Asthma is far more common in the United States than you think. It causes swelling of the airways which are responsible for carrying air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. With narrower airways, irritations (allergens) that enter the lungs will trigger symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
There is no known cure for the condition, and the number of Americans with it is increasing. Over 25 million of us now have asthma; a total that equates to 8.4% of children and 7.7% of adults. An estimated 11 million asthma sufferers report having an asthma attack each year.
It is a condition that can prove deadly. In 2017, over 3,500 Americans died from the condition. Tragically, a significant proportion of these fatalities could have been avoided with the right treatment and care. It may not be classed as a ‘debilitating condition,’ but it can have severe ramifications in a person’s daily life.
In recent years, researchers have looked into the possibility of using marijuana to treat asthma. Of course, there are caveats; it isn’t a good idea to smoke weed if you have asthma! However, there are other methods of consumption. In this article, we look at whether weed can work for the condition, and outline five potentially useful marijuana strains for the purpose.
What Is Asthma?
If you have asthma, it means you suffer from a chronic disease of the airways that makes it difficult for you to breathe. It involves inflammation of the air passages that lead to the temporary narrowing of airways that carry oxygen to your lungs. It is a very serious condition that leads to approximately two million hospital visits per year in the United States alone.
Here are the three well-known features of asthma.
1 – Obstruction of Airways
When we breathe normally, the bands of muscle around the airways are relaxed which allows air to move easily. If you have asthma, things such as environmental triggers, colds, and substances that cause allergies tighten the bands of muscle around the airways which prevents air from moving freely.
As a consequence, you feel short of breath, and as the air moves through the tightened airways, it causes a wheezing sound.
2 – Inflammation
Asthma sufferers have swollen and red bronchial tubes. Unfortunately, this inflammation probably leads to the long-term lung damage that is associated with asthma.
3 – Airway Irritability
If you have asthma, your airways are incredibly sensitive and will overreact and narrow when faced with triggers such as fumes, dust, and pollen.
What Are the Symptoms for Asthma?
There are various asthma symptoms including:
- Frequent coughing spells which may happen when laughing or exercising.
- Less energy during activities or pausing to catch your breath.
- Tightening or pain in your chest.
- A feeling of weakness or tiredness.
There are numerous ways that asthma is triggered. As you have sensitive airways, contact with ‘triggers’ cause symptoms to get worse. These triggers include:
- Changes in temperature and/or humidity.
- Strong emotions such as laughing, crying or stress.
- Inhalation of smoke
- Certain medications such as aspirin
- Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and mold spores
- Infections such as cold or flu
It is also common to have asthma attacks which consist of a sudden worsening of symptoms. During an asthma attack, your airways swell up, tighten or fill with mucus. Symptoms of asthma attacks include:
- A coughing fit, especially during the night
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pressure, pain or tightness
What Are the Traditional Remedies for Asthma (Not Cannabis Related)?
Unfortunately, asthma is a long-term condition, and at present, there is no permanent cure. When it comes to treatment, the goal is to ‘control’ the condition which involves:
- Preventing chronic issues such as coughing fits.
- Reducing reliance on quick-relief medication.
- Enabling you to sleep through the night and maintaining your existing activity level.
- Preventing serious asthma attacks that require immediate medical attention.
Asthma management involves discovering your triggers and avoiding them. In terms of medication, patients receive:
Inhaled Corticosteroids: You receive an inhaler which is designed to be used when you feel any symptoms. It releases corticosteroids designed to counteract swelling and inflammation.
Other Long-Term Medicines: Common medication includes Omalizumab and Cromolyn.
Quick-Relief Medication: This is medicine for when you need something fast acting when asthma symptoms are coming on strong. The most popular choice is short-acting beta2-agonists.
Medical Research on Marijuana for Asthma
Did you know that the ancient Egyptians used cannabis to treat various conditions, including asthma? Legendary French writer, Marcel Proust (1871 -1922) used weed to manage his asthmatic symptoms. So much so that he referred to his joints as ‘anti-asthma’ cigarettes. In the 1920s, when it was still legal in many states, physicians prescribed marijuana as a cough medication.
