The research currently being conducted around cannabis and asthma is largely influenced by a study conducted in 1973 at UCLA, which indicated that people who use marijuana have wider (less constricted) airways, regardless of whether or not they have existing respiratory problems.
The study found that cannabis could calm “experimentally induced” asthma attacks to the same extent as a medical bronchodilator – the machine traditionally used to relief asthmatic symptoms. Unfortunately, attempts to add THC to asthma inhalers failed due to the THC molecules being too large. Oral ingestion did not relieve symptoms quickly enough to be of use, and because vaporizers were not yet used for such medications, a solution was not achieved.1
A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology discussed the results of lung tissue samples subjected to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The results suggest cannabis affects the body’s airways in ways similar to traditional asthma drugs – by impeding muscle contractions that cause restriction and uncontrollable coughing. The results pose a reason for the findings of the 1973 study.
Pharmaceutical asthma drugs prevent this natural reaction (a symptom of asthma) by binding to the same receptors as achetycholine – the molecule that causes these contractions – thereby preventing achetycholine’s ability to interact with the body. THC, on the other hand, seems to prevent the production of the molecule in the first place.2
In 2015, another study showed marijuana contains both compounds that cause coughing and those that inhibit it – hence inconsistency in patient reactions. Anandamide, a natural compound known to be molecularly similar to THC, relaxes muscles and inhibits coughing when an outside irritant has induced the reaction.
When the airways are already relaxed, however, and not subjected to any irritation, the same compounds (anandamide and THC) can actually exacerbate contractions and coughing.3
In the specific case of COPD, which presents as constricted airways or smaller, inelastic lung sacks, anecdotal evidence shows symptom improvement with marijuana treatment for late stage COPD and severe emphysema.
In a single case study, a man in his 30s with stage three COPD found considerable relief when he ceased pharmaceutical medicines and began using cannabis oil. Eventually, he reported no longer requiring an oxygen tank to treat his condition.4
In 2009, a study was carried out by the University of British Columbia and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers surveyed 878 people over the age of 40 regarding their respiratory health and their use of smoked tobacco and marijuana. The survey results suggested that while smoking both substances can increase the risk of respiratory problems and COPD, smoking marijuana alone has no clear link to these conditions.5
It is important to remember that though smoking marijuana may not directly cause respiratory issues, there are nonetheless various carcinogens in marijuana smoke that can be detrimental to health. Smoking marijuana is rarely recommended by physicians, including those in support of medical marijuana use. The latter generally recommend ingesting cannabis through edibles or vaporizing.
The above information is gleaned from a few scientific studies and various anecdotal evidence. Regardless of your medical condition, We recommend you to speak with a medical professional before beginning self-medication using marijuana or any other substance.
Review our Medical Benefits section to learn more about how this natural medicine affects the body and aids numerous conditions and symptoms.