CBD oil and asthma
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- Research overview
- The studies
- Patient perspectives
- What the experts say
- Bottom line
If you or someone you love has asthma then you know how debilitating the symptoms can be. Wheezing, coughing, and labored breathing are just a few of the disruptive effects of this chronic lung disease that affects 25 million Americans. Smoking cannabis might not be the best idea for someone with lung disease, but what about using CBD oil to treat asthma?
Wheezing, coughing, and labored breathing are just a few of the disruptive effects of asthma. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
As there is no cure for asthma, researchers are seeking treatments that manage the symptoms with the fewest possible side effects. According to some recent research conducted on animal models, cannabidiol (CBD) oil could be one potential therapeutic option.
The results of a 2015 study published in “Mediators of Inflammation” showed that CBD was able to stop the oversensitive inflammatory response in rats induced with asthma. The study’s authors said CBD is a potential new asthma treatment.
A 2015 study showed that CBD could be a potential new asthma treatment. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A subsequent 2019 study published in the “European Journal of Pharmacology” found that CBD reduces airway inflammation and fibrosis in mice with allergic asthma. Further, the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis may be useful in treating asthma. Researchers who had previously shown that CBD administered to mice prior to a lung injury reduced inflammation also examined the effect of CBD given after the injury. They found that CBD had “a potent anti-inflammatory effect” and improved lung function.
Finally, there may be some therapeutic value in full-spectrum oil, which does contain the intoxicating cannabinoid THC as well as CBD. A 2016 literature review published in the “Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology” found that THC may help suppress the immune system. In some types of asthma, the immune system overreacts to an environmental trigger, resulting in bothersome symptoms. The findings of this study could be especially beneficial for those who suffer from allergic asthma. Researchers in this study also noted that the cannabinoid system plays an important role in balancing immunity.
Asthma is a condition that most sufferers learn to manage over time, through lifestyle and environmental changes as well as prescription maintenance medication and rescue inhalers for asthma attacks. Nick Foster is an author and blogger who writes about methods for controlling asthma. On his blog Treating Asthma at Home, Foster writes that his asthma was mostly controlled by diet and exercise, but he still felt symptoms and discomfort occasionally so he decided to try CBD. After taking 20 milligrams a day sublingually or orally, he blogged about the results. “I’ve been taking CBD for about a year now, and I still haven’t had to sit through any discomfort or other asthmatic symptoms, let alone use my rescue inhaler,” Foster said.
Since he was a child, Salvatore Miceli has kept an inhaler in his pocket, ready to treat his near daily asthma attacks. In 2018, Miceli tried CBD oil for the first time and has observed a greater clarity in his breathing. He shared with Weedmaps in a phone interview, “Not only does the CBD oil help me breathe better but it also makes me calmer. Asthma attacks can be stressful and scary, so it’s great to have a treatment that addresses that as well.”
Miceli’s experience with CBD oil has been so positive that he has considered canceling his upcoming surgery to repair a deviated septum. He said, “If the results continue like this, then I would love to skip the surgery.”
Is Miceli’s success with CBD oil to treat asthma surprising to medical professionals? That depends on who you ask.
What the experts say
The lowered levels of anxiety Miceli credits to CBD oil do not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the benefits of medical marijuana. In fact, cannabis has been emerging as an alternative to anxiety medications and some top physicians are recognizing the potential.
Dr. Bonni Goldstein, medical director of Canna-Centers Wellness & Education in California and medical adviser to Weedmaps, has observed exceptional long-term results with hundreds of anxiety patients who have been treated with cannabis medicine.
“Cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and CBG can be utilized to help anxiety sufferers reduce symptoms and improve the quality of their lives,” Goldstein said.
But what about the direct breathing issues related to asthma? Organizations such as the Lung Institute are quick to dismiss the idea of asthma patients smoking cannabis as dangerous, but some experts believe that using alternative measures such as CBD oil may yield a better outcome. In 2017, Bronchiectasis News reported that vaporized or edible forms of cannabis may offer temporary relief to some individuals with lung disease.
Vaporized or edible forms of cannabis may offer temporary relief to some individuals with lung disease. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
With a fundamental lack of research into how CBD oil affects people with asthma, many medical experts remain on the fence about the treatment’s benefits and drawbacks.
CBD oil may be able to offer anti-inflammatory relief to some asthma patients when administered under a physician’s care.