Then, prohibition kicked in, and the tobacco industry swelled to an extraordinary level. Once the link between cigarettes and lung cancer was uncovered, all forms of smoking (including weed) were labeled as extremely dangerous.
In the modern era, studies on the benefits of marijuana for asthma sufferers go back to the 1970s, where it was determined that the THC in cannabis had a bronchodilatory effect. The most important thing to remember is that asthma is known as a chronic inflammatory disease while cannabis is becoming known for its anti-inflammatory effects.
A study by Vachon et al., published in the Psychopharmacology Journal in 1974, found that the THC found in marijuana was capable of dilating respiratory passages and inhibiting coughing. Remarkably, when smoked, marijuana could expand the bronchial passageways; compare this to tobacco smoking with restricts the passageways.
A 2012 study, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), looked at 5,115 black and white males and females aged 18-30 over 20 years. It was called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study and involved testing the lung function of volunteers, beginning in 1985.
It was praised as a ‘well-conducted study’ and included marijuana and tobacco cigarette smokers. The weed users toked up to three times a month on average, while the tobacco users smoked eight cigarettes a day. The tobacco smokers showed an expected drop in lung function, but marijuana smoke appeared to have unexpectedly positive effects.
However, it is crucial to note that the improvement in lung function was NOT seen in heavy marijuana users. Those who smoked weed 20+ times a month, for example, showed FEV1 levels (the amount of air you breathe out in the initial second after you take the deepest breath you can take) similar to those found in non-users.
A Better Way for Asthma Sufferers to Use Marijuana
It may seem as if there is some merit in using marijuana to help treat asthma, but it is VERY unwise to light up a joint or take a hint from a bong. Whether you combust marijuana or tobacco, the results are not good news for your lungs, even though some studies suggest THC can inhibit coughing. Even second-hand smoke on a person’s hair or clothing can set off an asthma attack, so it shouldn’t be hard to understand why smoking weed for asthma is a bad idea.
Vaporizers are marketed as being a safer and more convenient method of using weed. While it is true that there is less irritation on the lungs, and far fewer potential carcinogens are released than through combustion, there are also risks attached for asthmatics that vape. If your cannabis includes diacetyl acetate, for instance, there is a risk of popcorn lung.
Edibles, on the other hand, are more suitable for asthmatics. They are metabolized in your digestive system but can take at least 30 minutes to take effect. While you enjoy a longer and stronger high from an edible, it won’t be of much use in the event of an asthma attack. If you consume edibles regularly, there is a possibility that you can reduce the chances of having an attack in the first place.
If you need a faster working form of consumption, your prayers may be about to get answered. In Israel, scientists are working hard on creating cannabis inhalers. This exciting product is the result of a collaboration between Rafa Pharmaceuticals and Panaxia Pharmaceuticals.
The inhaler has an attached vaporizer to which you can add a measured dose of cannabis extract. The extract will include a precisely measured dose of active ingredients. News of the device was announced in March 2019, and it is now undergoing clinical trials in Israel. All being well, Israeli residents may be able to use the inhaler at some point before the end of the year.
In any case, here are five marijuana strains that could help with asthma. Once again, we urge caution before considering the use of joints, blunts, bongs, or even vaporizers.
Top 5 Marijuana Strains for Asthma
1 – Afghan Kush
Seeds from this pure indica strain were created in the Netherlands, and it is known for its relaxing effects. Occasionally known as Afghan OG, it contains an impressive 6% CBD to go along with its 21% THC. It originated in the Hindu Kush mountains, and it is best if you can get the original, pure Afghan Kush.
Despite its CBD content, it is a potent strain and should be used sensibly. It is an excellent option if you suffer from stress as it provides you with a ‘feel good’ vibe. Afghan Kush is a smooth smoke, and its effects can creep up on you slowly. Before you realize what is happening, you feel happy and relaxed.
The fruity taste is pleasant, and as it doesn’t provide a harsh aftertaste, asthmatics may find it to their tastes. If your condition causes you anxiety, you won’t feel it once the high kicks in. Afghan Kush provides users with a feeling of pure bliss that takes your mind off your troubles. It also contains anti-inflammatory terpenes, humulene, and caryophyllene, which could help with your conditions.
