Can CBD Help With Herpes?

  • Cannabidiol’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities may help alleviate symptoms of the herpes simplex virus(1).
  • A 2017 study revealed that CBD displayed antiviral activity against viral hepatitis C by significantly decreasing its replication(2).
  • The antiviral action of CBD was also observed in a study on Kaposi sarcoma(3), a condition that leads to skin lesions.
  • CBD was also found to suppress the inflammatory reaction of contact dermatitis(4), suggesting that CBD may help treat cold sores from herpes by inhibiting its infectious growth.
  • However, more studies are needed to confirm if CBD can help with herpes.

Why People Are Turning to CBD for Herpes

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

The Pros

  • 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).

The Cons

  • 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 to 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.

Conclusion

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.


  1. Tagne A, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, Cosentino M, and Marino F. Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope? Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2020 5:2, 121-131 Published Online: 5 Jun 2020 https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2019.0060
  2. Lowe HI, Toyang NJ, McLaughlin W. Potential of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(1):116-118. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.199780
  3. Maor Y, Yu J, Kuzontkoski PM, Dezube BJ, Zhang X, Groopman JE. Cannabidiol inhibits growth and induces programmed cell death in kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-infected endothelium. Genes Cancer. 2012;3(7-8):512-520. doi:10.1177/1947601912466556
  4. Scheau C, Badarau IA, Mihai LG, et al. Cannabinoids in the Pathophysiology of Skin Inflammation. Molecules. 2020;25(3):652. Published 2020 Feb 4. doi:10.3390/molecules25030652
  5. Tagne A, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, Cosentino M, and Marino F. op. cit.
  6. Lowe HI, Toyang NJ, McLaughlin W. op. cit.
  7. Mathur K, Vuppalanchi V, Gelow K, Vuppalanchi R, Lammert C. Cannabidiol (CBD) Consumption and Perceived Impact on Extrahepatic Symptoms in Patients with Autoimmune Hepatitis. Dig Dis Sci. 2020;65(1):322-328. doi:10.1007/s10620-019-05756-7
  8. Maor Y, Yu J, Kuzontkoski PM, Dezube BJ, Zhang X, Groopman JE. op. cit.
  9. Scheau C, Badarau IA, Mihai LG, et al. op. cit.
  10. Maor Y, Yu J, Kuzontkoski PM, Dezube BJ, Zhang X, Groopman JE. op. cit.
  11. Nichols JM, Kaplan BLF. Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020;5(1):12-31. Published 2020 Feb 27. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0073
  12. Zlebnik NE, Cheer JF. Beyond the CB1 Receptor: Is Cannabidiol the Answer for Disorders of Motivation?. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2016;39:1-17. doi:10.1146/annurev-neuro-070815-014038
  13. Shahidi M, Tay ESE, Read SA, Ramezani-Moghadam M, Chayama K, George J, Douglas MW. Endocannabinoid CB1 antagonists inhibit hepatitis C virus production, providing a novel class of antiviral host-targeting agents. First Published: 01 November 2014 https://doi.org/10.1099/vir.0.067231-0
  14. Lowe HI, Toyang NJ, McLaughlin W. op. cit.
  15. Tagne A, Pacchetti B, Sodergren M, Cosentino M, and Marino F. op. cit.
  16. Maor Y, Yu J, Kuzontkoski PM, Dezube BJ, Zhang X, Groopman JE. op. cit.
  17. Ibid.
  18. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, August 3). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  19. Hudak J (2018 December 14). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/
  20. Huestis MA, Solimini R, Pichini S, Pacifici R, Carlier J, Busardò FP. Cannabidiol Adverse Effects and Toxicity. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):974-989. doi:10.2174/1570159X17666190603171901
  21. Brown JD, Winterstein AG. Potential Adverse Drug Events and Drug-Drug Interactions with Medical and Consumer Cannabidiol (CBD) Use. J Clin Med. 2019;8(7):989. Published 2019 Jul 8. doi:10.3390/jcm8070989
  22. Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
  23. Gaby AR. Natural remedies for Herpes simplex. Altern Med Rev. 2006;11(2):93-101.
  24. Mailoo VJ, Rampes S. Lysine for Herpes Simplex Prophylaxis: A Review of the Evidence. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017;16(3):42-46.
  25. Lopez BS, Yamamoto M, Utsumi K, Aratsu C, Sakagami H. A clinical pilot study of lignin–ascorbic acid combination treatment of herpes simplex virus. In Vivo. 2009;23(6):1011-1016.
  26. Schnitzler P, Schuhmacher A, Astani A, Reichling J. Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses. Phytomedicine. 2008;15(9):734-740. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.04.018
  27. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  28. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2020, August 3). op. cit.
  29. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
  30. Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Curr Drug Saf. 2011;6(4):237-249. doi:10.2174/157488611798280924
  31. Chand HS, Muthumalage T, Maziak W, Rahman I. Pulmonary Toxicity and the Pathophysiology of Electronic Cigarette, or Vaping Product, Use Associated Lung Injury. Front Pharmacol. 2020;10:1619. Published 2020 Jan 14. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.01619
  32. Hua S. Advances in Nanoparticulate Drug Delivery Approaches for Sublingual and Buccal Administration. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:1328. Published 2019 Nov 5. doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.01328
  33. Bruni N, Della Pepa C, Oliaro-Bosso S, Pessione E, Gastaldi D, Dosio F. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478. Published 2018 Sep 27. doi:10.3390/molecules23102478
  34. World Health Organization (2020, May 1). Herpes simplex virus. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus
  35. American Academy of Dermatology. Herpes Simplex: Who Gets and Causes. Retrieved from: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/herpes-simplex-causes
  36. American Academy of Dermatology. Herpes Simplex: Diagnosis and Treatment. Retrieved from: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/herpes-simplex-treatment
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