A survey by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that 25 million Americans live with asthma. Asthma costs the American economy more than $80 billion in treatment, mortality, and lost work hours. Conventional medicine has not been able to eliminate the condition, and many of the people who have asthma resort to looking for natural ways of managing their conditions.
Some of the people who have asthma only experience mild signs that are easy to manage. There are other people whose asthma is more aggressive. These are usually people who seek alternative treatment methods to supplement their medicine for a more significant effect.
Marijuana has, in the recent past, gained currency as an alternative therapy option, and asthma is one of the diseases for which marijuana has shown some promise managing.
Does Weed Help Asthma?
The typical image most people conjure at the mention of marijuana is that of someone smoking a joint with smoke billowing all over their heads. Asthma would not go very well with smoking marijuana being a condition of the respiratory system.
The discordance between asthma and smoking doesn’t make it impossible to use marijuana for the management of asthma because there are other ways of taking marijuana that are safer than smoking.
We shall discuss those later, but first, let us talk about asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a life-long, usually hereditary disorder of the respiratory system. Once you have been diagnosed with the condition, you have to manage it for the rest of your days. An asthmatic person typically realizes they have the disease in their childhood.
In childhood, boys are more prone to asthmatic attacks than girls. The tables turn in adult-onset asthma, where women are more susceptible to attacks than men. In adulthood, asthma usually manifests when a person is between 18 and 24 years. Under very rare occasions does asthma attack an adult who is above this age for the first time.
Asthmatic attacks come as a result of inflammation of the airways. When the airways get inflamed, they become constricted, and the constriction restrains the flow of air in and out of the affected person’s lungs.
There are many ways that irritants can be introduced into the airway, triggering an asthma attack, or exacerbating the problem. Some of these irritants are as follows: –
- Air pollution
- Allergens such as pollen, animal fur, dust
- Cigarette smoking
- Infections such as cold and flu
- Some people react to specific medication
- Strong emotions such as stress or excitement
When an asthmatic is exposed to these stimulants, their airways get inflamed. The apparent signs of an asthmatic attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness on the chest and chest pains
- Some asthmatics cough in the mornings and evenings even without necessarily experiencing a significant attack.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a person may get attacks several times every day, several times every week, and some people only get attacks if exposed to too much of the triggers that affect them.
The number of asthma cases in the United States has increased steadily since the 1960s. This rise in cases can be attributed to the general increase of allergens in the air. In the last ten years alone, these cases have increased by a steady 15% every year.
Asthma is irritating, frustrating, and limiting. However, it is a condition that you can easily put under control if you are careful about your environment, and you take your medicine as prescribed.
The pharmaceutical drugs used for the treatment of asthma contain steroids and immunomodulators, which, more often than not, have undesirable side effects. These side effects are one of the reasons why some asthmatics seek alternatives such as marijuana for relief.
Benefits of Marijuana for Asthma
Asthma starts with the inflammation of the airway, which leads to spasms in the respiratory system.
Cannabis asthma management is possible because marijuana is an anti-inflammation and an anti-spasmodic agent that provides some comfort from asthma. The cannabinoids in marijuana connect with cannabinoid receptors (CB2) in a sufferer’s immune system. Once marijuana and CB2 connect, they send signals to cells in the affected airway leading to the reduction of the inflammation.
Risks of Marijuana for Asthma
It is common knowledge that asthma typically reacts badly to smoke being inhaled. The following is what happens if you smoke weed and have asthma; first, the marijuana smoke would most likely inflame the airway leading to an asthma attack.
There have been research findings indicating that smoking marijuana can increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Besides cancer, smoking marijuana increases your chances of getting lung infections, which only exacerbate asthma attacks and impair the proper function of the lungs.
An asthmatic smokes weed and bronchitis affects their lungs, making their conditions even worse. Smoking weed with asthma is, therefore, an entirely bad idea.
With all the information above, one might be left wondering, ‘does marijuana help asthma without driving the sufferer crazy?’ The answer is yes. Marijuana has two different cannabinoids; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
While both THC and CBD have demonstrated some anti-inflammation properties, CBD is preferred.
CBD is a bronchodilator, and it is the right cannabinoid in marijuana to use for wellness since THC is psychoactive.
If you introduce THC into the system, you’ll get high, and whatever benefit you gain in terms of health will be wiped out. The relationship between CBD and asthma is, therefore, more widely accepted than that of THC and asthma.
Research on the use of medical marijuana for the management of asthma still has many unanswered questions.
It would be a mistake to disregard advice on medicine and take marijuana without the doctor’s input. Make sure you use these products with the knowledge of your doctor to minimize the possibility of adverse effects.
How to use Marijuana for Asthma
We have established that smoking marijuana is not a great idea when you have asthma.
Taking CBD oil for asthma sublingually is not harmful, but it is too slow to be an effective response to an asthma attack.
The marijuana needs to be delivered directly into the lungs to have quick action during an asthma attack. It is due to this need for speed that asthmatic people use inhalers. Vaping is the best delivery method for medical marijuana, where asthma is concerned.
It eliminates the dangers associated with smoking while at the same time, delivering the cannabis directly to the lungs.
Vaping is different from smoking because the vape juice has already been extracted from the marijuana plant, and the toxins that destroy lungs have been eliminated. The vaping process uses enough heat to get the active ingredients into the vapor.
To effectively vape your marijuana, familiarize yourself with the right temperature at which you should use your product. You’ll figure out the heat if you know the part of hemp from which your juice has been extracted. Products extracted from hemp flowers vape at a different temperature from those derived from other parts of the plant.
The different temperature also means that vaporizers for asthma suffers should enable the user to set them at different temperatures depending on which product they are using.
An asthma vaporizer is a bit different from a typical medical asthma inhaler in that inhalers use steroids to control inflammation. Taking in steroids into the body results in side effects such as insomnia, weight gain, an increase in body hair, and acne.
Legal issues and regulation
In many countries in the world, cannabis is illegal for both therapeutic and recreational use. At the federal level, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means it can’t be used for therapy and recreation. According to the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, the federal government can’t enforce this prohibition in states and territories that have chosen to legalize marijuana.
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 states, the District of Columbia, and two permanently occupied American territories. Another 15 states have decriminalized it so that possession of specific set amounts doesn’t attract criminal penalties. It is considered a minor offense in the category of traffic offenses.
For medical use, 33 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have made cannabis legal. Indian reservations have the leeway to determine whether or not to legalize marijuana.
CBD hemp extract, on the other hand, is legal at the federal level as long as it contains 0.3% THC. This THC composition is too low to have.
Research on medical marijuana for asthma began in 1975. It’s, however, essential to note that marijuana has not been licensed by the FDA as a drug yet.
All the research conducted in this area is preclinical; some of the studies have shown an improvement in asthmatic conditions.
Some researchers have also found that activation of cannabinoid receptors in the upper airway can reduce coughing, which is one of the main indicators of an asthma attack.
It is imperative for you to always consult your doctor before resorting to the use of cannabis as an alternative for asthma relief.
Matters of dosage and whether you should use a full spectrum or isolated product should always be determined with the help of a doctor.