Could using CBD oil for herpes help clear up active outbreaks? In this article, we take a medically-backed look at CBD, herpes, and its potential effects. Cannabidiol’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities may help alleviate symptoms of the herpes simplex virus.
CBD for Herpes: Can it Help Clear up Outbreaks?
This article may contain links to some of our affiliate partners. These are brands we trust and brands we feel represent the highest quality standards. When clicking links, we may earn commissions to help support our site. Learn more by reading our full disclaimer.
Guess what – you probably have herpes. Even if you don’t have any active sores, it’s estimated that approximately 66% of the general population is carrying the Herpes Simplex 1 virus, and approximately 12% is carrying the Herpes Simplex 2 virus, both of which can lead to painful and unsightly breakouts in the oral and genital regions.
What if you do have active sores? Well, we know how incredibly uncomfortable, painful, and embarrassing they can be. We fully understand the need to clear them up as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As it turns out, CBD may be an effective remedy for herpes breakouts. However, it 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 (HSV) is and how CBD works to both clear up active sores and helps to prevent and 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.
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:
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. However, things like stress and illness (which suppress the immune system) can cause the virus to flare up. This 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 usually responsible for the common cold sore.
HSV-2 is less common and is the one primarily responsible for breakouts in the genital region.
- Can HSV-1 cause genital herpes? And can HSV-2 cause oral herpes (cold sores)?
Yes – via oral sex, a person can easily get genital herpes from someone with oral herpes (HSV-1). Likewise, a person can get oral herpes from someone with a genital (HSV-2) infection. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 50% of genital herpes cases arise from HSV Type-1 virus. The only way to know which form of the virus is causing lesions is to do a swab and have a laboratory type it.
- How long does herpes last? Does it ever go away?
Unfortunately, once you have 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 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 a few 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 a virus releases when it reproduces.
While contagiousness is much higher during an active breakout, viruses can (and do) shed while dormant. Thus it is entirely possible to contract HSV from someone with no active symptoms.
Herpes is transferred either through saliva (kissing, oral sex, sharing drinks), or direct skin to skin contact.
Conventional Herpes Treatments (Not CBD)
The majority of people with active herpes breakouts simply let the body’s immune system take care of it. 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
- 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)
There’s also no shortage of over-the-counter cold sore remedies, which include things like medicated ointments (Blistex, Carmex, etc), zinc oxide creams, Orajel (a numbing cream), and Zilactin.
In the most severe cases (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 medicine. It acts as an antiviral treatment to suppress the actual HSV virus.
Other treatments include drugs like Valtrex and Famvir, which are also both antivirals that act to suppress the activity of HSV. While effective, these medications can cause side effects such as extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Living With Herpes
Though uncomfortable, embarrassing, unsightly, and painful, HSV is not a particularly debilitating virus. As we said, the vast majority of the human population will live their entire lives with it. Many will not ever know it’s even there.
That being said, the presence of either form of the HSV virus can pose a risk of developing other, more serious conditions. Some of these include meningitis, chickenpox (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 or compromised.
CBD for Herpes: How It Works
As you’ve probably noticed, all forms of herpes medication act as either an antiviral or an anti-inflammatory. CBD can act as both an antiviral and an anti-inflammatory agent.
A herpes outbreak typically occurs 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 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 the surrounding tissue, the cells become severely damaged. This triggers immunoregulatory white blood cells to combat the attack. All of this activity is what causes the pain, inflammation, and physical appearance of herpes sores and blisters.
The cannabinoid functions by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has receptors in every cell and tissue type in the human body. The primary role of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate and maintain internal homeostasis. Dr. Dustin Sulak of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine has gone so far as to call this endogenous network the “…most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”
CBD for Herpes: The best treatment methods
Antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties have been discovered in all five of the cannabis plant’s most active chemical compounds. These include:
- CBD (cannabidiol) (cannabigerol) (cannabichromene) (cannabinol)
However, CBD is many people’s preferred choice because it does not display any psychoactive properties. That is, it won’t get you high at all.
