Nature’s Medicine Cabinet: Fight back against colds with cannabis

Last week I felt it. That refreshing and distinctly cool breeze that whips in and out of the hot summer air and lingers around our shoulders just long enough to remind us that summer is not endless here in New England and… Autumn is coming.

Aside from the celebrated decomposing chlorophyll, the onset of fall also marks the beginning of two other well-known and corresponding times of year: back to school season and cold and flu season. In order to avoid missing class or work due to the perfect storm of pressure, germs and stress, preparation is key. Having a well-stocked cannabis medicine cabinet helps keep aches, pains, colds and viruses at bay without pharmaceutical antibiotics or synthetic chemicals.

Why should we opt for solutions derived from nature rather than the antibiotics and anti-bacterial products that seem to saturate the shelves of pharmacies and drugstores across our country? The answer is multi-faceted. First, the FDA states that the chemicals used to make these over-the-counter products anti-bacterial — specifically a chemical called triscolan — are thought to be detrimental to both our long-term individual health and the health of our environment. This is not surprising at all considering triscolan has been an EPA regulated pesticide since 1969, and EPA reports from 2002 to 2012 found it to be “highly toxic to aquatic animals and very highly toxic to aquatic algae.” Due to public health concerns, triscolan was banned from anti-bacterial liquid soaps by the FDA in 2016, but the residual products are still on shelves and in our waterways. If that isn’t reason enough, scientific evidence also shows that these products are no more effective than plain old soapy water that doesn’t contain these harmful ingredients. And the use of anti-bacterial soaps and antibiotics both have been found to contribute to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria known as superbugs, and nobody wants that.

As the cannabis industry evolves alongside the superbugs, we are learning new and more sustainable ways to cope with maladies and better utilize preventive medicine. In addition to the cannabinoids found in cannabis, there are at least two types of healing compounds, known as terpenes and flavonoids, that contribute to the plant’s medicinal properties. It is no coincidence that many of these compounds are also commonly found in many plants that have been used for centuries in traditional medicines across the globe.

The ideal approach to any health issue is prevention, and topical cannabis products are a great first line of defense against germs as well as the aches and pains that can accompany the seasonal barometric pressure change. I cannot stress enough that really knowing what is in your medicine is always of the utmost importance, especially in a country where comprehensive studies are made federally illegal, testing regulations are spotty and profits are too easily put ahead of patients and consumers. Much of the reliable research we currently have is from international sources, independent or state-level studies or anecdotal evidence.

When it comes to topicals, it is worth noting that the things we put on our skin make their way into our bloodstream fairly quickly. Finding out the active ingredients (cannabinoids and terpenes) as well as the inactive ingredients in a topical is the best way to know how they will interact with one another and with your body to determine the topicals’ effectiveness, depending on what you are looking for. Topicals that have a high activated cannabinoid potency are great for pain relief and inflammation while those made with the terpenes included, re-introduced or added may have lower cannabinoid levels, but greater potential anti-bacterial, anti-viral or anti-fungal properties. The base ingredients of the topical are important to know as well because they are what delivers the cannabis medicine across the layers of our skin into our bodies and to our lovely endocannabinoid systems. For example, topicals made with cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (preferably organic) may have an extra advantage due to the oil’s own anti-bacterial properties!

If prevention is out the window and you find yourself with the case of the sniffles this fall, some of the top cannabis strains to seek out include those that have haze or hashplant lineage. These strains have typically been found to contain high concentrations of a terpene called delta-3-carene. Known for its anti-histamine effects, delta-3-carene is also thought to be responsible for the dry mouth and dry eyes associated with cannabis use.  This terp is also present in herbs like basil and rosemary as well as pine and cedar wood. Implemented properly, strains with this terpene can help reduce the fluid-oriented symptoms of colds, allergies and even menstrual cycles.

Of course, students heading back to school should familiarize themselves with the cannabis laws in the state or country in which they are attending school as well as their school’s specific cannabis/drug policies. Just because it is decriminalized or legalized in your home state does not mean you are granted the same rights everywhere. For example, as an adult you can consume cannabis legally at your residence in Washington or Oregon, but right across the border in Idaho you could find yourself facing a year in prison and/or $1,000 fine just for having cannabis related paraphernalia. Study up and stay safe!

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