Take a Deep Breath: The Effects of Medical Cannabis on C.O.P.D.

Being the third leading cause of death in the Unites States, C.O.P.D. is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe. Research has shown that medical cannabis can manage pulmonary diseases by reducing airway inflammation and causing bronchodilation.
Dec 23, 2017

Overview of C.O.P.D.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow to the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. C.O.P.D. is most commonly associated with the development of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, I.P.F. (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis), Bronchitase and in some instances, asthma.

When a person has C.O.P.D., less air flows in and out of the airways, because either they lose their elastic quality or make more mucus than usual, causing clogging. In chronic bronchitis, the walls of the bronchial tubes become thick and inflamed. In emphysema, the walls between the air sacs can be destroyed, reducing airflow.

C.O.P.D. is caused by long-term exposure to irritating particulate matter or gases. The number one cause of C.O.P.D. is cigarette smoking, but other irritants, like second-hand smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust and smoke can also pose problems. The disease develops slowly and symptoms get worse over time, until even the most basic physical activities, like walking or cooking, becomes too difficult.

The symptoms associated with C.O.P.D. typically include the coughing up of large amounts of mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Symptoms often don’t appear until significant damage to the lungs has already occurred. C.O.P.D. is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and older adults.

C.O.P.D. has been shown to increase the risk of respiratory infections, heart problems, lung cancer, high blood pressure and depression. There is no cure for C.O.P.D. and damage to the lungs and airways is irreversible.  However, treatments can help control symptoms and reduce the risk of complications and exacerbations.

For those who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory illnesses, the desire to find a form of treatment that can address their symptoms without negatively affecting their health can be all-consuming. Since the acceptance of medical cannabis for a variety of conditions, many people suffering with respiratory ailments have been led to ask the question: “What are the real benefits of medical marijuana?”

The Effects of Medical Cannabis on C.O.P.D.

Recent studies have shown that medical marijuana and its efficacy in treating respiratory illness, has been linked to its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. The good news is that in addition to this, the cannabinoids in medical cannabis have additional health benefits, which include:

  • Promotion of better sleep;
  • Serves to support the immune system;
  • Possesses anti-microbial properties;
  • Works as an expectorant (reduces phlegm);
  • Relieves pain

Though marijuana has positive effects on respiratory health, experts have warned against smoking cannabis as a form of treatment. Instead, there are alternatives which are as effective, and less harmful on the lungs:

  • Vaporizing: A method in which marijuana is heated at a cooler temperature (329F/165°C) than required for burning (combustion), releasing the active ingredients of marijuana into a safer gas or vapor;
  • Edibles: A method in which active ingredients are essentially cooked out of cannabis and added to food. Typically, these chemicals are reduced down to a simple oil, which is used in the creation of baked goods, such as cookies, muffins and candy;
  • Tinctures: The recommended delivery method of medical cannabis is Supercritical CO² extracted cannabinoids, infused into MCT oil for better absorption. Drops are placed directly under the tongue, where it enters the blood stream via the mucosal glands.

As far back as 1973, researchers discovered that marijuana acts as a bronchodilator. In subsequent research, these scientists discovered that cannabis containing at least 2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), relieved the symptoms of bronchospasms. Further studies conducted in 1976 and 1978, respectively, support these findings. In the study conducted in 1976, results showed that THC, in small doses, had similar effects as salbutamol, a common anti-asthma medication.

The cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, it has been found to reduce inflammation in lung tissue. CBD has also been found to reduce the production on inflammatory compounds in the lings, known as cytokines. In a 2015 study conducted in Brazil, CBD was found to reduce the mucosal production, which is common in asthma.

Scientists have thus concluded that THC and CBD can reduce contractions in the lungs. THC acts on CB1 receptors to reduce these contractions, while CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.

When using medical cannabis for C.O.P.D. and related respiratory conditions, the name of the game is really to relax or enlarge the bronchial passages, which contain smooth muscle. To achieve this, marijuana has shown to be an effective method of treatment for respiratory diseases.

  • 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 and tinctures are the best methods of delivery;
  • Effective treatment and relief with a combination of THC and CBD

Effects of Cannabis on the Pulmonary Structure

Preclinical Assessment of Novel Therapeutics on the Cough Reflex: Cannabinoid Agonists as Potential Antitussives

β-Caryophyllene Inhibits Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colitis in Mice through CB2 Receptor Activation and PPARγ Pathway

Beneficial effects of cannabinoids (CB) in a murine model of allergen-induced airway inflammation: Role of CB1/CB2 receptors

Cannabinoids inhibit cholinergic contraction in human airways through prejunctional CB1 receptors

Monoacylglycerol Lipase (MAGL) Inhibition Attenuates Acute Lung Injury in Mice

Bronchodilator Effects of THC

Marijuana and chronic obstructive lung disease: a population-based study

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