According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma.
That’s a lot of people suffering from a condition that currently has no cure.
With no cure and current preventative treatments posing a risk long-term from side effects, more and more people are looking for natural alternatives.
Can CBD treat asthma?
In this article, we look at the facts and provide you with everything you need to know about using CBD for asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness that affects 1 in 13 people. Swelling and inflammation of the bronchus cause restriction and excess mucus buildup in the airways.
This can make it difficult for asthma sufferers to breathe.
Symptoms of asthma range from mild to severe. Asthma sufferers can experience a constant restriction in breathing or go through sporadic symptoms in the form of asthma attacks.
Asthma is becoming more and more common in children. Around 50% of young people grow out of the condition with breathing difficulty easing after the teen years. The other 50% carry the condition into adult life.
There Are Two Main Types of Asthma
1. Allergic (Extrinsic) Asthma
Allergic asthma is triggered by common allergens. This could be dust, pet hair, or pollen to name a few.
People that suffer from allergic asthma are sensitive to some or all of these allergens and will experience asthmatic symptoms when exposed to them.
When an allergen enters the body the immune system identifies it and engages the body to take steps against any potentially infectious organisms.
In allergic asthma sufferers, the immune system overreacts to prevent these allergens from entering the body. The muscles around the airways tighten, the airways become inflamed, and excess mucus builds up as a reaction to these allergens.
2. Non-Allergic (Intrinsic) Asthma
Unlike extrinsic asthma, intrinsic asthma can be triggered without irritation from common allergens.
Intrinsic asthma sufferers can experience asthma symptoms anytime for no apparent reason. They may experience a constant tightness in the airways or be susceptible to a wide range of triggers.
As well as being triggered by allergens, an intrinsic asthma sufferer may experience symptoms after being exposed to a variety of other triggers.
Stress, changes in weather, smoke, chemicals, certain drugs, and even certain foods may trigger someone with intrinsic asthma.
What are the Symptoms of Asthma?
- Tightness in the airways and chest
- Severe coughing
- Passing out and brain-fog due to lack of oxygen
How is it Diagnosed?
Asthma is diagnosed by a medical doctor with the help of physical examination and blood testing.
You’ll be asked a range of questions that will determine whether your symptoms match those of asthma. These are:
- What symptoms are you experiencing?
- When and how often do they occur?
- Do you have any specific triggers that lead to these symptoms?
- Does asthma run in your family?
- Do you have any allergies?
You’ll then be asked to perform a lung function test to monitor how restricted your breathing is.
The peak flow test monitors the force that your breath exerts.
When you blow into the peak flow apparatus it will give a reading. This reading is measured in liters per minute.
The normal healthy adult should blow a reading of 400 to 700 liters per minute. Anything below this is abnormal and could indicate that you have asthma.
If your peak flow reading is lower than normal and your symptoms line up with those of asthma, then you will be diagnosed with the condition.
From here, your doctor will prescribe you a preventative inhaler for daily use and a reliever for use when an asthma attack occurs.
Common Asthma Triggers
- Pet hair
- Changes in the weather
- Dry and/or cold air
- Cigarette smoke
- Wood smoke
- Chemical cleaners
- Fragrances (deodorants and perfumes)
- Certain foods (lemon, spices, aromatics)
- Viral infections such as the common cold
- Hormone fluctuations
- Certain drugs
- Acid reflux
Can CBD Oil Help With Asthma?
Managing asthma can be a struggle. It’s difficult to manage the symptoms of asthma and unfortunately, there is no cure.
Treatments using prescribed medicines are needed to lessen the symptoms of the illness. Although inhalers such as Clenil and Ventolin are necessary to stay safe with asthma, they can have some harmful side effects on your body.
Preventive inhalers are especially bad for you as you must use them daily. In the long term, they can lead to throat damage, a constant sore throat, a musky voice, and fungal infections.
There’s growing evidence to support the use of CBD for asthma. CBD is much more natural and comes with minimal side effects compared to prescription asthma medication.
You should never replace your reliever inhaler with CBD because it can save your life in an asthma attack. However, using CBD may help you cut down your need and dependency on other asthma medications.
How Does CBD Work for Asthma?