CBD oil and asthma Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives What the experts say
Marijuana and Asthma
Asthma is a chronic condition of the lungs that’s caused by inflammation of your airways. As a result, your airways constrict. This leads to wheezing and breathing difficulties.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute , more than 25 million Americans have asthma. Many of them are searching for natural and alternative treatment methods. This includes marijuana (cannabis).
Marijuana is being legalized in many states. Some states have legalized it for medical purposes only. Others have legalized both medical and recreational use of this drug.
You may be wondering whether marijuana could be a potential treatment for asthma, or perhaps you think it probably makes asthma worse. In fact, while smoking marijuana can worsen breathing problems, taking other forms of the plant that don’t require smoking may potentially benefit people with asthma.
A growing body of research is focusing on marijuana’s effects on asthma and whether cannabis plants can offer some relief for the condition. The focus isn’t so much on smoking marijuana joints, but rather on taking cannabinoids instead.
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring substances in marijuana plants. They are sometimes used to treat chronic pain and neurological conditions, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. This is due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Since asthma is caused by a chronic inflammation of the lungs, researchers are trying to find out whether cannabinoids can have similar effects for this condition. Research is especially promising for people who have allergic asthma.
Cannabinoids may be available in the form of supplements. These substances may also be derived from smoking marijuana in nontraditional forms. A 2013 study in the journal Substance Abuse found that people who smoke marijuana using vaporizers gained more benefits from the plant with less lung-irritating smoke.
Still, there are some limits to these potential benefits. One study published in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine contends that short-term medicinal uses of marijuana may not harm the lungs. This is compared to recreational or heavy smoking. However, it’s not clear just how much is safe or for exactly how long.
Despite any possible benefits, marijuana also poses enormous risks if you have asthma. This is particularly the case if you smoke it. Smoking any substance can increase inflammation in your lungs. This makes asthma symptoms worse.
Smoking marijuana may even increase your risk for an asthma attack. In severe cases, you may need to be hospitalized for an asthma attack. This helps to prevent life-threatening complications.
When you smoke marijuana, large air sacs called bullae may start to develop in your lungs. These can eventually disrupt your breathing. According to the American Thoracic Society, you’re at an increased risk of developing bullae from smoking marijuana if you’re under the age of 45.
Over time, bullae can grow and cause shortness of breath. What’s even more dangerous is the development of pneumothorax. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when bullae rupture in the lungs.
In the short term, smoking marijuana can cause:
- frequent coughing
- lung infections
- shortness of breath
Smoking is perhaps one of the most common ways to use marijuana. Still, this isn’t the only form of marijuana available.
Aside from traditional joints, some people prefer smoking marijuana with other tools such as bong. In theory, these can help reduce the amount of smoke you inhale. However, not enough studies have been done to determine whether such devices make smoking marijuana any safer.
Vaping marijuana by warming the plant results in less smoke being inhaled. CBD and THC, two compounds of marijuana, can be taken orally in food or capsules. Oils with CBD can be applied to the skin. The entire marijuana plant is often available in food products.
Nonsmoking forms of marijuana are also less likely to irritate your lungs. These include extracts that may be mixed with food and CBD oils that are available as supplements.
Numerous conventional treatment options are available for people with asthma. Aside from quick-relief medications, such as inhalers, your doctor may recommend drugs that provide more long-term control. These help stop asthma symptoms before they become problematic by decreasing inflammation. Examples include:
- inhaled corticosteroids
- leukotriene tablets
If you’re looking for more “natural” forms of asthma treatment, talk to your doctor about the following options:
- breathing exercises
When it comes to using marijuana for asthma, there’s an ongoing debate about the benefits versus the risks. The negative effects of tobacco smoke — especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma — have been well-established. As marijuana becomes legalized in many areas, only then can more research be done.
However, the bottom line is that smoking marijuana can indeed be harmful if you have asthma. Overall, smoking marijuana is unsafe for people with lung disease.
Talk to your doctor about all the options for asthma treatment, and ask whether other forms of marijuana could benefit your particular case.
Last medically reviewed on December 6, 2018
Marijuana (cannabis) is being legalized in many states. You may be wondering whether marijuana could be a potential treatment for asthma. A growing body of research is focusing on marijuana’s effects on asthma and whether cannabis plants can offer some relief for the condition. Learn the benefits and risks.