief (acetaminophen, ibuprofen)
- Soaking in salt/sitz baths
- Applying aloe vera gel, lotion, or petroleum jelly to affected area
- Lip balms with lemon balm, or lemon tea compresses
- Natural herbs like rhubarb, sage, peppermint, mint, and witch hazel oils
- Licorice root or licorice powder mixed with water or petroleum jelly (licorice root is a natural antiviral)
- Lysine creams/supplements or echinacea tea/supplements (both are immune-enhancers)
- Milk (which contains lysine and antibodies)
- Vitamin E (oils, ointments) and Vitamin E-rich foods
- Vitamin C and Vitamin C-rich foods (which boost the immune/infection-fighting cells)
Likewise, there’s also no shortage of over-the-counter cold sore meds, which include things like medicated ointments (Blistex, Carmex, etc), zinc oxide creams, Orajel (which is a numbing cream), and Zilactin.
In the most severe of cases, though (or in instances where the sores last longer than a couple of weeks), some doctors will recommend pharmaceutical medications. Acyclovir (Zovirax, Sitavig) is probably the most common herpes prescription med, and it acts as an antiviral treatment to suppress the actual HSV virus.
Other similar meds include drugs like Valtrex and Famvir, which are also both antivirals that act to suppress the activity of HSV. While effective, these medications can take very long to work (up to 2 weeks), and can also be dangerous and promote serious side effects such as extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Living With Herpes
Though uncomfortable, embarrassing, unsightly, and painful (often times excruciatingly so), HSV is not a particularly debilitating virus — like we said, the vast majority of the human population will live their entire lives with it, and many will not ever know it’s even there.
That being said, the presence of either form of the HSV virus can pose an increased risk of developing other, more serious conditions, some of which include meningitis, chickenpox (which is actually caused by the Herpes Zoster virus), Bell’s palsy, and encephalitis. However, these instances are rare and usually only develop in cases where the individual’s immune system is suppressed and/or otherwise severely compromised.
CBD for Herpes: How – and why – it works so well
As you’ve probably noticed, all forms of herpes medication acts as either an antiviral or an anti-inflammatory. CBD, coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally at all, depending on how you look at it) is both an antiviral and an anti-inflammatory – and a very, very good one at that.
When a herpes outbreak occurs (typically during an illness such as the cold or flu or during heightened periods of emotional stress, menstruation, or immune-suppression caused by other medications) what’s actually happening is the virus is actively attacking cell tissues in mucous membranes – this is why outbreaks most commonly occur in moist mucosal regions in the mouth and genital areas.
When the virus “attacks” surrounding tissue areas, the affected cells become severely damaged and immunoregulatory white blood cells are ushered in to combat the attack. All of this “molecular commotion” is what causes the pain, inflammation, and physical appearance of the stereotypical herpes sores and blisters.
CBD is a tailor-made remedy to combat both the inflammation and the immune response that’s triggered by active HSV outbreaks. As an anti-inflammatory, the cannabinoid has been recognized in dozens of scientific publications for its ability to directly fight off foreign pathogens (such as HSV), and initiate cell and tissue repair.
Likewise, CBD has been shown in numerous other studies to display excellent antiviral properties, with the University of London’s School of Pharmacy noting it’s “exceptional” activity in relation to its ability to fend off and effectively suppress foreign pathogens.
The cannabinoid functions by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, of which its receptors have been shown to exist in every single cell and tissue type in the human body. The primary role of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate and maintain internal homeostasis, and Dr. Dustin Sulak of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine has in fact gone so far as to call the endogenous network the “…most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”
CBD for Herpes: The best treatment methods
While antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties have been discovered in all five of the cannabis plant’s most active chemical compounds (THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), and CBN (cannabinol), CBD has by far been the preferred choice because it does not display any psychoactive properties — that is, it won’t get you high at all.
And as far as treatment methods go, while many people like to apply infused topical CBD creams and ointments directly to herpes sores, the quickest and most direct use of CBD for herpes is in the form of oil. Oil tinctures are more potent than creams and are able to pack more CBD molecules in a smaller volume, and thus are able to fend of HSV pathogens and clear up the inflammatory-induced sores and blisters at a faster rate. Simply place a few drops of oil directly onto the affected area, and massage gently for about 90 seconds to ensure proper absorption.
One thing we will mention, though, if you’re planning on using CBD oil for herpes, is to pay close attention to the product you’re choosing – for the past three years the FDA has been issuing warning letters to several companies for advertising “CBD oils” that contain little to none of the active cannabinoid. To help ensure that you’re getting a reliable product that actually has pure CBD, we’ve listed a few of the brands below that have proven to be the most reliable and most reputable over the last several years.