Although there’s no specific cure for asthma, CBD is definitely an interesting treatment. It may help manage asthma symptoms and reduce your dependency on prescription medications.
So, how does CBD work to manage the symptoms of asthma? Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits:
1. CBD has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation in the respiratory system is one of the main reasons people with asthma suffer from shortness of breath and wheezing.
When someone with asthma is exposed to a trigger the immune system responds with an inflammatory response. This response is an overreaction and can inflame the airways to the point that breathing becomes extremely difficult.
It’s because of this reaction that people have potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.
CBD, having anti-inflammatory properties, can help fight and control this response.
The cannabinoid interacts with the CB2 receptor in the body’s endocannabinoid system. When these receptors are activated they help reduce the concentration of C-fibers and mast cells — which are pro-inflammatories.
There’s plenty of research to back up claims that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory.
In fact, one study proved that CBD and other natural cannabinoids can help people with respiratory disorders by affecting inflammatory responses in the body .
2. CBD Has Antispasmodic Properties
During an asthma attack, spasms occur that affect the bronchi and bronchioles. These spasms cause swelling, irritation, and can aggravate the mucus membranes, causing excessive mucus secretion.
These spasms and their follow-on effects make it difficult to breathe during an asthma attack.
Research shows that CBD and other cannabinoids have antispasmodic properties. This is one reason that CBD is effective for multiple sclerosis patients .
These antispasmodic properties may reduce spasms during an asthma attack and help open up the respiratory tract, relieving asthma symptoms and returning breathing function back to normal.
Although more research is needed to establish whether CBD’s antispasmodic effects do benefit asthma suffers, the potential is certainly exciting.
The cannabinoids’ muscle-relaxing effects may also help reduce symptoms during an asthma attack.
These muscle-relaxing and antispasmodic properties could be one of the main reasons CBD works for asthma sufferers — however, the large-scale clinical studies needed to prove this just aren’t there yet.
The Facts: CBD and Asthma Studies
There are numerous studies that support the use of CBD as an asthma treatment.
A 2019 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that CBD curbed inflammatory responses and sped up recovery times in extrinsic asthma sufferers .
The study concluded that regardless of dosage, CBD decreased airway hyperresponsiveness. In higher doses they also found CBD decreased the production of mucus.
Another study from 2015 tested a range of cannabinoids including CBD on guinea pigs to find out whether they have an effect on hyperresponsiveness, airway inflammation, and general coughing .
The study demonstrated that some cannabinoids (CBD in particular) have bronchodilatory, anti-inflammatory, and antitussive activity in the airways. All of which can regulate asthma symptoms.
How to Use CBD for Asthma?
CBD is available in a range of forms from oils to vape pens. So, what’s best for asthma and how should you use CBD?
How you consume CBD for asthma is essentially down to you, however, some application methods are better than others. You should only use orally consumed forms of CBD and approved CBD inhalers to treat asthma.
Always consult your doctor before using CBD to treat asthma if you are taking other medications.
If you’re suffering a severe asthma attack it’s important that you don’t rely on CBD alone to treat the attack.
As well as using CBD to treat asthma you should take other steps to help reduce the severity of the condition. Dietary changes, refraining from smoking, getting regular exercise, and avoiding symptom triggers are essential.
If you’re new to CBD, start with a small dose and work your way up. Research suggests that low doses of CBD may be enough to reduce hyper-reactivity in the respiratory system.
1. Taking CBD Orally for Asthma
Taking CBD orally is a great way to consume the cannabinoid to treat asthma.
CBD is available in many oral formats.
You’ll find CBD in an oil form that can be taken directly or mixed with food and drink as a supplement.
You can also find CBD in capsule and soft gel forms that can be swallowed with water as you would with vitamins, supplements, and other medications.
You will also find edible forms of CBD such as gummies and lollipops.
All of these orally consumed variations are effective for treating asthma. However, oil is by far the most bioavailable consumption method and it gives you maximum control over your dosage.
2. How to Use a CBD Asthma Inhaler
Prescription inhalers are important to keep by your side even if you choose to treat your asthma primarily using CBD. An inhaler may save your life one day, so don’t discard yours just because you’ve turned to CBD.
The best way to stay on top of asthma is to use a multifaceted approach. CBD is a great preventative and works to regulate asthmatic symptoms. However, an inhaler may be needed during more severe attacks.
