Clearing the Smoke: Medical Marijuana and Respiratory Conditions

Recent studies have shown that medical cannabis and, in particular the cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), can effectively relieve and manage the symptoms of COPD and other chronic breathing disorders.  What is of significant interest, is the efficacy of the delivery method.  Danielle Piomelli, PhD, professor of pharmacology at the University of California at Irvine, told Reuters as far back as 2000, that by targeting the cannabinoid receptors in the upper airways, one can control coughs and spasms in a number of breathing conditions.  This is important, as most treatments for breathing disorders act on the brain cough centre, a small region of the brain that is the target for codeine and other similar drugs.

Why Smoking is Less Effective: The Australian Centre for Policing Research have warned that people with respiratory diseases, such as Asthma, COPD, Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema, should not inhale the smoke from the marijuana plant, as this places them at greater risk.  Rather, the suggested methods of delivery would be vaping, medical cannabis edibles, sprays and medical cannabis oil using tinctures.

The Efficacy of Medical Cannabis and Respiratory Ailments

A number of studies have been done on the efficacy of medical cannabis for COPD and related breathing disorders and diseases of the lungs and airways.  In these studies, medical cannabis has come out as a favourable method of treatment in the management and control of spasms, coughing and restricted airways.  Have you ever wondered why medical marijuana is so effective?  Let’s take a look:

Targeting the Cannabinoid Receptors

Medical cannabis, particularly the cannabinoid known as CBD or cannabidiol, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent.  It also acts as a bronchodilator.  A bronchodilator is a substance that dilates the bronchi and bronchioles, decreasing the resistance in the respiratory airway and increasing airflow to the lungs.  In addition to this, cannabis has also been reported to have anticholinergic properties.  Meaning that it acts as an agent that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous system.  This effectively inhibits parasympathetic nerve impulses.  The nerve fibres of the parasympathetic system are responsible for the involuntary movement of smooth muscles present in the lungs and other parts of the body, like the digestive tract.  This is achieved by activating the CB1 receptor in both the brain and the upper airways.

In addition, cannabis contains the terpene Alpha-Pinene/Beta-Pinene, which has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a bronchodilator, especially when working in synergy with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and it has been reported to have broad-spectrum antibiotic properties.  So next time you are in a pine forest, take a deep breath!  Pinene has a pine aroma and is also found in pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley and dill!

In closing, a combination of THC and CBD, taken orally, can significantly decrease and manage the symptoms of breathing disorders.

Highlights:

  • Medical Cannabis acts as a fast bronchodilator;
  • Medical Cannabis has anti-spasmodic effects;
  • Medical Cannabis has anti-mucosal properties;
  • Medical Cannabis has anti-anxiety properties;
  • Vaporizing, edibles and tinctures are the best methods of delivery;
  • Effective treatment and relief with a combination of THC and CBD;
  • Pinene acts as a bronchodilator and has broad-spectrum antibiotic properties;
  • CBD and THC in synergy inhibit involuntary spasms of the smooth muscles in the lungs;
  • People suffering from respiratory ailments should avoid smoking and make use of alternative delivery methods, such as medical cannabis tinctures.
References: (Studies)
  1. Aldington, S., Williams, M., Nowitz, M., Weatherall, M., Pritchard, A., McNaughton, A., Robinson, G., and Beasley, R. (2007). Effects of cannabis on pulmonary structure, function and symptoms. Thorax, 62(12), 1058–1063. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2094297/.
  2. Belvisi, M.G. (2008). Preclinical assessment of novel therapeutics on the cough reflex: cannabinoid agonists as potential antitussives. Lung, 186, Suppl 1, S66-9. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00408-007-9028-8.
  3. Bento, A. F., Marcon, R., Dutra, R. C., Claudino, R. F., Cola, M., Pereira Leite, D. F., and Calixto, J. B. (2011). β-Caryophyllene Inhibits Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colitis in Mice through CB2 Receptor Activation and PPARγ Pathway. The American Journal of Pathology, 178(3), 1153–1166. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070571/.
  4. Braun, A., Engel, T., Aguilar-Pimentel, J.A., Zimmer, A., Jakob, T., Behrendt, H, and Mempel, M. (2011, April). Beneficial effects of cannabinoids (CB) in a murine model of allergen-induced airway inflammation: role of CB1/CB2 receptors. Immunobiology, 216(4), 466-76. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0171298510001592.
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  10. Kemper, J.A., Honig, E.G., and Martin, G.S. (2015, February). The effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow. A study of adults who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. Annals of American Thoracic Society, 12(2), 135-41. Retrieved from http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201407-333OC.
  11. Patel, H.J., Birrell, M.A., Crispino, N., Hele, D.J., Venkatesan, P., Barnes, P.J., Yacoub, M., and Belvisi, M.G. (2003). Inhibition of guinea-pig and human sensory nerve activity and the cough reflex in guinea-pigs by cannabinoid (CB2) receptor activation. British Journal of Pharmacology, 140(2), 261–268. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1574031/.
  12. Staiano, R.I., Loffredo, S., Borriello, F., Iannotti, F.A., Piscitelli, F., Orlando, P., Secondo, A., Granata, F., Lepore, M.T., Fiorelli, A., Varricchi, G., Santini, M., Triggiani, M., Di Marzo, V., and Marone, G. (2016, April). Human lung-resident macrophages express CB1 and CB2 receptors whose activation inhibits the release of angiogenic and lymphangiogenic factors. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 99(4), 531-40. Retrieved from http://www.jleukbio.org/content/99/4/531.long.
  13. Tan, W.C., Lo, C., Jong, A., Xing, L., FitzGerald, M.J., Vollmer, W.M., Buist, S.A., and Sin, D.D., for the Vancouver Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) Research Group. (2009). Marijuana and chronic obstructive lung disease: a population-based study. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(8), 814–820. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2665947/.
  14. Tashkin, D.P., Shapiro, B.J., and Frank, I.M. (1974, April). Acute effects of smoked marijuana and oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects. The American Review of Respiratory Disease, 109(4), 420-8. Retrieved from http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1164/arrd.1974.109.4.420.
  15. Tashkin, D.P., Baldwin, G.C., Sarafian, T., Dubinett, S., and Roth, M.D. (2002, November). Respiratory and immunologic consequences of marijuana smoking. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 42 (11 Suppl), 71S-81S. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1552-4604.2002.tb06006.x/abstract.
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  17. Tashkin, D.P. (2013, June). Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Annals of American Thoracic Society, 10(3), 239-47. Retrieved from http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201212-127FR.
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  19. Yayan, J., and Rasche, K. (2016). Damaging Effects of Cannabis Use on the Lungs. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 952, 31-34. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F5584_2016 71.

Written by Lisa King, January 2018

Disclaimer: Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary (MCDSA) aims to be a hub of information about medicinal cannabis, healthy living and the latest scientific research. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of MCDSA. Always consult your doctor before starting a new treatment.

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