A growing body of research suggests that smoking marijuana may actually provide a beneficial effect on the respiratory system, in some cases reducing bronchospasm and cough, as well as decreasing airway resistance. Smoking THC has the ability to dilate respiratory passages, studies show. This is most likely due to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties.
These effects could potentially benefit individuals with asthma, an incurable disease of the lungs that affects about 1 in 12 people or 25 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unlike tobacco, cannabis expands, rather than constricts bronchial passages.
But some studies show mixed results. For example, a study published in the journal Nature in November 2000 found that some asthmatic individuals respond negatively to marijuana smoke, experiencing “paradoxical bronchospasm” or difficulty breathing that is sometimes accompanied by wheezing; the condition can be life threatening, health professionals warn.
Though immediate benefits have been observed in asthmatics who smoke marijuana, other research suggests that long-term exposure may result in tissue inflammation and throat irritation, ultimately impairing lung function – which could be a deadly consequence for asthma sufferers.
But like we said, study results are mixed.
Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012 “found that moderate cannabis smokers with asthma actually improved their lung function without suffering the lung damage that is seen in cigarette smokers,” according to Leafly.com.
“Even doctors have been surprised to see their patients get almost immediate relief from asthma attacks after smoking cannabis. The response can be as effective as the most commonly prescribed inhalers, but without the complications of corticosteroids, which can include high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression among other severe side effects.
“So what’s the asthma patient who wants a steroid-free treatment option to do?
“For one, you can cut out the smoke. The most common pharmaceutical method of treating asthma attacks is through the use of corticosteroids delivered through inhalers that vaporize the medication.”
“Asthma patients may also be familiar with a nebulizer, which is a tabletop machine that does the same thing. Sound familiar? Cannabis vaporizers have been improving in quality and growing in popularity.
“Some are sleek and pocketable for treatment on the go and are generally considered to be a safer alternative to smoking. When THC is delivered through a vaporizer, it still has the almost immediate bronchial dilation effects without the harmful smoke. Vaporizing cannabis isn’t really all that different from the current accepted treatments, just with what may be a more effective drug,” as reported by Leafly.com.
The health benefits of cannabis are seemingly endless, as the plant has proved beneficial for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans, as well as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, chronic pain, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease in other individuals, according to reports.
Despite its many benefits, marijuana is still labeled a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government; in other words, it’s viewed as having no medical benefits and is illegal (in the feds’ eyes).
But that hasn’t stopped individual states from legalizing the plant for medicinal and recreational purposes. As of January 2016, some 27 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have either legalized medical recreational marijuana or decriminalized marijuana possession.