How CBD Helps With Asthma
In the United States, around 26 million people have asthma, including 20 million adults and 6 million children(1). Asthma is a common condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which allow air to enter and leave your lungs.
Exposure to allergens, like molds, stress, irritants in the air, illnesses, and medications, may trigger asthma(2).
Asthma symptoms include wheezing when exhaling, shortness of breath, chest pain, and trouble sleeping(3). Asthma patients, especially those with severe asthma, may experience frequent flare-ups.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main cannabinoids or naturally occurring compounds in cannabis plants, known for its potential benefits in different medical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders(4).
CBD may also help treat asthma symptoms through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps maintain bodily functions, such as pain perception, immune response, sleep, mood, appetite, and metabolism(5).
The ECS consists of two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors primarily lie in the brain and central nervous system, liver, lungs, and kidneys(6). These receptors help regulate biological functions, like memory processing, appetite, pain sensation, mood, and sleep.
CB2 receptors are prevalent in cells within the immune system and its linked structures(7). These receptors stimulate a response that helps fight inflammation, relieving pain and managing damage to tissues.
A 2008 study showed that the activation of cannabinoid receptors on the bronchi nerve endings acted like a bronchodilator(8). Thus, airways become open, allowing for unrestricted breathing.
Moreover, a 2015 study in rat models highlighted CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat asthma(9). The researchers measured the levels of T-helper cell type-2 (Th2) cytokines to test CBD’s effectiveness for asthma.
Th2 cytokines help mediate immune responses’ activation and maintenance against bacteria, allergens, and toxins.
Results showed that CBD may inhibit Th2 cytokines’ production, potentially decreasing inflammation(10). These cytokines are also present in humans(11). Thus, CBD may produce similar anti-inflammatory effects to asthmatic patients.
Moreover, CBD may lower the levels of other cytokines called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and reduce overall inflammation(12). TNF is another primary mediator of severe asthma.
A 2019 study also noted that CBD may reduce airway inflammation and fibrosis in animal subjects experiencing an allergic asthmatic response(13).
While these are animal studies, findings may be beneficial for future research on CBD’s effectiveness for asthma in human subjects.
During an asthma attack, spasms affect the bronchi and bronchioles by contracting the lungs’ muscles, causing difficulty in breathing. A 2016 study indicated that cannabidiol may help relieve muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis(14).
CBD may also help treat other conditions involving spasms, like Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)(15–16).
Benefits of CBD for Asthma
Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system that worsens inflammation and results in constriction of airways and difficulty breathing. Studies showed that CBD has potential anti-inflammatory effects.
An animal study from Mediators of Inflammation highlighted CBD as a potential drug to modulate inflammatory response in asthma(17). The researchers also noted that CBD is well tolerated in humans, making it a promising candidate for asthma treatment.
According to a 2012 study, a single dose of CBD may reduce inflammation in the acute lung injury model in mice(18).
The researchers also studied the effects of CBD after the injury(19). Results showed that cannabidiol may have anti-inflammatory properties and improve lung function.
Although they are animal studies, these findings suggest that CBD may help treat lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic inflammatory diseases, including asthma.
A 2016 review noted that THC may help suppress the immune system(20). In some cases of asthma, the immune system may overreact to environmental triggers, worsening the symptoms. Thus, the findings may benefit those who have allergic asthma.
However, THC is a psychoactive compound that makes you feel high.
CBD may also be antispasmodic (relieves muscle spasms)(21). During asthma attacks, bronchospasms occur as muscles in the lungs contract, making breathing difficult.
A 2016 study indicated that cannabidiol may help treat muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis(22). Sativex, a combination of CBD and THC, is used to treat spasms, which may improve the quality of life and displays a low incidence of adverse effects(23).
The airways in asthmatic patients tend to be hyperreactive and contract easily, leading to obstructed airways. According to a 2011 study, anandamide, an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter, may restrain this obstruction(24).
A study published in Translational Psychiatry noted that cannabidiol may promote anandamide signaling(25). Thus, CBD may help prevent bronchial obstruction by enhancing anandamide levels.
Cannabidiol may also provide pain relief(26). Chest pain is an asthma symptom.
A 2008 review described CBD as a potential therapeutic for chronic pain management, including neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis and cancer pain(27). Thus, CBD may help relieve asthma-related pain.
How Soon Can CBD’s Effects Be Felt?
Meanwhile, topical CBD products’s effects may be felt within 15 to 30 minutes and may last for two to four hours(29).
While CBD tinctures may provide immediate relief, effects may remain for two to four hours only(31). CBD edibles’ effects may last for over six hours(32). CBD vapes’ effects may last for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Possible Side Effects of Using CBD for Asthma
Although CBD may help treat asthma symptoms, it may induce some side effects. These include(33):
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Changes in weight
Cannabidiol may also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners(34).
Other side effects of CBD include the inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism and decreased fertilization capacity(35). Seek professional help to avoid possible adverse effects.
