Does CBD work for coughs, and if so, how?

Coughing is a reflex that keeps the throat and airways clear. While it can be annoying, coughing helps the body protect and heal itself. 

Coughs may either be acute or chronic. Acute coughs often begin suddenly and last no more than 2 or 3 weeks. Acute coughs are the kind that one often gets with a cold, flu, or acute bronchitis (1).

Chronic coughs may last longer than 2 or 3 weeks and causes vary. Causes of chronic coughs may include:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Smoking
  • Throat disorders, like croup in young children

Water can help ease coughing, whether one drinks it or add it to the air with a steamy shower or vaporizer. 

For a cold or the flu, antihistamines may work better than non-prescription cough medicines. Note that cough medicines are not recommended for children under four years old. For children over four, use caution and read labels carefully (2). 

Why Some People Are Taking CBD for Cough

Some people are using cannabis as a natural alternative treatment for cough symptoms. 

CBD for Congestion

The plant’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to help individuals cope with symptoms, like sore throat, sinus pain, and body aches. 

Nasal congestion may be one of the most annoying and uncomfortable cold symptoms. 

When the virus attacks the nasal passage, it causes it to swell up and overproduce mucus. This overproduction of mucus clogs sinuses causing pain and pressure.

Decongestants help relieve nasal stuffiness by narrowing blood vessels and reducing swelling in the nose. However, decongestants can increase blood pressure (3). 

Meanwhile, CBD may also act as a decongestant by helping reduce inflammation, providing relief from the pressure and sinus drips. 

Unlike other decongestants, CBD does not cause concern for those with cardiovascular issues. 

Data from a study even showed that acute administration of CBD reduces resting blood pressure and blood pressure due to stress (4).

An anti-inflammatory, CBD may help open up the sinus passages and increase ease of breathing, although research is not conclusive.

Targeting the inflammation, CBD may help calm the membranes that line the nasal passages, decreasing congestion and opening up those airways.

A study showed the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain (5). 

CBD’s potent anti-inflammatory properties were also demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (6). 

Meanwhile, CBD may act as an analgesic, relieving pain. A study published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management showed how employing cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, helped in the management of difficult-to-treat pain (7).

CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain (8)

CBD for Bacterial Infections

CBD has natural antibacterial properties that may help fight against secondary bacterial infections that can develop from the cold and flu. 

A study showed the antibacterial characteristics of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) (9).

Another study, conducted in 2019 by researchers from the University of Queensland, showed CBD might be a capable fighter against bacterial infections (10). 

CBD for Fevers

A fever may develop as the body fights a viral infection, like the common cold. A fever is also a sign of inflammation. 

Cannabinoids could play a role in inhibiting the progression of a fever caused by a virus (11).

If the fever is part of a more substantial inflammatory reaction, the use of CBD oil can trigger an anti-inflammatory response through its action in the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Data from a review published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2020 overwhelmingly support the concept that CBD is immunosuppressive (12).

CBD’s potential as an immune suppressor means it may have positive effects when the immune system becomes hyperactive or weakened.

Hemp oil has antiproliferative effects, as indicated in a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology (13). The findings demonstrated that CBD might help stop cell growth of foreign organisms, like the cold virus. 

When the immune system launches its attack on a virus, it causes an inflammatory response that produces flu or cold-like symptoms. 

While the body uses its endocannabinoids to moderate the immune response, it is not always capable of controlling the inflammatory process. 

Cannabinoids in cannabis plants help by providing the natural endocannabinoid mechanism with a much-needed boost. 

Moreover, constant use of these cannabinoids, found in full-spectrum CBD extracts, may help the body protect itself against a future attack.

CBD for Relaxing Muscles

CBD oil may not only provide anti-inflammatory effects, as studies have shown. CBD may help with relaxing the muscles as well.

CBD’s potential muscle-relaxant qualities may be of interest to those suffering from a persistent cough. CBD oil may reduce the inflamed airway and relax the muscles to reduce coughing. 

Through the mechanism by which CBD works with the endocannabinoid system, CBD is useful in treating muscle pain by calming excessively-contracting muscles. 

This mechanism is explained in a 2013 study published in the Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal (14).

Also, CBD may help reduce muscle spasms, a feature of neuropathic damage which often manifests in painful, uncontrolled muscle twitches (15).

Conclusion

CBD hemp oil may be available in different forms of CBD products, such as tincture, vape juice, or lozenges.

CBD is generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile, says the World Health Organization (WHO) (16). 

Studies have shown that some of CBD’s purported therapeutic benefits may be useful in treating some of the causes and symptoms of cough.

However, note that more longitudinal research is needed, as the results from previous studies are not conclusive. Also, the long-term side effects of CBD use are still unknown.

Thus, before using CBD oil for cough as an adjunct therapy or for treating symptoms of medical conditions linked to cough, make sure to consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice.


  1. MedlinePlus. (2016, March 18). Cough. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/cough.html.
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Sheps S. (2019, July 20). High blood pressure and cold remedies: Which are safe? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/high-blood-pressure/faq-20058281.
  4. Jadoon KA, Tan GD, O’Sullivan SE. A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study. JCI Insight. 2017;2(12):e93760. Published 2017 Jun 15. DOIi:10.1172/jci.insight.93760.
  5. Xiong W, Cui T, Cheng K, et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors. J Exp Med. 2012;209(6):1121–1134. DOI:10.1084/jem.20120242.
  6. Petrosino S et al. Anti-inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychotropic Cannabinoid, in Experimental Allergic Contact Dermatitis. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics June 2018, 365 (3) 652-663; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.117.244368.
  7. Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(1):245–259. DOI:10.2147/tcrm.s1928.
  8. Grinspoon, P. (2019, Aug 27). Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.
  9. Van Klingeren B, Ten Ham M. Antibacterial activity of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 1976;42(1-2):9–12. DOI:10.1007/bf00399444.
  10. The University of Queensland. (2019, June 24). Cannabis compound could be powerful new antibiotic. Retrieved from https://imb.uq.edu.au/article/2019/06/cannabis-compound-could-be-powerful-new-antibiotic.
  11. Benamar K, Yondorf M, Meissler JJ, et al. A novel role of cannabinoids: implication in the fever induced by bacterial lipopolysaccharide. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2007;320(3):1127–1133. DOI:10.1124/jpet.106.113159.
  12. Nichols J and Kaplan B. Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol. Cannabis and Cannabinoid ResearchVol. 5, No. 1. 27 Feb 2020. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0073.
  13. Morales P, Reggio PH, Jagerovic N. An Overview on Medicinal Chemistry of Synthetic and Natural Derivatives of Cannabidiol. Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:422. Published 2017 Jun 28. DOI:10.3389/fphar.2017.00422. 
  14. Fine, P. and Rosenfeld, M. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 4(4). 
  15. NINDS. (2018, Aug). Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet.
  16. WHO. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. (2017, Nov 6-10). Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf
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