As far as treatment methods go, 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, though, is in the form of oil. CBD oils are more potent than creams and are able to pack more CBD molecules in a smaller volume. Therefore, they are able to fend off HSV pathogens and clear up the inflammatory-induced sores and blisters faster.
If using CBD oil for herpes, 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 we consider the most reliable and most reputable over the last several years.
CBD Oil for Herpes – August 2022
CBD has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of herpes (5 ) .
A study in 2017 found that cannabidiol exhibited antiviral activity that counteracted viral hepatitis C (6 ) . CBD was able to hinder the replication of the virus significantly.
In 2020, the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences published a study that analyzed the use of CBD in more than three hundred patients with autoimmune hepatitis. The researchers learned that most of the subjects reported improvements in their symptoms after CBD consumption (7 ) .
CBD ‘s antiviral activity was also observed in a study on Kaposi sarcoma (8 ) . Kaposi sarcoma, a disorder that causes skin lesions, is prevalent in individuals with immune deficiencies.
Researchers also learned that cannabidiol suppresses the inflammatory reaction of allergic contact dermatitis (9 ) , a skin rash triggered by an allergic reaction.
This action indicates that CBD may be used to treat cold sores from herpes by inhibiting its infectious growth.
Despite the positive outlook, there are no clinical trials directly involving the use of CBD on patients with the herpes simplex virus .
How CBD Oil Works to Help with Herpes
Cannabidiol is thought to engage with cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) (10 ) . The ECS is a unique part of the body that regulates various functions, including internal homeostasis.
CBD ‘s ability to bind with both CB1 and CB2 receptors is thought to bring about its anti-inflammatory actions (11 ) .
In one study, researchers learned that CBD binds with the CB1 receptor (12 ) .
Researchers in 2014 found that the antiviral effect of a substance that binds to CB1 receptors was able to inhibit hepatitis C replication. They hinted that these receptors might be therapeutic targets for antiviral agents (13 ) .
CB2 receptors, which are mainly expressed in cells of the immune system , are said to influence viral infections by altering host immune response toward inflammation (14 ) .
Since CBD also engages with the CB2 receptor, the compound may be administered to activate the receptor and contribute in controlling viral infections .
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Herpes
- CBD could potentially alleviate the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus . Studies have shown that cannabidiol exerts anti-inflammatory properties (15 ) that could benefit patients with viral infections , like herpes.
- Researchers discovered that CBD engages with cannabinoid receptors (16 ) , which could be the compound’s mechanism of action for its antiviral activity.
- Compared to other cannabinoids , CBD reportedly has a strong safety profile and does not induce psychotropic effects upon use (17 ) .
- The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) acknowledges the potential of cannabis and its derivatives (18 ) . The agency also supports scientific-based research with regard to the medicinal uses of cannabis.
- The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States. Restrictions concerning the transport, sale, and possession of hemp-derived products have also been lifted (19 ) .
- No direct studies concerning the effectiveness of cannabidiol in treating herpes simplex virus symptoms exist.
- There are possible side effects when using CBD . The most cited adverse reactions from clinical studies include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased appetite (20 ) .
- Due to the complex process by which cannabidiol engages with the body, it could potentially interact with other medications and cause adverse events (21 ) .
- Many CBD products sold online are not labeled accurately due to inadequate regulations and oversight (22 ) . Users who wish t o buy cannabidiol on the internet are at risk of purchasing mislabeled goods.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Herpes
A study in 2006 mentioned that treatments with natural substances, such as lysine, vitamin C, and lemon balm, might be useful in reducing herpes simplex lesions or preventing its recurrences (23 ) .
Lysine supplementation reaching doses that exceed 3 grams per day improved the symptoms of herpes patients (24 ) .
In a combination treatment involving ascorbic acid, herpes patients reportedly experienced a reduction in symptom severity and recurrences.
