medical marijuana herpes

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.


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.


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 [1] 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 [2] found that THC reduced infection rates too.

Topical therapies containing cannabinoids can also reduce the pain experienced by herpes sufferers, particularly shingles [3] .

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.


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.

Herpes Simplex Virus

Updated on April 7, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for herpes simplex virus. However, you can still treat the symptoms. Medical cannabis for herpes not only helps treat the symptoms, but it also can potentially prevent future viral outbreaks.

How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Herpes Simplex Virus

Marijuana for herpes is a useful alternative treatment option that just may help with the spreading of herpes. In this instance, not all cannabinoids are successful. However, THC has been shown to regulate T-lymphocyte functions and immune response to counter the viral infection.

THC mildly binds with cannabinoid receptors in the lymphoid cells and brain. The cannabinoid receptors in these tissues influence viral gene activation and immune signaling in response to THC dosage and binding. A study concluded THC interferes with DNA replication processes in a dose-dependent methodology, and therefore inhibits viral lytic replication — aka viral reproduction.

Another study conducted in 2010 tested a cannabinoid-filled facial lotion on individuals with postherpetic neuralgia, a pain disorder similar to shingles, and found the cream decreased the pain by 87 percent. Newer studies are suggesting various components in the marijuana plants might produce similar effects for the outbreaks of herpes.

CBD helps combat both the immune response and inflammation of HSV outbreaks. This cannabinoid is an anti-inflammatory, and dozens of scientific publications recognize it for its ability to fight off foreign pathogens like viruses and initiate tissue and cell repair.

  • Red or dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness
  • A headache
  • Sexual problems
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Dizziness

What Side Effects and Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

Medical marijuana for herpes helps with symptoms such as:

Medical weed can help sufferers of herpes in various ways. It can help reduce anxiety that surrounds big events and everyday life, which can trigger outbreaks. Each cannabinoid has differing effects, but CBD appears to be more effective at decreasing anxiety.

CBD, with its anti-inflammatory effects, can also help reduce the pain and severity an HSV outbreak causes.

THC can help decrease pain an outbreak causes. Individuals with herpes typically experience neuropathic pain, which medical pot is especially effective at targeting.

Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus

Whether you roll the herb into a joint, use edible forms or vape it, various strains of the plant can significantly decrease the discomfort of HSV.

Some good medical marijuana and herpes strains include:

  • ACDC — Sativa-dominant hybrid
  • Blue Dream — hybrid
  • Afghan Kush — Indica


  • Cannatonic — hybrid
  • God Bud — Indica
  • Charlotte’s Web — Sativa

Trouble Sleeping

  • Granddaddy Purple — Indica
  • Purple Urkle — Indica
  • Northern Lights — Indica


  • Amnesia Haze — Sativa
  • Girl Scout Cookies — hybrid
  • Harlequin — hybrid


  • Jack Herer — Sativa
  • Harlequin — hybrid
  • Pineapple Express — hybrid

Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus

It’s likely you’ll find both external and internal applications of cannabis for herpes to help your condition. By smoking cannabinoids or ingesting them orally, you’re already boosting your immune system. Marijuana has strong antiviral properties. There are even specific strains bred for this trait.

Along with this, you may want to consider topical treatment. THC creams and oils seem to stop both the pain and progression of the sores.

Even though a herpes outbreak isn’t constant, the sores are still painful and itchy — not to mention unattractive. CBD oil has been shown to alleviate this pain and itchiness, calming your cold sores and reducing their redness and pain. And, even though you can’t cure herpes, CBD oil does weaken the virus, so you have fewer outbreaks.

Take the Next Step in Obtaining Medical Marijuana for Herpes Simplex Virus

If you have a cannabis-friendly doctor, you should talk to them. They may be able to recommend certain strains you can get started with. You can also discuss this with your local dispensary, even if you wish to be discreet about your particular condition.

If you don’t have a cannabis-friendly doctor, you can find one here at Marijuana Doctors. We even have a long list of dispensaries to help you find one in your area. To learn more about using medical marijuana to relieve your symptoms of HSV, book an appointment through today.

What Is Herpes Simplex Virus?

Herpes simplex virus, also called HSV or herpes, is a viral infection that can affect different parts of your body. There are two types of HSV: HSV 1 and HSV 2.

HSV 1 causes cold sores around your face and mouth, while HSV 2, or genital herpes, affects your buttocks, genitals and anal area. Other herpes viral infections can affect your skin, eyes and other body parts. HSV can be harmful both in individuals with a weak immune system and in newborn babies. HSV is extremely contagious and easy to spread through direct contact, even when there are no visible sores.

Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus

Many individuals who get HSV never feel or see anything. When they do have symptoms, they may experience:


One or more fluid-filled, painful blisters will pop up. The blisters break open and usually ooze fluid, form a crust and then heal. The first occurrence of the sores shows up between two and 20 days after the individual has contact with another who has the infection. The sores may last anywhere from seven to 10 days.

Depending on the type of HSV, the blisters may appear on your:

  • Mouth
  • Lips
  • Skin
  • Tongue
  • Face
  • Genitals
  • Buttocks
  • Anus

Some individuals will get the sores near the spot on their body where the virus entered. Others won’t experience any symptoms. The lesions turn into blisters and become painful and itchy before they heal. When they do improve, they don’t go away entirely. The infection remains dormant inside your body, and can flare up anytime.

Itching, Burning or Tingling

Your skin may itch, burn or tingle for a day or so before the blisters appear.

Problems Urinating

Individuals — usually women — with genital herpes might have a burning feeling when urinating or have trouble urinating.

Flu-Like Symptoms

You may experience flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, fever or swollen lymph nodes in the groin or neck.