2 – Charlotte’s Web
This marijuana strain made its name by helping a girl named Charlotte Figi, who had Dravet’s Syndrome. She went from having hundreds of seizures to a couple per month after using Charlotte’s Web. It was developed by the Stanley Brothers and is known for having less than 1% THC and up to 17% CBD.
It is a sativa-dominant hybrid which provides no psychedelic effects. As a result, you can give your child Charlotte’s Web safe in the knowledge that it won’t cause them to get high. Those who use this strain say it provides them with an overall improvement in mood; they also report feeling focused and energized.
The very high CBD levels can help combat inflammation and perhaps relieve pain. For many parents, it is the weed of choice for their children, but adults also enjoy the analgesic effects, coupled with the feeling of relaxation. Charlotte’s Web is also used to treat depression, anxiety, and stress.
3 – Amnesia Haze
Amnesia Haze is known for its earthy citrus scent and is a cross of multiple strains including a Thai, Jamaican, Cambodian, a Hawaiian Sativa, a South Asian and Afghani Indica, and Haze. It won first prize in the 2004 Cannabis Cup and also won the top prize in the 2012 Sativa Cup.
Amnesia Haze is a strongly sativa-dominant hybrid with a CBD level of 1% and a high THC content of 21%. It has been described as providing a fantastic feeling of happiness. Users often feel euphoric and find it difficult to contain their delight. As well as getting a fit of giggles, this strain will help you feel uplifted and relaxed.
Users also claim this strain provides them with an energy boost and is a prime example of a sociable strain. Individuals with severe asthma may also feel down because their condition inhibits daily activities. If you are feeling depressed or have a mood disorder, Amnesia Haze can lift your spirits, and give you a blast of energy.
4 – Cheese
This is a classic indica-dominant strain that’s a cross of an Afghani Indica and Skunk #1. Aside from a CBD content of up to 1%, Cheese also contains 14-20% THC. As well as providing users with a potent high, this strain is famous for its pungent cheesy odor which completely fills a room.
When you smoke this marijuana strain, which was probably created in the 1980s, you will probably feel relaxed and calm after a couple of tokes. Soon enough, you’ll find it hard to suppress your smile as you feel happy and uplifted. It is a powerful mood booster, and could even help you become inspired.
The indica effects begin to take hold after a while and provide you with a body high that could result in couch lock. If you have body pains, especially chest pain due to asthmatic coughing, Cheese could help soothe you. Incidentally, make sure you have snacks available because this weed often causes a severe case of the munchies.
5 – Cannatonic
This strain is a supreme example of high CBD and THC levels working well together. It is a cross of G13 Haze and MK Ultra and contains up to 12% CBD to go along with a THC level that occasionally hits 15%. It is one of the most popular balanced hybrids on the market and with good reason.
The high you’ll feel is mellow and relaxed. If you are feeling stressed out about your condition, Cannatonic lightens your mental load. Users report feeling optimistic and relaxed when this strain kicks in. You may feel uplifted, but there is no sudden burst of energy. Instead, the high is a calm and soothing one that brings a smile to the face.
Cannatonic is a superstar in the medical marijuana world, and it is used to treat conditions such as migraines, muscle spasms, and cerebral palsy. It is said to be an excellent anti-inflammatory strain, which is potentially good news for asthma sufferers. Cannatonic gives you a lift without interfering in daily tasks.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana Treatment for Asthma
In theory, marijuana is an effective treatment for asthma because it is an anti-inflammatory and could open the bronchial tubes. However, more research is required to be sure. We don’t recommend smoking joints or using a bong, and while a vaporizer may result in less coughing, it could still lead to an asthmatic episode.
At present, edibles are arguably the best way to consume weed if you have asthma, but they take a long time to work; not good news if you get a sudden attack. Hopefully, the special cannabis inhaler being designed in Israel will get through the clinical trial period and provide asthmatics with an even better way to consume the herb.