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Will Cannabinoids Relieve COPD Symptoms?

Christine Kielhorn PHD
COPD X-rays being looked at by radiologist

CBD may reduce inflammation and THC is under investigation as an airway opener – two good things when you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term to describe lung disease that is progressive and includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory asthma. The most common environmental cause is smoking, although there is likely a genetic factor.

As the disease progresses, small airways in the lung get narrower due to swelling and inflammation, or mucus blockage. Certain tissues in the lung are destroyed and lose their function. Breathing becomes difficult as there is a higher resistance to airflow and less efficient transfer of oxygen to the blood.

COPD man with oxygen mask on close up

Inflammation, Asthma, COPD

Scientists beleive inflammation is a major contributing factor to the changes in tissue structure and damage. ALso, they believe it is a contributing factor to excessive coughing. Current treatments include steroids and opiates, which are often accompanied by undesirable risks and side effects. The role of the endocannabinoid system in managing inflammation and sensory nerve activation has made cannabis a potential candidate for a relatively safe COPD treatment.

COPD lung volume test

Doctors have well documented the effect of CB2 receptor activation on suppressing inflammatory response. In animal studies specifically focused on inflammation in the lungs, cannabinoids activating CB2 receptors, and in some cases CB1 simultaneously, were able to reduce lung inflammation.

Other studies have found that cannabinoids help to open the airways. The mechanisms for bronchodilation vary. One study finds that activating the CB2 receptors in the sensory nerve terminals inhibits these nerves from releasing tachykinins. These are a kind of molecule that trigger contraction of the muscles in the airway.

Another study finds that smoking or consuming cannabis causes temporary bronchodilation in asthma patients. Animal models of lung inflammation also show that activation of CB1 receptors decreases muscle contractions in the airways. It does so by inhibiting acetylcholine release in the sensory nerves, a neurotransmitter triggering muscle contractions.

Christine Kielhorn
  • Avatar
    John harden

    I have COPD but my states medical marijuana laws will not allow me medical marijuana treatment. Is there another route I can take?

    January 3, 2018 at 11:19 am Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      Unfortunately, there is no other legal route.

      January 4, 2018 at 1:00 pm Reply
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      You can buy legal CDB oil, I’d give that a try, it works great on my back and neck pain.

      January 5, 2018 at 3:38 am Reply
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    Cass Clarke

    CBD oil that is made from hemp is not effective

    January 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm Reply
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    Would you qualify under management of chronic pain?

    April 4, 2018 at 12:56 am Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      That depends on your physician. If she or he states that you have chronic pain due to your COPD and this is a “qualifying condition” in your region, then there should be no problem.

      June 3, 2018 at 5:24 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      That depends on your region, but I feel confident that chronic pain is a qualifying condition on every list.

      June 10, 2018 at 2:59 am Reply

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