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Treating Asthma with Medical Marijuana – How It Helps

  • Asthma is a condition characterized by wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • Asthma is the result of inflammation in the bronchial airways. 
  • Compounds found in medical marijuana have been shown to help reduce inflammation and temper autoimmune response.
  • Although smoking, vaping, and dabbing are not recommended for asthma patients, several other delivery methods are available at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes limited airflow due to narrowing of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation induces symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Many asthma patients are finding relief at their local medical marijuana dispensaries

The bronchial airways within the lungs are surrounded by mucous glands and muscles. Patients afflicted with asthma are known to have highly sensitive and easily inflamed airways. When an asthma attack is triggered, the lining of the airways contract, swell, and fill with mucus. Breathing becomes laborious, and they experience an asthma attack.

Some allergy triggers known to cause reactions include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Some non-allergenic triggers include intense emotions, some air pollutants, smoke, cold air, and vigorous exercise.

Cannabis may have a bronchodilator effect on the airways, making breathing less laborious for some asthma patients. More and more medical marijuana doctors nationwide are recommending cannabis inhalers, tinctures, capsules, and other cannabis products to asthma patients. 

How does medical marijuana help asthma patients?

Cannabis is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and may benefit asthma patients, as inflammation of the airways is the biggest culprit in causing an asthma attack. 

Moreover, recent research indicates that when used systemically, compounds found in marijuana help suppress the autoimmune responses that can cause asthma. When the immune system is suppressed, it reduces the body’s reaction to environmental triggers, potentially preventing an asthma attack.

The antispasmodic properties of medical marijuana have reportedly helped reduce asthma attacks caused by neurodegenerative diseases. When asthma is triggered, patients suffer from spasms in their breathing mechanisms. Cannabis may alleviate this spasticity and reduce the severity of this type of asthma attack.

Anxiety is also known to exacerbate and trigger asthma attacks. Compounds found in medical marijuana are able to significantly decrease levels of anxiety in some patients thus reducing attacks.

A landmark study conducted showed that cannabis might offer relief to some asthma patients. Ten men and women suffering from asthma participated in the study. The patients were subjected to controlled asthma attacks via psychological suggestions or vigorous exercise. Some participants were administered medical marijuana via joint, vapor, or pill. Other patients were given a placebo. 

Ultimately, the patients who received the various forms of medical marijuana experienced almost immediate relief from their symptoms and experienced feelings of serenity and calm. The placebo group reported no relief at all.

Additionally, the medicinal effects of cannabis were much longer-lasting than those obtained from a standard asthma inhaler. 

How does medical marijuana help treat asthma?

Medical marijuana contains active compounds called phytocannabinoids which have the ability to mimic the effects of our own naturally produced endocannabinoids. Both types of cannabinoids have the ability to stimulate receptors on the surface of cells throughout the human body. This system of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors is known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. 

The ECS is responsible for a host of bodily functions. Two important systems kept in balance by the ECS are inflammatory response and immune response. 

Endocannabinoids produced by the human brain enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Their interaction with cannabinoid receptors causes changes in bodily processes. 

The main bodily function involved in an asthma attack is inflammation of the bronchial passages. Phytocannabinoids produced in marijuana include THC and CBD as well as other minor cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN) have all been shown to offer powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They also have the ability to modulate autoimmune responses known to produce asthma symptoms in some patients. 

Is medical marijuana safe for treating asthma?

Medical marijuana is well-tolerated in most patients and presents a very low risk of long-term side effects. However, delivery methods such as smoking, vaping, and dabbing can make asthma worse in some patients. 

Furthermore, larger doses of cannabinoids can produce unwanted side effects such as intoxication and lethargy. And long-term heavy use might contribute to mental health disorders. 

How is medical marijuana used to treat asthma?

Numerous delivery methods are available to patients suffering from breathing difficulties caused by asthma. Inhalation of cannabinoids provides the fastest relief. However, smoking, vaporizing, and dabbing are usually not recommended for patients with asthma. Vaping and dabbing in particular have been shown to produce asthma-like symptoms in some users. 

Cannabinoid inhalers offer asthma sufferers a way to take advantage of the fast onset time of inhalation without smoking or vaping. Some patients will experience immediate relief with the use of inhalers. Inhalers should only be used by asthma patients if specifically recommended by a knowledgeable medical marijuana doctor. If inhaler use doesn’t help the problem or causes wheezing, the patient should discontinue use immediately. 

Asthma patients who want to avoid using an inhaler have a choice of a wide array of delivery methods including tinctures, capsules, lozenges, edibles, and transdermal patches. While these products have a slower onset time and lower bioavailability, they are far less likely to aggravate asthma symptoms. 

Dosage and frequency of use depends on which delivery method is used. Patients who use inhalers often find that they only need to use them when they experience wheezing or an asthma attack.

The other methods mentioned above all provide systemic effects. Dosage and delivery methods should be determined under the guidance of a knowledgeable medical marijuana doctor. Periodic daily use might be recommended. 

Inhalers and oral medicines can be made using purified cannabinoids such as THC or CBD or even a mixture of various cannabinoids. Some patients might find that a CBD inhaler or CBD gummies provide relief. Others might find that THC products work best in their case.

Cannabis oils and edibles can also be produced using whole-plant extracts which contain another class of active compounds called terpenes. Terpenes are the essential oils that give various marijuana strains their distinctive aromas. 

Medicines containing whole-plant extracts are commonly referred to as full-spectrum products. Specific terpenes can also be added to products containing purified cannabinoids to make broad-spectrum formulas. The combined effects of terpenes and cannabinoids is referred to as the entourage effect

Terpenes that offer anti-inflammatory benefits include limonene, myrcene, linalool, caryophyllene, and pinene. Products containing these terpenes might provide additional benefits to some asthma patients. 

Finding a formula of cannabinoids and terpenes that offers the most relief can take some experimentation. 


Many asthma patients are finding that medical marijuana helps to reduce wheezing and asthma attacks by reducing inflammation and tempering autoimmune response. Cannabinoid-infused inhalers might provide fast relief for some patients. Patients can also choose more systemic delivery methods such as tinctures and capsules. 

Asthma is a serious medical condition that requires the ongoing care of a knowledgeable medical marijuana doctor. Patients should not be self-medicating. 

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