Eye Infection

Sometimes the HSV can spread to one or both of your eyes. Medical professionals refer to this as herpes keratitis, representing an infection in your cornea. When this happens, you might experience:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain
  • Gritty feeling in your eye
  • Discharge

If you leave this untreated, it can result in scarring of your cornea, which then can cause cloudy vision or even worse, vision loss or blindness.

If you develop symptoms of HSV, you could have these for as long as:

  • Two to three weeks for oral herpes
  • Two to six weeks for genital herpes with the first outbreak

Types of Herpes Simplex Virus

You can contract one of two main types of HSV:

  1. HSV-1: The viral infection that causes cold sores on your lips (herpes labialis) and sores on your eye cornea (herpes simplex keratitis).
  2. HSV-2: The viral infection that causes genital herpes.

However, this is not an absolute distinction. Genital herpes can also occur from HSV-1.

Primary and Recurrent Infection

After the initial HSV infection, like other herpes viruses, HSV stays dormant or latent in your body for the rest of your life. An inactive infection might not cause symptoms again, or it could reactivate periodically. Triggers that reactivate HSV include emotional stress, menstruation, a fever, physical trauma, overexposure of your lips to sunlight or having a dental procedure. A suppressed immune system could also trigger reactivation. For instance, if you are taking anti-rejection medications for an organ transplant, you may experience a reactivation.

Causes of Herpes Simplex Virus

As mentioned, HSV is very contagious, and spreads through direct contact. Children will usually contract HSV-1 through early contact with an infected adult. Once they contract the viral infection, they carry it for the rest of their lives.

You can contract HSV-1 through general interactions like:

  • Kissing
  • Sharing lip balm
  • Eating from the same utensils

The virus can spread faster when an infected individual has an outbreak. Around 30 to 95 percent of adults are HSV-1 positive. However, they might never have a flare-up. You can also contract genital herpes from HSV-1 if you perform oral sex with a person who has cold sores at that time.

You can contract HSV-2 through different forms of sexual contact with an individual with HSV-2. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 20 percent of U.S. adults who are sexually active have the HSV-2 infection. Although you can spread the HSV-2 infection through a herpes sore contact, most individuals get HSV from people who don’t have any sores.

Physical Effects of Herpes Simplex Virus

There could be complications with the HSV infection, including the following.

  • Other sexually transmitted infections: When you have genital herpes, it increases your risk of contracting or transmitting another sexually transmitted infection, even AIDS.
  • Bladder problems: Sometimes, the sores linked with genital herpes can lead to inflammation around the tube that passes your urine from your bladder to your urethra. The swelling can close your urethra for a few days, requiring a catheter insertion to drain your bladder.
  • Newborn infection: Babies born from infected mothers may become exposed to the viral infection during birth, potentially causing blindness, brain damage or death.
  • Rectal inflammation: Genital herpes may cause inflammation of your rectal lining, especially in men who engage in intercourse with each other.
  • Meningitis: In rare cases, HSV causes inflammation of the cerebrospinal fluid and membranes that surround your spinal cord and brain.

Mental Effects of Herpes Simplex Virus

It’s not uncommon for individuals who receive a diagnosis of herpes to develop depression. Two common causes of depression following a diagnosis of herpes are shame and fear of infecting a partner.

A national study published in a 2012 edition of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections found adults with the HSV-2 infection were twice as likely to develop depression as adults who didn’t have HSV-2.

Herpes might increase your depression. However, depression, anxiety and stress can cause an increase in an outbreak of herpes. Many studies have associated an uptick in depression and stress to more frequent outbreaks. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as depression and stress can severely affect the immune system. That is one reason why you should seek help if you’re anxious or stressed after receiving a new herpes diagnosis.

Herpes Simplex Virus Statistics

Facts about HSV, according to the World Health Organization, include:

  • You carry both HSV-1 and HSV-2 for the rest of your life.
  • Around 67 percent — or 3.7 billion — individuals under 50 years old have the HSV-1 infection worldwide.
  • Around 11 percent — or 417 million — individuals between 16 and 49 years old have the HSV-2 infection worldwide.

Herpes Simplex Virus History

Researchers have found the evolutionary origins of human HSV-1 and HSV-2 and reported HSV-1 infected hominids 6 million years ago before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees. HSV-2 hopped from primeval chimps to Homo erectus — ancestors of modern humans — around 1.6 million years ago.

Current Treatments Available for Herpes Simplex Virus and Their Side Effects

Treatments are available to ease your herpes simplex virus symptoms, even though there isn’t a cure. An antiviral ointment or cream can help relieve the itching, burning or tingling. Antiviral drugs, either pills or intravenous shots, can shorten a herpes outbreak.

Prescription antiviral medications approved for treating HSV are:

  • Famciclovir
  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir

Side effects of antiviral medicines may include:

  • Dizziness
  • A headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tired feeling
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Depression
  • Visual changes

When you take these medications daily, they can lessen the frequency and severity of outbreaks. They can also help prevent infected individuals from spreading the viral infection.

You can relieve the pain linked with genital sores with a warm bath.

Recent Developments in Herpes Simplex Virus

Many types of vaccine, both therapeutic and prophylactic, in the past decade, have contained a replication-defective HSV, glycoproteins or viral DNA. New research focused on immune evasion by the viral infection has involved the development of vaccines with numerous gene manipulations and deletions, combined with the use of more new specific adjuvants.

Additionally, new “prime-boost” techniques of strengthening the efficacy of vaccines have been promising, but there were also flaws in some recent methods that appear to have compromised the effectiveness of the vaccines in humans.

Also, more than 200 clinical trials have been or are in process to study the herpes simplex virus.

See how medical marijuana could help relieve your Herpes. Find patient reviews on local doctors and information on treatment options.