Can Cannabis Treat Asthma?
Because the primary method of consumption for marijuana is through smoking, it may seem like an unlikely candidate when for the treatment of asthma or any other respiratory condition for that matter. But our favorite plant CAN help those who suffer from asthma - another one on the long list of conditions that cannabis can help you with.
Asthma is a condition that causes swelling in the airways, which in turn will cause difficulty breathing, and tightness in the breath. Although rare, extreme cases of asthma can actually be fatal. It’s estimated that there are 24 million Americans who are living with asthma today, and it’s also the leading chronic illness among children. Treatment is usually in the form of anti-inflammatory steroids which are inhaled; these act as broncho-dilators that work by opening up the airway passages to bring relief from wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Nebulizers are also used in the treatment of more serious cases.
There are many studies that support the use of cannabis in the treatment and management of asthma.
Cannabinoids Can Improve The Lungs
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, don’t be afraid to light up. Studies have shown that the THC in pot can actually function as a temporary bronchodilator, giving relief for up to 2 hours. But it could be even better when the marijuana is ingested instead of smoked. A 1973 study by the New England Journal of Medicine states that “Marihuana smoke, unlike cigarette smoke, causes broncho-dilation rather than broncho-constriction [narrowing of the air passages] and, unlike opiates, does not cause central respiratory depression [i.e. a decrease in breathing].”
Another study, done over the course of 20 years and with the help of 5,000 participants from 3 different American cities, analyzed the lung capacity and airflow from the lungs. The participants were required to answer questions about both cigarette and marijuana use. The researchers found that for every 365 joints (1 joint year) smoked, both the lung volume as well as airflow rates of the subjects were improved. Smoking pot can definitely open up your airways although of course, I don’t blame you if you’re worried about smoking and what it can do to your already troubled lungs; it’s the last thing that someone who already has asthma wants to worry about. But the study also showed that the moderate marijuana smokers actually had better lungs and didn’t show the same damage that the cigarette smokers suffered.
One of the most famous studies analyzing the connection between marijuana and asthma was conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin in 1975. Dr. Tashkin is a well-known pulmonologist who dedicated much of his medical career studying the effects of marijuana on different illnesses. The participants of his study included 10 asthmatic men and women. Controlled asthma attacks were induced on the participants through psychological suggestions and exercise. Some of the subjects were given marijuana in various forms: pills, joints, and vaporized. The rest of the subjects were given marijuana in placebo form.
The study found that those who were administered marijuana found almost immediate relief from constricted airways. They were also more relaxed and discovered that the medicinal benefits of cannabis lasted even longer than that of the typical asthma inhaler. On the other hand, the participants who received placebo versions didn’t experience any releif.
Marijuana Is Anti-Inflammatory
Asthma is recognized as a chronic inflammatory disease. Even when those with asthma aren’t suffering from an attack, their bronchioles and bronchi can still have low-level inflammation.
Inflammation becomes much worse during an asthma attack, which in turn worsens the muscular contractions of the bronchial tissue. The inflammation that occurs in asthmatics was originally thought to occur as an immune response to allergens although this isn’t definite and it can vary from case to case.
The bronchodilators mentioned earlier that are prescribed to asthmatics are anti-inflammatory. But cannabinoids in marijuana are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective natural alternative to steroid drugs. Human lung tissue contains cannabinoid receptors and when marijuana is consumed, it can help manage and treat asthma by regulating muscular contractions, inflammation, and dilation.
Pot Can Regulate Muscle Spasms
Another way that marijuana can help alleviate asthma is because of its antispasmodic properties, which means that it can decrease muscle spasms. Involuntary muscle contractions are more pronounced during an asthma attack because both bronchioles and bronchi are made up of muscle. They become more inflamed, and become narrow and contracted.
A 2014 study analyzed the bronchial lung tissue of 88 human patients. They were exposed to electrical field stimulation which was done on purpose to make the lungs contract. The patients were then given THC as well as endogenous cannabinoid 2-AG and synthetic agonists of the CB-receptors type I & II. The researchers found that THC and some agonists of the CB1 receptor were effective in helping to decrease the muscle contractions.
Using cannabis to treat asthma is nothing new. People have been using marijuana for asthma since antiquity; in fact the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was thought to have discovered the medicinal benefits of pot as far back as 2700 BC. Historians have also found that Egyptians turned to cannabis to treat various conditions including asthma back in 1213 BC. Famous author Marcel Proust, who suffered from chronic asthma, would also write to his mother talking about his use of marijuana to help his asthma. In his letters he referred to them as anti-asthma cigarettes.
Thankfully today there are countless strains of pot to choose from, some of them more superior in alleviating asthma.
Have you used pot to treat asthma before? Share with us your experience in the comments below.