The subjects, who took the supplement within forty-eight hours of symptom onset, did not develop the characteristic lesions of the virus (25 ) .
Meanwhile, lemon balm oil was found to exert a direct antiviral effect on herpesviruses . Researchers concluded that the essential oil might also be used as a topical treatment for herpetic infections (26 ) .
CBD works the same way as these natural elements in that it also provides antiviral activity when applied.
Several brands sell CBD products with lemon balm and vitamin C. These items are usually available in the form of syrups, tinctures , and gummies.
How to Choose the Right CBD for Herpes
Three forms of cannabidiol are available for purchase. These are the CBD isolates, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum.
CBD isolate is the purest type of cannabidiol . Isolates undergo an extraction process wherein only CBD remains in the final output.
People who only wish to take cannabidiol often choose CBD isolates because of their purity. Isolates usually come in crystal or powdered form and do not have a distinct taste.
Broad-spectrum CBD is the type that contains all of the compounds of cannabis plants . The only exception is that it does not have tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ).
THC is a psychotropic substance that causes mind-altering effects when consumed. Some individuals prefer not to take products that have THC because of its psychoactive properties.
While the main components of medical cannabis ( medical marijuana) are CBD and THC , the substance that is responsible for the “high” is THC.
The third variant of CBD is called full-spectrum. This type of CBD provides users with all of the phytocannabinoids that can be extracted from marijuana, including THC .
Full-spectrum CBD is known for the mechanism known as the “entourage effect.” This effect occurs when all the cannabis compounds are taken together (27 ) .
No matter the type of cannabidiol one decides to purchase, it is important to select the best quality products to maximize the benefits of CBD .
The following tips can help users choose the best CBD oil for herpes:
- Organic, non-GMO hemp is the best source to obtain high-quality CBD oil . Industrial hemp plants have large amounts of cannabidiol and only small amounts of THC .
- Request or obtain the certificate of analysis (COA) of a chosen CBD product . This document is a report indicating that the item has gone through proper testing while containing the exact specifications on its label.
- Read testimonials of products and brands before purchasing from an online CBD shop. When buying from a physical store, see if they have the authorization to sell CBD .
- Make sure to check the legalities concerning CBD in the area where one wishes to obtain and use the compound.
- Talk to a healthcare professional to avoid complications. For those using certain medications, a doctor may know of any prescribed drug that could interact with CBD .
CBD Dosage for Herpes
There is no official guide on the proper CBD dosage that could be used for herpes symptoms.
The FDA does not approve of any other marketing application for CBD . Epidiolex, a treatment for seizures, is the only CBD product approved by the agency (28 ) .
Although there is no data on proper dosage, one may look at past clinical trials to see what dose range worked for human subjects.
In one study, 300 mg to 600 mg of CBD was found to help decrease anxiety in clinical participants (29 ) .
Another study mentioned that the chronic use of CBD and high doses reaching as much as 1,500 mg per day was found to be well-tolerated in humans (30 ) .
How to Take CBD Oil for Herpes
People with herpes may find applying CBD in topical form helpful in alleviating the pain and discomfort during herpes outbreaks .
Topical CBD , such as salves, lip balms , and CBD creams, allow individuals to administer the compound directly to affected areas.
For users who wish to control their CBD oil doses , tinctures are available for sublingual application. CBD tinctures are perhaps the most popular delivery format for cannabidiol .
Inhaling vaporized cannabidiol is also another form of taking CBD . However, vaping is not recommended as it is often associated with acute lung disease (31 ) .
Sublingual application and vaping are the two fastest ways to administer CBD in the body.
CBD intake by way of the sublingual route is preferred when one wishes for the compound to take effect immediately (32 ) .
Likewise, inhaled CBD allows it to be delivered quickly and efficiently because of high bioavailability (33 ) . Bioavailability is the amount of substance that is absorbed by the body successfully.
