Can Marijuana Help Treat Asthma?

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

It may seem strange that inhaling medical marijuana may benefit those suffering from asthma, but its cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-anxiety properties may offer therapeutic relief. Asthma is a condition in which the bronchioles of the lungs become inflamed, and in turn cause difficulties in breathing. Symptoms of the condition include shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Although studies analyzing the effects of marijuana as an asthma treatment date back to the ‘70s, there is evidence to suggest that it can provide a powerful treatment option. In one study from 1974, investigators found smoked marijuana acted as a bronchodilator in asthma sufferers. Another study the following year, which was published in the American Review of Respiratory Disease, found marijuana containing 2% THC relieved symptoms of bronchospasms in healthy volunteers experiencing induced airway contractions that mimicked bronchospasms. The participants recovered immediately after smoking .5 grams of the 2% THC marijuana. Following studies found small doses of THC administered through an inhaled aerosol also served as a bronchodilator in patients with asthma.

Alongside THC’s success as a bronchodilator, CBD could also be helpful for asthma sufferers due to its ability to reduce the anxiety and stress that often contribute to asthma attacks. Its anti-inflammatory properties allow it to reduce inflammation in lung tissues and reduce the production of inflammatory compounds, known as cytokines, in the lungs. Additionally, one recent study from Brazil found CBD reduces mucosal production, something that is common in asthma. Lastly, a study from 2014 found THC and other cannabinoids reduce contractions in the lungs by acting on the CB1 receptors. The effect is dose-dependent, and symptoms were reduced by up to 39%. For best symptom relief, patients with asthma should avoid smoking due to the fact it is hot and irritating, and can result in further inflammation of the lungs. Additionally, while edibles can be helpful on a regular basis as a supplement or replacement for systemic steroids, its delay in effects make it impractical for patients seeking immediate relief. The best method for asthma sufferers may be vaporization. This allows patients to inhale the beneficial compounds of marijuana and experience immediate relief while avoiding the toxins found in marijuana smoke.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.