Cannabinoids Relieve COPD Symptoms - RxLeaf

Cannabinoids Relieve COPD Symptoms

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

CBD reduces inflammation and THC opens airways – 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 is thought to be a major contributing factor to the changes in tissue structure and damage, as well as 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

The effect of CB2 receptor activation on suppressing the inflammatory response is well-documented. 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.

COPD animation showing healthy lung versus diseased lung

Other studies have found that cannabinoids help to open the airways. The mechanisms for bronchodilation vary, but one study found that activating the CB2 receptors in the sensory nerve terminals inhibited these nerves from releasing tachykinins, a kind of molecule that triggers contraction of the muscles in the airway. Another study found that smoking or consuming cannabis caused temporary bronchodilation in asthma patients. Animal models of lung inflammation have also found that activation of the CB1 receptors decreased muscle contractions in the airways by inhibiting acetylcholine release in the sensory nerves, a neurotransmitter that triggers muscle contraction.


animation showing obstructed and inflamed airway

Obviously, smoking cannabis is not recommended for those with lung function deterioration, but patients can try other routes of administration such as oils and edibles.  The endocannabinoid system’s regulation of inflammation and bronchodilation are encouraging indicators that it could be a new avenue for treating COPD.

Christine Kielhorn
  • AvatarAvatar
    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
    • AvatarAvatar

      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
  • AvatarAvatar

    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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