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:
- 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. 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.
- How do you get herpes?
Herpes is transferred either through saliva (kissing, oral sex, sharing drinks), or direct skin to skin contact.
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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:
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.