What to Know About the Benefits of CBD for Asthma

The statistics on asthma are troubling. In the US, over 25 million people suffer from the condition and five million of them are children under the age of 18, according to the CDC.[1]  The World Health Organization reports that it is the most common chronic disease among children.[2] While there is no cure for asthma, which can inflame and the narrow the airways, resulting in wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, there are treatments to control it.

Easing Symptoms with Medications

Prescription medications can help ease the symptoms and control it. Medications fall into four categories, reports the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:[3]

  • Quick-relief medicines – Work quickly to relieve sudden symptoms. You take them as needed and at the first sign of symptoms
  • Controller medicines – Help control asthma by correcting the underlying changes in the airways, such as swelling and excess mucus
  • Combination of quick-relief and controller medicines – Used for both short-term relief and control
  • Biologics – Targets a cell or protein to prevent swelling inside the airways, given by injection or infusion

Most of these medications are taken by an inhaler or nebulizer, allowing the medicine to go directly to the lungs. Some are in pill form, infusion form, or injectable form.  

In addition to avoiding triggers that bring on an asthma attack, such as dust, pollen or animal dander, there are things to do around the home to reduce triggers. Cleaning out living quarters to eliminate dust and molds helps, but best to wear a mask to create a barrier between the mouth, nose and triggers.

Exercise is important for good health as well as lung health, but exercise can bring on an asthma attack, called exercise-induced asthma. It happens because exercise causes the airways to narrow or constrict.  That’s why your doctor should be consulted if you have asthma symptoms before or after exercise. [4]

CBD May Benefit Asthma Sufferers

Researchers now are looking at the potential of cannabidiol (CBD) to help treat asthma. CBD is one of over 60 cannabinoids or naturally occurring chemicals found in industrial hemp and marijuana. Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is made up of endocannabinoids or neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between neurons, the cells that transmit nerve impulses. The ECS has CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are mostly located in the brain; CB2 receptors are mostly found in immune cells and in a few neurons.[5]

 The ECS acts to restore balance whenever something happens with one of the body functions, such as appetite, sleep, immune response, and more.  When CBD interacts with the CB2 receptor, it inhibits pain and inflammation. It also releases tension that causes anxiety.

 Regarding asthma, there are several ways in which CBD may help treat asthma including, acting as an anti-inflammatory, inhibiting mucus production, and preventing airway obstruction.

 

Functions as Anti-inflammatory

A research study on animal models in Brazil found that CBD was able to reduce cytokines, which are released by T-helper cells that get into the respiratory system when an asthmatic attack occurs. The cytokines produce inflammation which then makes it difficult for someone to breathe. Since CBD is an inflammatory, researchers concluded it could suppress T-helper cells responses, thereby reducing cytokines levels and inflammation. [6]

 

Blocks Obstruction of Airways

The airway in asthma patients is a bit hyperactive and contracts easily. This hyperactivity can lead to obstructed airways.  Preclinical studies conducted by The Institute for the Clinical Pharmacology in Germany suggest that the endocannabinoid anandamide restrains allergic airway obstruction and inflammation.[7]

CBD oil can increase anandamide levels by hindering the enzymes that break down anandamide. The result is a higher quantity of anandamide available to prevent bronchi obstruction.[8]

 

Inhibits Mucus Production

Another way CBD may help in treating asthma is by inhibiting mucus production, which contributes to the obstruction of airways. Cytokines causes the excess mucus. The cytokine protein IL-13 is widely considered to be the cause. CBD has been shown to specifically reduce IL-13 levels in the lungs, allowing patients to more easily expel mucus by coughing and by preventing excess production. [9]

 While the research is promising, anyone considering adding CBD to their asthma prevention routine should always consult with their physician to determine appropriate dosage and to make sure it doesn’t interact with current anti-asthma medications.

 

[1] “Asthma,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed September 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/most_recent_national_asthma_data.htm
[2] “Asthma,” World Health Organization, accessed September 1, 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma
[3] “Asthma Medicines and Treatment,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), accessed September 1, 2021. https://www.aafa.org/asthma-treatment/
[4] “Being Active with Asthma,” American Lung Association, accessed September 1, 2021. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/living-with-asthma/managing-asthma/asthma-and-exercise
[5] Mackie K. Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008 May;20 Suppl 1:10-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x. PMID: 18426493. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18426493/
[6] Francieli Vuolo, Fabricia Petronilho, Beatriz Sonai, Cristiane Ritter, Jaime E. C. Hallak, Antonio Waldo Zuardi, José A. Crippa, Felipe Dal-Pizzol, "Evaluation of Serum Cytokines Levels and the Role of Cannabidiol Treatment in Animal Model of Asthma", Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2015, Article ID 538670, 5 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/538670
[7] Zoerner, A.A., Stichtenoth, D.O., Engeli, S., Batkai, S., Winkler, C., Schaumann, F., Janke, J., Holz, O., Krug, N., Tsikas, D., Jordan, J. and Hohlfeld, J.M. (2011), Allergen Challenge Increases Anandamide in Bronchoalveolar Fluid of Patients With Allergic Asthma. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 90: 388-391. https://doi.org/10.1038/clpt.2011.94
[8] “CBD Oil and Asthma: Here’s What You Should Know,” Every Thing CBD, accessed September 1, 2021. https://everycbdthing.com/cbd-oil-and-asthma-heres-what-you-should-know/
[9] CBD Insider Editorial Team, “How CBD Is Providing Hope for Asthma Patients,” The CBD Insider, April 21, 2018. https://thecbdinsider.com/knowledge-center/how-cbd-is-providing-hope-for-asthma-patients/#cbd