Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Can CBD really help asthma?
The popularity of CBD use is rising rapidly as more and more studies show promise in easing and treating numerous health complaints. You may have heard about CBD helping people who suffer with joint pain, insomnia or stress. But less likely health conditions are starting to pop up in the CBD sphere, including asthma.
What is asthma?
For background, asthma is a long-term health condition that affects your airways (bronchial tubes). If something irritates the airways of a person with asthma, they become inflamed and tighten when they breathe. This causes chest tightness, anxiety (which leads to further chest tightness) and wheezing, making it hard to breathe.
Getting a bit more technical, the inflammation in the airways is caused by immune cells called T-helper cells (Th1 and Th2). These cells produce proinflammatory proteins called cytokines when someone’s asthma flares up, or is triggered by something.
People with asthma also have excess mucus in their lungs, which makes symptoms worse. As the proinflammatory protein, cytokine, rises in the lungs, excess mucus is secreted. This makes the airways even more obstructed.
Cannabis and asthma…really?
The cannabis and asthma connection is actually nothing new. It’s a shocking thought to think that anyone with asthma would smoke. But studies dating back to 1970s have suggested that smoking cannabis widens rather than restricts the airways. And contrary to belief, cannabis has little to no long-term impact on the lungs. It’s only the tobacco that’s mixed with the cannabis ‘joint’ that can cause breathing issues and negatively impact lung health long-term.
Cannabis opens rather than restricts the airways – it’s a bronchodilator. More and more research is showing that cannabis is helpful, not harmful, for asthma patients, especially if the delivery is vaped or otherwise consumed (avoiding the use of tobacco).
CBD’s role in easing asthma symptoms
Studies have shown that the cannabinoid, CBD, contains both immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory responses, and therefore has the potential to reduce inflammation in asthma patients. It’s also been shown that CBD reduces the secretion of excess mucus in the lungs.
CBD acts as a bronchodilator by suppressing the responses of T-helper cells. As a result, cytokine production is reduced and inflammation subsides, allowing the individual to breathe easier. CBD has also been shown to help reduce asthma-related chest pain by activating endocannabinoid receptors. However, it’s already well known that CBD has analgesic effects (pain relief).
Furthermore, TNF is another type of cytokine which causes inflammation and CBD was found to significantly lower TNF levels and therefore reduce overall inflammation.
Studies are early (mostly animal trials), but CBD’s therapeutic potential to treat asthma is becoming apparent. Coupled with the fact that cannabis has long been recognised as a bronchodilator and CBD is proving to be a safe and effective treatment for many other autoimmune and inflammatory health conditions, asthma sufferers can certainly feel excited about how CBD products can help improve their daily lives.