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Everyone knows that smoking is far from the best thing you can do to preserve lung health. So, why do people use it for asthma? Recently, a cannabis research company even began recruiting for a study on cannabis for asthma and COPD. Though it may sound surprising, there are numerous ways cannabis products may help asthma patients. Here are five things you didn’t know about cannabis and asthma.

1. Cannabis may help exercise-induced asthma

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Researchers have been studying the effects of cannabis for asthma since the 1970s. A 1975 study, for example, compared the effects of four different treatments in eight asthmatic patients. The treatments tested were smoked cannabis with 2% THC, aerosolized isoproterenol, aerosolized saline, and a smoked cannabis placebo.

Asthma attacks were triggered by both exercise and a drug called methacholine, which is used to test for asthma. Both cannabis treatment and isoproterenol provided a “prompt correction” to the asthmatic bronchospasm.

These results were repeated in exercise-induced asthma. The placebo and the saline produced a 30 to 60 minute recovery time. The cannabis, however, provided immediate relief. Isoproterenol, a drug more commonly used to treat heart problems, produced a similar response.

2. Cannabis is a bronchodilator

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One year later (1976), another study found that administering THC through an aerosol container may have bronchodilatory effects. Ten asthmatic patients were blindly given a single dose of an aerosol once daily for three consecutive days. The aerosols contained either a placebo, cannabis, or albuterol, one of the most common asthma medications.

Both THC and albuterol successfully improved lung function. Albuterol produced the strongest reaction the quickest, but the effects of cannabis and albuterol were the same after one hour. This gives a strong indication that the cannabinoid can act as a powerful bronchodilator.

Though this trial is quite small, it was double-blinded and randomized. This makes it a promising clinical example of how THC may be used to treat asthmatics in the future.

3. Anti-inflammatory agent

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Cannabis is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that the herb’s two main active ingredients, psychoactive THC, and nonpsychoactive CBD have immune-modulating properties. These inflammation-fighting abilities may be one of the reasons cannabis is so helpful to asthma patients.

Allergic asthma can cause chronic inflammation of the airways, hindering the ability to breathe properly. This is due to an overactive immune response, which may be triggered by some sort of environmental or dietary trigger.

Numerous studies have shown that the active components in cannabis suppress inflammation and may be useful therapeutic tools to suppress the immune response.

4. Cannabis tinctures can help cough

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Surprisingly, cannabis was once used as a medication for coughs. The excessive coughing during and after an asthma attack can be damaging and painful to the throat. Back in the 1920s, when cannabis products were legal for doctors to prescribe, medical reports

Back in the 1920s, when cannabis products were legal for doctors to prescribe, medical reports claim that cannabis tincture is,

[O]ne of the best additions to cough mixtures that we possess and yet does not constipate or depress the system as does morphine.

The idea that cannabis smoke can be used as an expectorant was also once popular. Though, this claim is controversial today. Hot, ashy cannabis smoke can cause mucus and other bronchitis symptoms, like cough. This is especially when smoked without a filter or with a rolling paper. So, those interested in testing out the herb’s mucus-busting potential may want to stick to a vape.

So, those interested in testing out the herb’s mucus-busting potential may want to stick to a vape.

5. Cannabis relieves spasms

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Cannabis compounds have successfully relieved muscle tension and spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, which is why a cannabis-based pharmaceutical is now on the market in many countries. However, the herb’s antispasmodic effects may be beneficial for asthma sufferers.

A 2014 study found that THC and some synthetic cannabinoids successfully prevented airway spasms. In an organ experiment conducted outside of the human body, researchers collected bronchi samples from 88 patients. They used electrical signaling to cause the organ to contract.

The study found that a cannabinoid receptor activated by THC quiets muscle contraction, which may be why smoking cannabis can calm an asthma attack.

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Delilah Butterfield

Delilah Butterfield is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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