At first glance, smoking cannabis to treat asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath doesn’t seem like a good idea. We’ve heard countless public service announcements warning us that smoking (anything at all) is detrimental to our health. It turns out, however, that cannabis, even when smoked, can help people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Asthma patients suffer from acute reactions to a number of environmental stimuli that can trigger their throat to swell making it hard to breath. The swelling is primarily caused by the inflammation and tightening of muscles in their throat. Research indicates that cannabinoids, the compounds found in the cannabis plant, contain anti-inflammatory properties to help minimize symptoms of inflammatory diseases, like asthma.
THC, specifically, is a vasodilator meaning it relaxes muscles and reduces stress levels. THC also prevents acetylcholine from interacting with cell receptors which lead to those painful muscle contractions in people with asthma. CBD, another important cannabinoid, helps asthma patients with mucus hypersecretion which can worsen asthma symptoms.
One study found that inhaling cannabis smoke induces bronchodilatation, unlike bronchoconstriction when smoking tobacco, This means that air passageways can open up relieving symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Currently prescribed inhalers to treat asthma contain corticosteroids that act as bronchodilators.
Many people who want to consume cannabis to treat their illnesses are often wary of the long-term side effects of smoking the flower of the plant. Fears around lung and throat irritation scare off potential cannabis users. A 20-year-long study compared the long-term effects of smoking cannabis and smoking tobacco. The results showed that low to moderate cannabis consumption had no negative effects on the user’s pulmonary health.
Current asthma medications contain steroids that, after long-term use, can lead to negative side effects like high blood pressure, osteoporosis, weight gain, depression, glaucoma, hair loss, and more. Treating asthma with cannabis can reduce, if not eliminate, the negative long-term effects of inhaling corticosteroids as bronchodilators.
Severe cases of asthma are treated with a vaporized form of the corticosteroids using a tabletop machine like the nebulizer that transforms liquid medication into a mist. Turning the medication into a mist makes it far easier to inhale during an asthma attack as opposed to inhaling spray directly from a standard inhaler which requires you to take deep breaths.
As mentioned before, low to moderate cannabis use does not pose a significant health risk to pulmonary health. Additionally, the cannabinoids in cannabis are known to decrease tumor growth and even prevent cancer cells from multiplying. For an even safer consumption experience, use a vaporizer, which provides immediate relief on-the-go without the smoke.
More research must be done to determine the most effective and least harmful way to consume cannabis to treat asthma-related symptoms. If you’re one of the millions of people affected with asthma, cannabis in flower, edible, or tincture form can provide immediate relief from asthma attacks. Whether cannabis can help eliminate asthma altogether is yet to be seen.