While smoking marijuana may seem bad for your lungs, studies show it can actually be helpful for treating asthma.
For those unfamiliar with the effects of marijuana on the body, using it to treat asthma may seem counterintuitive. Marijuana is usually associated with smoking, which is considered to have a negative impact on the lungs.
But evidence suggests that compounds in marijuana can actually help asthma sufferers.
The anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-anxiety properties of marijuana make it a good candidate for treating asthma. Marijuana may also address some of the problems with conventional treatments like puffers.
Can Marijuana Help Treat Asthma?
Much of the research on marijuana and asthma took place in the 1970s. Regardless, there is plenty of evidence that marijuana can help treat asthma.
Marijuana acts as a bronchodilator, anti-spasmodic and anti-anxiety medication, all of which contribute to improving asthma.
Researchers first discovered marijuana’s ability to act as a bronchodilator in 1973. This study, which was conducted on healthy volunteers, sparked interest in marijuana’s potential to treat asthma.
Further research was conducted in 1974 to investigate marijuana’s effects on asthma sufferers. The study found that smoked marijuana also acts as a bronchodilator in people with asthma.
A 1975 study published in the American Review of Respiratory Disease used an induced model of asthma. They induced airway contractions (bronchospasms) in healthy volunteers to replicate asthma.
The scientists found that marijuana (containing 2% THC) relieved symptoms of bronchospasms. By contrast, many strains available today contain 10-20% THC.
After smoking 0.5 grams of the 2% THC marijuana, the participants recovered immediately from the bronchospasms and overinflation of the lungs.
Other studies from 1976 and 1978 provide further support for these findings. The studies found that very small doses of THC, when applied through an inhaled aerosol, worked as a bronchodilator in patients with asthma.
These early studies suggest that smoked marijuana is effective against asthma. It helps open up the airways of the lungs through bronchodilation, and also reduces muscle spasms in the airways, allowing air to be exhaled more readily.
Compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, are also known to reduce anxiety at appropriate doses. This makes marijuana effective at not only relieving the inflammation and muscular contractions associated with asthma, but also at relieving the anxiety and stress that contributes to asthma attacks.
Effects of Marijuana on Asthma
A 1976 study showed that THC acts as an effective and immediate bronchodilator in patients with asthma. Researchers administered THC as an aerosol spray at doses of only 200 μm (1/5th of a milligram).
Even at this tiny dose, THC was found to have a similar effect to salbutamol, a common anti-asthma medication.
Stress and Anxiety
Marijuana is known to be effective at regulating stress and anxiety. Since stress is a contributing factor to asthma, this benefit of marijuana makes it unique among other asthma treatments.
Using marijuana to relieve stress may reduce asthma in sufferers, especially during periods of heightened stress and anxiety.
The cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, it has been found to reduce inflammation in lung tissues.
CBD has also been found to reduce the production of inflammatory compounds in the lungs, known as cytokines.
In a 2015 study conducted in Brazil, CBD was found to reduce the mucosal production that is common in asthma.
CBD decreased the production of cytokines, which are responsible for producing mucus in the lungs.
In a 2014 study, scientists showed that THC and other cannabinoids can reduce contractions in the lungs.
Lung contractions (or spasms) can contribute to asthma attacks. THC acts on CB1 receptors to reduce these contractions. The effect is dose-dependent, meaning it increases with larger doses. In the study, the maximum reduction of symptoms observed was 39%.
Click on a tag below to read more on this topic