How does cannabis benefit Asthma patients?
Up to 300 million people globally suffer from asthma, a chronic respiratory disease. For millennia, cannabis has been used to treat asthma symptoms, including in traditions from ancient China and India.
The bronchioles form the network of tubes in the lungs that carry oxygen to the alveoli. These become constricted during an asthma attack and this causes the oxygen flow to reduce drastically. Cannabis is able to act as a bronchodilator to relieve the symptoms of asthma.
Research has shown that cannabis administered in several different forms can improve bronchoconstriction significantly both while an attack is happening and in normal circumstances.
As with any medical science and studies, there are complicating factors. Recent research found that anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid, could exert a two-stage effect on lung tissue: while it causes bronchial constriction in normal circumstances with no irritant present, it inhibits bronchial constriction when an irritant is present.
Further studies are therefore needed to determine how cannabinoid treatments could be used in general.
Even during non-attack periods, low-level inflammation occurs in the bronchioles and bronchi of asthma sufferers. Asthma is therefore seen as a chronic inflammatory disease.
The inflammation levels increase during an asthma attack, aggravating constriction caused by contractions of bronchial tissue. Although inflammation relating to asthma is believed to be cause by an immune response to allergens, this has not been proven beyond any doubt.
Acute asthma attacks are generally treated with bronchodilators as a first option, but if the attack is severe, anti-inflammatory drugs are also used.
The anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids are well known, and some studies on asthma and cannabis have observed a reduction in bronchial inflammation. Cannabinoid receptors are present in human lung tissue in low concentrations. These play a vital role in regulating inflammation, and muscular dilations and contractions.
Although is believed that asthma has a genetic basis, new evidence suggests that it may be caused by viral or bacterial infections in young children. As these infections could affect the immune system, the sufferer may be left susceptible to irritants and allergens.
Various cannabinoids like CBG, CBD and THC have broad bactericidal effects against a number of common, infectious pathogens. It is suspected that asthma is caused by bacterial agents of the Streptococcus genus, including S. aureae and S. pneumoniae. Several studies show that these succumb to cannabinoids’ bactericidal effects.
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