Marijuana use and its effects on asthma

Published May 15, 2019 12:58 p.m. ET
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Now that cannabis is legal in many regions across the world, people are slowly becoming more aware of some of the different ailments that can be treated at least in part by either smoking weed or consuming some type of edible, capsule, or powder. Asthma sufferers tend to be the most likely to avoid marijuana use for fear of the smoke or cannabinoids interfering with their ability to breath. Especially those who are frequently experiencing a respiratory issue already, as most will avoid any possible irritants in a constant struggle to comfortably breathe, but what if cannabis could help to alleviate the symptoms caused my asthma? Here we will cover everything including what asthma is, how cannabis interacts with the body to reduce many different asthmatic symptoms, how the substance is most safely consumed by someone with asthma, and some of the possible negative effects of marijuana use.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease of the portion of the respiratory system that allows the movement of air both to and from the lungs. As of now, there are no known cures available, but there are a variety of treatments available to keep symptoms manageable in most cases. As the Asthma becomes more developed, the person’s airways will often swell, which restricts the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the lungs. Every single year 250 000 people die from an asthmatic attack, so cannabis is a highly debated issue among specialists who have opposing views on marijuana use by patients with asthma.

Symptoms of asthma

  • overproduction of mucus
  • wheezing
  • breathlessness
  • attacks that consist of the chest feeling restricted or tightened
  • sensitive to airborne allergens, chemicals, scents, and other contaminants when inhaled

How cannabis interacts with the body to reduce asthmatic symptoms

The marijuana plant is host to over 100 different cannabinoids, but the two primary elements are called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD along with other components such as terpenes and other less noted parts of the cannabinoid family have anti-spastic and anti-inflammatory characteristics.

In 2018 the FDA approved medication Epidiolexhit the market as a treatment option for epilepsy and severe allergic reactions. This product is a CBD pure version that showed a significant improvement in most participating patients throughout 7 different trials that involved almost 1000 people with various stages of asthma.

There is also some exciting cannabis research available for a combination cannabinoid treatment which was published in 2016 and conducted by Toby K. Einstein who is the professor of Microbiology and Immunology and co-director of the Centre of Substance Abuse at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. It showed that both CBD and THC were able to reduce the swelling and inflammation that reduces the airways while also minimizing other symptoms that are common in allergy patients.

How to safely consume cannabis when you have asthma

Around 12% of people with asthma have the most severe form, and though marijuana use may work for them, the severity of these symptoms makes it imperative that a doctor supervised treatment is approved and maintained for safety reasons. We also do not suggest that anyone stop taking their regular medications, as this cannabinoid treatment is meant to work in conjunction with many of the more traditional methods of managing the disease. All the methods listed below are low risk ways that people with asthma can enjoy the benefits of both THC and CBD.

Capsules- If you live in a region with access to legally prescribed cannabinoid treatments than there might be a ready-made option in this category for you. Some areas have THC, CBD, or both combined into easy to dose and administer capsules. If you are unable to access these, then there is also the option of making your oils and encapsulating them yourself. It’s a small investment for many years’ worth of pre-measured THC or CBD doses.

Edibles- Marijuana edibles are a fast and easy way to enjoy the benefits of both cannabinoids. Some areas may have ready-made options, but it’s easy to make your cannaoil, cannabutter, or just decarb some cannabis and add it to just about any baked recipe you can think of. A few other options you could try are smoothies, tea, ice cream made with cannamilk, candies, brownies, cakes, gravy, and so much more.

Tinctures- Tinctures are cannabis concentrates that are alcohol based, and many have great success with using them by either drinking small doses or mixing it into other alcohol-based drinks to cover the flavor.

Oils- Marijuana oils are a unique bunch that can be used a variety of different ways including topicals like ointments or salves, as well as infusing edible recipes in place of decarboxylated bud. RSO which is meant to be taken orally through absorption under the tongue or along the gums, as well as those that are administered via dropper in a more liquid form are both considered oils as well. There are many different types of this type of cannabis product, so be sure to do your research before selecting one for a specific ailment.

Possible negative effects of weed on asthmatic symptoms

No matter how severe or otherwise your symptoms might be, it is never recommended to try vaping or smoking weed to treat your asthma symptoms, not even while in between attacks. Choosing either of these methods of consuming cannabis with this disease can lead to a chronic cough, increased sputum, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest. The cannabinoids even when administered using other methods also have a few other possible effects that might be considered uncomfortable or overwhelming.

  • reductive coordination
  • difficulty staying focused
  • short term memory issues
  • altered mood or perception

These guidelines are meant for inspirational and educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We always recommend that readers should consult a medical professional before using any type of cannabis products, especially if on prescribed medications that may be adversely affected by the cannabinoids.

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