How to Choose the Best CBD for Asthma
You can take CBD for asthma in different forms: CBD tinctures, CBD capsules, CBD topicals, CBD edibles, and CBD vapes. However, remember the following tips when choosing the best CBD hemp oil products for asthma:
- Consult healthcare professionals on how to use CBD for asthma appropriately, especially if you are using CBD products for the first time.
- Select CBD products that use organic, GMO-free hemp. Reliable CBD brands grow hemp plants from their farms or buy from licensed hemp growers that promote sustainable farming.
- Choose quality products that adopt CO2 extraction methods to maximize the benefits of cannabinoids or naturally occurring compounds from hemp plants. Moreover, pick cannabidiol products that place disclaimers and do not provide unwarranted health claims on their websites.
- Confirm whether the CBD product undergoes third-party lab testing. The certificate of analysis (COA), often available on the brand’s website, should show the product’s CBD content and the absence of residual solvents, pesticides, and other harmful substances.
- Compare product label claims with the certificate of analysis. Credible products that provide value for money have accurate or higher CBD content than their product label claims.
- Pick CBD brands that are members of hemp organizations, like the Colorado Hemp Industries Association, or possess certifications and accreditations from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). These CBD brands show transparency, ethical business practices, and excellent customer service.
- Know state laws regarding cannabis use to ensure legal use of CBD products for asthma.
- Know the three types of CBD products: full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolates to get the maximum benefits from cannabinoids.
Full-spectrum CBD oil products contain all phytocannabinoids or naturally occurring compounds in cannabis plants. These include CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, essential oils, and other minerals.
Terpenes provide cannabis plants’ distinct aroma, while flavonoids give them vivid colors.
These compounds produce the entourage effect, indicating that they are more efficacious when combined than when used as isolated elements(36). However, as full-spectrum CBD products contain the psychoactive compound THC, frequent usage may result in a false-positive drug test.
How to Take CBD for Asthma
You can let the CBD drops stay under your tongue for one to two minutes before swallowing(38). Effects may be evident within 15 to 45 minutes.
Topical CBD products’ onset may be within 15 to 30 minutes(39). Effects may last for two to four hours.
Additionally, dosing is tricky because of the delayed onset of effect (around one to two hours), recent meals, and stomach acids’ unknown effects(41).
Thus, CBD capsules may not suit those looking for immediate relief from asthma symptoms.
However, CBD edibles can take a while to kick in because they have to pass through the digestive system.
CBD edibles’ effects may show within 30 to 60 minutes(42). For CBD edibles with THC, peak blood levels occur approximately three hours later, and the effects can last over six hours.
CBD brands, like CBD Luxe, also offer CBD inhalers. These relatively new CBD products allow CBD to get into your system through your lungs without the heat or vapor coming from smoking flower or vaping CBD.
You can use CBD inhalers like the usual inhalers. Place the spray’s opening on your lips, press the inhaler’s top to spray, and inhale it.
While CBD inhalers may take effect immediately, research has yet to prove the product’s effectiveness. Thus, consult your doctor for appropriate CBD use.
CBD products also come in a vape pen format. CBD vapes may provide immediate effects as the vapors enter the bloodstream through the lungs without passing through the digestive system.
However, effects may last for 30 minutes to two hours only. It is also challenging to determine precisely how much CBD is in each draw. While CBD oil vape products usually show the CBD amount per inhale, the amount may differ per person.
The FDA, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and other state and local health departments have also conducted investigations regarding a national outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI)(43).
Moreover, as of February 2020, the CDC has received reports of more than 2,000 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths. Thus, vaping CBD is not recommended.
CBD Dosage for Asthma
CBD dosage of up to 1,500mg/day is well tolerated in humans(44).
Epidiolex is the only FDA-approved CBD product used to treat epilepsy in children(45). Its recommended starting dosage, which can be taken twice a day, is 2.5mg CBD per kilogram of body weight(46).
Other than this, no official recommended CBD dosage is available for asthma.
You may start taking CBD at small doses, at least 5mg CBD, and gradually increase the dosage once you achieve your desired results.
More importantly, seek help from a healthcare professional knowledgeable in CBD use to determine the right dosage of CBD based on your needs.
Legality of CBD
Following the legalization of industrial hemp, the 2018 Farm Bill stipulated that, at the federal level, hemp-derived CBD products containing 0.3% or less THC are no longer considered controlled substances(47).
Tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive compound that causes a euphoric high. Marijuana, which is rich in THC, remains a Schedule 1 controlled drug because of its high potential for abuse, attributed to THC’s psychoactive effects(48).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow products containing THC or CBD to be sold legally as dietary supplements(49). The agency approves only one cannabis-derived drug product, Epidiolex (cannabidiol), and three synthetic cannabis-related drug products: Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (dronabinol), and Cesamet (nabilone)(50).
Epidiolex is a purified form of CBD derived from cannabis. It is used to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe cases of epilepsy in children.
Marinol and Syndros are used to treat anorexia linked to weight loss in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Cesamet is used to manage nausea linked to cancer chemotherapy.
As there is no other FDA-approved CBD product, researching state laws and buying CBD oil products in areas that offer recreational or medical marijuana legally are advised.