By Luke Sumpter

Cannabis nasal spray is emerging as a new innovation—but is it set to rival more traditional routes of administration? Many individuals with a penchant for the herb choose to smoke or vape, which sends cannabinoids into the alveoli of the lungs followed by the bloodstream. Others prefer to craft edibles in the kitchen, subjecting THC to first-pass metabolism and resulting in much more powerful and sustained effects. These two methods are ancient, but effective.

Newer products, such as THC strips and sublingual oils, are also available, and still gaining traction. Nasal sprays take matters to another level; or rather, another part of the body. Much like an array of medications currently on the market, these products are administered into the airways of the nose to produce a desired effect. But how exactly do they work? And what benefits do they carry? Find out everything you need to know about cannabis nasal spray below.

What Are Cannabis Nasal Sprays?

You’ve probably used a nasal spray product at some point to combat allergies or relieve a stuffy nose. They work so well because they deliver medicine directly to the affected site. As opposed to swallowing a pill and waiting for active molecules to work their way into the bloodstream, sinuses, and nose, nasal sprays take effect immediately.

The concept of cannabis nasal sprays follows the same approach. Instead of targeting the lungs or digestive tract, these products get to work directly within the nostrils and sinuses. For this reason, cannabis and CBD nasal sprays are emerging with greater frequency in dispensaries and prescription cannabis clinics. Given their fast onset of effects, they will likely gain some traction among more experimental recreational users, too.

How Do Cannabis Nasal Sprays Work?

Cannabis nasal sprays work similarly to those that deliver decongestants. Each bottle features a nozzle that releases a fine mist into the nasal passages. Whether a nasal spray contains THC or CBD, the active compound interacts with epithelial cells within the nasal cavity via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This signalling network, composed of signalling molecules (endocannabinoids), receptors, and enzymes, helps to keep myriad physiological systems in balance by acting as a universal regulator of the human body. In short, it helps to maintain homeostasis.

The ECS plays an important role in immunity, inflammation, and allergies—three factors that underpin issues within the nasal cavity and sinuses. Ongoing studies are exploring how cannabinoids such as THC and CBD influence ECS receptors and enzymes, and therefore how these molecules might impact infections, inflammation, and an overly aggressive immune response (autoimmunity). Despite being applied to the nose and sinuses, cannabis nasal sprays are not local in their action, which means they could potentially affect all manner of physiological processes.

Nasal Spray

What Are the Benefits of Cannabis Nasal Sprays?

The benefits of weed nasal spray remain unknown, as few human studies have observed their effects. That said, some research has probed the plant for its impact on symptoms associated with sinus conditions. For example, though viruses are often the cause of upper respiratory tract infections, both bacteria and fungi can also cause them. Presently, researchers are exploring the antimicrobial potential[1] of select cannabinoids in hopes of finding natural anti-infective agents.

Furthermore, sinusitis (the swelling of the hollow cavities in the cheekbones and forehead) occurs following infection or allergic reaction. In the case of infection, inflammation is part of the immune response. However, this response can become irritating and problematic in cases of chronic infection and allergic sinusitis. In this regard, studies are underway to see if cannabinoids, such as CBD, have any impact on chronic inflammation, perhaps even indirectly[2].

CBD and Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are soft tissue growths that occur inside the nose. Although benign (non-cancerous) and generally painless, nasal polyps can become a serious issue if not treated correctly. These growths form from the mucous membrane, a type of tissue that lines the nasal cavity, which warms, humidifies, and filters the air we breathe. Nasal polyps inflict similar symptoms to a cold, but instead of clearing up within a matter of days, they linger until treated. Overall, the symptoms include:

  •  Blocked nose 
  •  Runny nose 
  •  Post-nasal drip 
  •  Snoring 
  •  Nosebleeds 
  •  Reduces sense of taste and smell 
  •  Irritation and swelling 

Left untreated, nasal polyps can grow to a size that blocks the nasal and sinus passages. As well as causing breathing problems, this can increase risk of infection. So, can CBD nasal sprays help to combat the symptoms of nasal polyps? There is not enough evidence to confirm the efficacy of cannabidiol in this regard, but the aforementioned studies are investigating potential effects relevant to the condition, such as inflammation and bacterial infection.

THC vs CBD Nasal Sprays

THC and CBD nasal sprays exert different effects, as the two cannabinoids affect the ECS in different ways. Let’s start with THC. As the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis, THC binds to the CB1 receptor of the ECS. In doing so, the molecule causes a shift in dopamine signalling that gives rise to the characteristic cannabis high. However, the cannabinoid also binds to the CB2 receptors, a site most prominent in the immune system. THC also binds to additional sites across the “expanded ECS”, known to science as the endocannabinoidome. Aside from catalysing a psychoactive experience, studies are probing the potential anti-inflammatory[3] and pain-killing[4] properties of this phytochemical.

CBD has a different relationship with the ECS. While the molecule doesn’t have much affinity for the classical CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS, early research suggests it can elevate levels of endocannabinoids by transiently preventing enzymes[5] from breaking them down. CBD also binds to TRPV1, otherwise known as the capsaicin receptor—a site involved in pain signalling.

Do THC Nasal Sprays Get You High?

Yes. However, the effects depend on the potency of the formula. When sprayed into the nasal cavity, THC has instant access to the bloodstream via the capillaries in the walls. This results in a fast onset and relatively quick duration of effects. A formula containing both CBD and THC will blunt the psychoactive effects to a degree, but any formula containing THC in relatively large amounts will induce a high.

Cannabis Nasal Spray

Can Cannabis Nasal Sprays Be Dangerous?

Cannabis nasal sprays can pose a danger in some circumstances. The overuse of any nasal spray can cause damage to the tissues of the nose. More specifically to cannabis nasal sprays, both THC and CBD may cause adverse events in some individuals, and may interact with other medications. In the case of the former, those predisposed to mental health issues are advised to avoid THC. Regarding the latter, because CBD changes the way the liver processes many pharmaceutical drugs, users are advised to consult with their medical professional before using such products.

The Future of Cannabis Nasal Sprays

The idea of cannabis nasal spray may seem unusual at first, especially to recreational users. However, these products could work as an effective way to deliver cannabinoids exactly where they’re needed. Moreover, by avoiding the need to inhale or digest cannabinoids, users may be able to bypass the potential risks associated with smoking and vaping, as well as the long onset and sometimes overwhelming effects associated with edibles. Though more human trials are needed to reveal the potential of weed nasal spray in a clinical setting, we are likely to continue seeing pharmaceutical-grade equipment and methods used in the disbursement of cannabinoids.

DisclaimerExtracts, concentrates, and oils used for dabbing are among the strongest cannabis products available. Proceed with caution when using substances high in THC. Start with low doses and slowly increase over time to build up a tolerance to the compound.

Remember: Set and Setting will help you deal with various situations.

Stay Cultivated.

External Resources:
  1. The Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabinoids - PMC
  2. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol - PMC
  4. An experimental randomized study on the analgesic effects of... : PAIN
  5. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia - PMC
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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