Using Cannabis to Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, more and more people are using it as an alternative treatment for a number of health conditions including chronic pain and insomnia. As researchers continue to investigate the medical benefits of cannabis and scientific evidence is providing support for the use of cannabis for treating many health conditions. But what about when it comes to lung diseases? Can we use cannabis to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? Here we will look at the research on cannabis and lung diseases as well as how to use cannabis to treat lung diseases like COPD. And of course, we will also look at treating COPD with CBD oil.
What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. It’s caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.
COPD is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions.
Unfortunately, symptoms often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred. And symptoms usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.
Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:
We can use cannabis to treat the symptoms of COPD.
The first, and most important, step when it comes to treating COPD is to quit smoking as well as reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
Doctors also often prescribe medicated inhalers such as; bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, or combination inhalers. The goal of using medicated inhalers is to relax the muscles around the airways to relieve coughing and shortness of breath as well as reduce inflammation. Cannabis has been proven to be effective in achieving these same results. We will talk about this more below.
Read more about traditional treatments, particularly for those who have more severe symptoms, on the Mayo Clinic website. We will address some lifestyle changes later than can also impact lung health.
COPD and Cannabis
The biggest questions when it comes to lung diseases and cannabis are;
- Can cannabis cause lung disease? and
- Can it make symptoms worse?
The medical community is unsure whether or not smoking cannabis can cause lung diseases, though they believe it is likely at a significantly lower rate than with cigarette smoking. Though for those with lung diseases smoking cannabis can make symptoms worse.
So, doctors are suggesting individuals should be cautious around regular cannabis smoking.
There are many other ways of consuming cannabis that can be beneficial, but if you’re choosing to smoke consider the healthiest ways to do so. Vaping can be a healthier alternative, though if you are choosing to vape cannabis oils make sure you know what the product is made of and are aware of any additives, as well as always use screens and filters. (Check out Miss Envy’s glass joint tips, for example).
If done so safely, we can use cannabis to treat lung diseases like COPD.
Treating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with Cannabis
Thankfully smoking cannabis is not the only way of consuming cannabis. So, how can we use cannabis to treat COPD?
If we look at the causes of COPD the cannabis solution becomes clear.
Causes of COPD
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common conditions that contribute to COPD. Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It’s characterized by daily cough and mucus (sputum) production.
Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) of the lungs are destroyed as a result of damaging exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritating gases and particulate matter.
We know that CBD is effective in treating inflammation.
What the research says
A study from 1975, on the effects of smoked marijuana on asthma, found that THC relieved symptoms almost immediately. In comparison, those who were given a placebo recovered between 30 to 60 minutes.
Another study in 2014, found that THC activated the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system which stopped spasms by expanding the airways and making it easier to breathe.
An animal study in 2015, found that CBD has the potential to modulate inflammation in the lungs.
Alternatives to Smoking- Cannabis to treat lung disease
As we mentioned before, a possible alternative to smoking cannabis is vaping. Not only does vaping help to get the cannabinoids to the site of the problem but it is better for our lungs than smoking is. Because vaping does not heat the cannabis to the same temperature it creates vapor rather than smoke.
Though you still may be cautious of using a product that is inhaling into the lungs and that is understandable. There are other alternatives to smoking and vaping; these include; tinctures, capsules, and edibles.
- Tinctures are taken sublingually (under the tongue) and absorbed directly into the bloodstream
- Capsules and edibles are taken orally
Tinctures have a more customizable dose due to being an oil and are dosed using a dropper. We recommend that if you chose a tincture to record the dose and time of consumption every day so you have an accurate record of what is more appropriate for you. Also always start with a small dose and work your way up slowly to find the most effective dose for you.
With tinctures, there is also variety in concentrations. These include CBD only as well as combinations of CBD and THC.
Capsules and Edibles
Capsules and edibles are typically in premeasured doses which may be an easier method for many people. Predosed edibles typically come in sweets like brownies, cookies, chocolates, caramels, etc. which can be very appealing but may not be practical or appropriate for everyday use. With Miss Envy’s edible products (THC Olive Oil and CBD and THC coconut oils) you can make any of your favourite meals into edibles that are dosed appropriately just for you. You can even just add a few drops of tincture to your favourite beverage.
Treating COPD with CBD: Which is better THC or CBD?
CBD is effective in treating inflammation. Preliminary research suggests that CBD can reduce inflammation in the lungs caused as well as reduce the amount of mucous. Regular use is recommended to help keep inflammation low and reduce symptoms.
CBD is often the choice for daily treatments for many people because it does not create a psychoactive high. Though evidence suggests that using THC and CBD in conjunction may be more effective.
With tinctures, you can use both in combination easily. Miss Envy has a 3:1 and 1:1 CBD/THC tincture. If CBD alone is not quite effective enough for you we would suggest trying a combination of both cannabinoids. CBD does counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC, but we still recommend starting with the higher concentration (3:1 CBD/THC) as well as starting with a low dose to find what is most effective for you.
Lifestyle and home remedies for Treating COPD
If you have COPD, there are other step you can take to feel better and slow the damage to your lungs. These include:
- Control your breathing. Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about techniques for breathing more efficiently throughout the day. Also, be sure to discuss breathing positions and relaxation techniques that you can use when you’re short of breath.
- Clear your airways. With COPD, mucus tends to collect in your air passages and can be difficult to clear. Controlled coughing, drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier may help.
- Exercise regularly. It may seem difficult to exercise when you have trouble breathing, but regular exercise can improve your overall strength and endurance and strengthen your respiratory muscles. Discuss with your doctor which activities are appropriate for you.
- Eat healthy foods. A healthy diet can help you maintain your strength. If you’re underweight, your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements. If you’re overweight, losing weight can significantly help your breathing, especially during times of exertion.
- Avoid air pollution. In addition to quitting smoking, it’s important to avoid places where others smoke. Secondhand smoke may contribute to further lung damage. Other types of air pollution also can irritate your lungs.
- See your doctor regularly. Stick to your appointment schedule, even if you’re feeling fine. It’s important to steadily monitor your lung function. And be sure to get your annual flu vaccine in the fall to help prevent infections that can worsen your COPD. Ask your doctor when you need the pneumococcal vaccine. Let your doctor know if you have worsening symptoms or you notice signs of infection.
Miss Envy Vape Pens contain only certified lab-quality CBD and natural fruit terpenes. They have no nicotine or vegetable glycerin (VG) a thick, sweet liquid or propylene glycol (PG) is a much thinner tasteless liquid commonly found in the vape pen market.
- Tashkin, DP. (2013) Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 10(3): p. 239-47.
- Moir, D, et al. (2008). A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chem Res Toxicol. 21(2): p. 494-502.