So, what about CBD inhalers for asthma?
When CBD is inhaled it has a high bioavailability.
More CBD is absorbed faster when it’s inhaled. CBD inhalers that work in a similar way to the one your doctor may have prescribed are becoming more available.
They use a combination of CBD and a safe propellant to spray the cannabinoid deep into the lungs where it can be absorbed by lung tissue.
There isn’t much research to prove that this method of consumption is better for asthma than consuming CBD orally, but the better bioavailability may relieve your symptoms faster during a mild attack.
Don’t confuse CBD inhalers with CBD vape pens. Vaping CBD is an effective form of consumption but it may do more harm than good for asthma — this leads us to our next point.
3. Is It Safe to Vape CBD If You Have Asthma?
Using CBD in a vaporizer is a popular means of consumption. When CBD is vaped it gets absorbed in the body extremely quickly which is great if you’re looking for fast pain, stress, or anxiety relief, but not so good if you suffer from respiratory issues.
CBD extract is mixed with vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavorings, and colorings to create e-liquid. When this e-liquid is heated in a vape it produces a thick vapor that can be inhaled.
This vapor can trigger asthma symptoms in a similar way that smoking can. Although some people may not experience asthma symptoms from vaping, prolonged use may worsen the condition.
It’s safer to steer clear from CBD vape pens if you have asthma and stick to oral methods of consumption or asthma-specific inhalers.
How Much CBD Should You Take for Asthma?
Oil is the best form of CBD to take for asthma. Finding the right dosage isn’t as easy as reading the label because everyone reacts differently to it.
A bit of self-experimentation is needed to find out what dose of CBD will work best for you.
As mentioned earlier, some research suggests that even a low dose of CBD can help relieve asthma symptoms.
You should start off with a small dose of high-quality low-potency CBD and up your dose until you notice a positive effect on your asthma symptoms.
An effective dose for treating asthma can be anywhere from 5 to 100 mg, so you will definitely need to experiment to find your “goldilocks zone”.
Studies show that other cannabinoids may be effective in treating respiratory issues. With this in mind, it’s best to select a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum product to treat asthma.
1. Full-Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD contains all cannabinoids and terpenes present in the hemp plant it was extracted from including THC (lower than 0.3%).
2. Broad-Spectrum CBD
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all cannabinoids and terpenes present in the hemp plant it was extracted from excluding THC.
3. Isolate CBD
Isolate CBD is a pure CBD extract and contains no other cannabinoids.
Final Thoughts: Can CBD Help With Asthma?
Although clinical evidence to prove that CBD is an effective asthma treatment is lacking, there are multiple studies that prove it has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.
Other studies have shown how CBD, even in low doses, can reduce hyperresponsiveness in the respiratory system.
All of these factors support its use in asthma patients and prove that CBD is a valuable treatment for the condition.
The best form of CBD for treating asthma is oil. Other methods of consumption can be effective but it’s best to avoid vapable products as this may trigger asthma symptoms.
Remember to consult your doctor before using CBD to treat asthma if you’re using other medication.
References Used In This Article
- Pini, A., Mannaioni, G., Pellegrini-Giampietro, D., Beatrice Passani, M., Mastroianni, R., Bani, D., & Masini, E. (2012). The role of cannabinoids in inflammatory modulation of allergic respiratory disorders, inflammatory pain, and ischemic stroke. Current drug targets, 13(7), 984-993.
- Russo, M., Calabrò, R. S., Naro, A., Sessa, E., Rifici, C., D’Aleo, G., … & Bramanti, P. (2015). Sativex in the management of multiple sclerosis-related spasticity: role of the corticospinal modulation. Neural plasticity, 2015.
- Vuolo, F., Abreu, S. C., Michels, M., Xisto, D. G., Blanco, N. G., Hallak, J. E., … & Dal-Pizzol, F. (2019). Cannabidiol reduces airway inflammation and fibrosis in experimental allergic asthma. European journal of pharmacology, 843, 251-259.
- Makwana, R., Venkatasamy, R., Spina, D., & Page, C. (2015). The effect of phytocannabinoids on airway hyper-responsiveness, airway inflammation, and cough. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 353(1), 169-180.