Cannabis and Asthma: Benefits and Dangers

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Smoking anything as an asthma-sufferer is ill-advised. But the surprising thing is that cannabis use may still be of significant benefit for those diagnosed with asthma. 

Yes, weed and asthma can live harmoniously side-by-side. 

Even if you’re a recreational user you can still consume cannabis even if you suffer from asthma. We’ll discuss how cannabis affects lung health, particularly in people with asthma. We’ll also consider how cannabis users can make smart choices about their consumption for the benefit of their disease.

But smoking is off the table, as we’ll get into. There are far better options available for you over smoking so you won’t have to miss out. 

How and Why Can Cannabis Help with Asthma?

Asthma, for the most part, is a disorder caused by inflammation. Cannabis and its active constituents (THC, CBD and other cannabinoids) are potent anti-inflammatory molecules that may help asthma sufferers.

How exactly?

Cannabis has been shown to decrease inflammation in the bloodstream and the alveoli of the lungs. The alveoli are the openings that allow oxygen to enter the blood.

Incredibly, these cannabinoids can reduce the severity and frequency of asthmatic episodes. Like many prescription drugs used to treat asthma, cannabis has also been found to act as a bronchodilator. In other words, it can open the pathways in the lungs and thereby making breathing easier.

This is true for multiple forms of asthma – childhood and adult-onset asthma, seasonal asthma and allergy-induced asthma.

Tobacco vs Cannabis Smoke

Studies have shown that long-term light to moderate cannabis shows no decrease in lung function compared to non-users.

Cannabis smoke contains more inflammatory chemicals than tobacco smoke. But people who smoke the same amount of cannabis or tobacco have been found to have opposite effects on respiratory function. Tobacco users show decreased lung efficiency. In comparison, cannabis users show either no change or increased lung capacity.

The explanations for this are still not entirely clear. But the anti-inflammatory role of cannabinoids, combined with the chronic relaxation of smooth muscles surrounding the lungs, may be one explanation.

It’s also known that our body’s cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, function as antimicrobial compounds.

And some forms of asthma are associated with microbial inflammation of the lungs.

This means that the ability of cannabis to mimic the actions of these endocannabinoids may also be cause for the positive effects of cannabis on respiratory function.

 

Can you Smoke Weed with Asthma? Tips You Need to Know

As mentioned above, smoke itself (whether from cannabis, tobacco, or a campfire) can have a negative impact on lung health. Knowing that cannabis may improve lung function, however, may lead many asthma sufferers to use cannabis anyway.

So, are you an asthma sufferer wanting to use cannabis for medical purposes, or recreational enjoyment? If you are, we recommend choosing a less harmful consumption method.

The best way to take cannabis

A better option is taking edibles or oral tinctures. The anti-inflammatory actions of cannabis are still highly effective when you use these methods. And you’ll enjoy the same effects. You’ll only have to adjust to the way you’re taking it.

As for using a vaporizer, scientists are still uncertain about whether or not this is a better option for lung health.

You can, of course, take cannabis as a topical treatment. But they are extremely variable in how well they deliver active ingredients like THC and CBD into the bloodstream. So they’re not ideal.

And when manufactured with compounds to help penetrate the skin may actually carry other harmful chemicals into the body.

The best choice for cannabis users concerned about their lung health remains edibles and other oral remedies.

Selecting a strain

Interestingly, several recent studies have shown CBD may be helpful for reducing inflammation in the lungs (and elsewhere).

These findings indicate that you should seek out strains or cultivars of cannabis which are particularly high in CBD.

Other components of cannabis, like flavonoids and terpenes, have been shown to have significant anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Taking this into consideration, full-spectrum extracts may have more beneficial effects. That is, rather than highly purified CBD or THC.

But, much research must be done to determine the absolute best combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes for ideal respiratory health.

What to Look Out for When Consuming Weed with Asthma

In some cases, cannabis (especially when smoked) may worsen the symptoms of asthma. This may be due to individual variation in the exact causes of a person’s asthma, or in the cannabis itself.

The other concern is when you get poorly cured cannabis. Flowers or flower extracts can harbour mould. Or cannabis might have been heavily treated with nutrients that have not been properly flushed prior to harvesting.

This may increase the likelihood of lung irritation. For this reason, seeking out high-quality and, when possible, inspector-certified sources of cannabis is recommended.

If you find that the consumption of cannabis worsens the symptoms of asthma, stop using it right away and consult a medical professional.

 

Marijuana and Asthma: Final Thoughts

Cannabis use by asthma-patients may not seem like the most likely suggestion. But there is a significant body of evidence indicating that the ingredients of cannabis may be helpful for asthma sufferers.

Low to moderate use is not only not associated with poor lung health but may actually increase respiratory function in many users. This is a result of cannabis’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, along with the cannabinoids’ ability to open the lungs’ pathways.

Like we’ve touched on, you should look towards oral ingestion, rather than smoked or vaporized cannabis. And seek out high-quality sources free from mould and other possible contaminants.

Additionally, high-levels of CBD and essential oils (known as terpenes and flavonoids) will be the most helpful components of cannabis with regards to your lung health.

So, look to high-CBD strains and full-spectrum extracts!

Best of luck!

 

All photos from Unsplash

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