CBD sold as gummies, brownies, tablets, and gummies are the most direct way to take the compound. Oral cannabidiol is ideal for those who travel or do not have the time to apply CBD topically.
What is Herpes?
Herpes simplex, commonly known as herpes, is a viral infection generally characterized by having a cold sore or fever blister . It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
The two types of herpes are HSV-1 ( herpes simplex 1 ) and HSV-2 ( herpes simplex 2 ) (34 ) .
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral contact, leading to oral herpes . The HSV-2 type is an infection often transmitted during sex, resulting in genital herpes . However, HSV-1 can infect the genitals and HSV-2 can infect the lips.
The Herpes simplex virus may be passed on from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex.
A person that has contracted the herpes virus remains infected for life, although it tends to go dormant over time. Most people have it and don’t even know it. Herpes simplex usually stays dormant in an individual but can reactivate and cause blisters .
The herpes virus is similar to the varicella-zoster virus, which is linked to shingles . Both types of virus remain dormant in the body until it reactivates.
Shingles is a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox , which causes painful rashes.
Experts do not fully understand what triggers the recurrence of herpes, but it is often associated with several factors. Emotional stress, illness, and fever are the most commonly mentioned (35 ) .
Symptoms of Herpes
In many cases, people who contract the herpes simplex virus are unaware that they have the condition. The following are the symptoms that a person with herpes may experience:
- Burning, itching, or tingling – Before breakouts, a person may have a tingling, itching, or burning sensation on the area of their skin where the blisters appear.
- Sores – Fluid-filled sores may show up around the lips, genital areas, and mucous membranes inside the mouth.
Herpes sores appear when the infected cell tissues are not thoroughly eliminated by immunoregulatory white blood cells of the immune system .
- Flu-like symptoms – Experiencing swollen lymph nodes, fever, and muscle aches are possible.
- Pain when urinating – People with genital herpes , usually women, may have difficulties urinating.
- Eye infection (herpes keratitis) – In some instances, the virus can spread to the eyes, leading to pain, sensitivity, and discharge.
The very first outbreak of herpes is usually the worst, but not all of them are severe. Some individuals may experience very mild symptoms that they barely notice having the condition.
Healthy people with herpes simplex rarely experience serious complications. Those with the highest risk of complications are unborn babies, newborns, and individuals with weak immune systems .
Treatments for Herpes
Although herpes simplex cannot be cured, some medications can be taken to relieve symptoms and shorten herpes outbreaks .
Most individuals are prescribed antiviral medicine. Over-the-counter antiviral topicals may be applied to the genital areas for pain relief.
The most common antiviral drugs for both forms of herpes are acyclovir ( Zovirax ), famciclovir , and valacyclovir . Daily intake of these herpes medications can significantly decrease the frequency and severity of outbreaks (36 ) .
However, individuals can experience side effects when taking these drugs. Irritability, lack of appetite, tiredness, and trouble sleeping are common adverse reactions.
Studies on PubMed ( NCBI ) revealed that cannabidiol has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that may help people infected with the herpes simplex virus .
CBD was found to have immune-suppression capabilities based on how it worked in a study on allergic contact dermatitis.
CBD exhibited its antiviral activity in a study on viral hepatitis C. Researchers learned that the cannabis compound significantly inhibited the replication of the virus during trials.
Cannabidiol was also found to exert antiviral effects in a study concerning Kaposi sarcoma, a condition that caused skin lesions.
These studies provide hints that CBD may be used to help treat the skin lesions and other symptoms of a herpes outbreak .
Despite the positive studies on the compound, there is no clinical evidence to prove that CBD can cure herpes. More studies are needed to confirm if cannabidiol benefits people with herpes.
CBD use is legal in most states in America. People can purchase CBD products from online stores and physical dispensaries, even without a doctor’s prescription.
The two main components of medical cannabis are CBD and THC . Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the compound that causes psychotropic effects.
Those who are interested in applying CBD in their daily regimen should consult a doctor to avoid complications.