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CBD and Asthma: Benefits, How to Use, Dosage, & Side Effects

Asthma is an inflammatory immune condition — something CBD is particularly well-suited for. Learn how to use CBD products for asthma, and what to avoid.

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CBD has risen to the forefront of treating numerous inflammatory conditions — leading researchers to begin exploring the benefits this versatile phytocannabinoid may offer asthma patients.

In 2015 it was estimated that 358 million people suffer from asthma around the world [1].

Only 183 million people reported to have diagnosed asthma three decades ago — these figures suggest that asthma is on the rise.

With this debilitating condition becoming more common as the years go on, medical researchers are frantically searching for new effective treatments for the condition.

Here we’ll go over the current research on CBD and its role in asthma. We discuss how to use CBD effectively, and what you can do to maximize the benefits.

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Updated on January 12, 2022

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Summary: Using CBD for Asthma

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways — leading to difficulty breathing. Depending on the severity, asthma can interfere with the quality of life of those affected. It can even become fatal in severe cases.

Asthma caused by allergies is particularly dangerous because it leads to excessive mucus production in the lungs which further block air from entering the lungs.

CBD is thought to help in four main ways:

  1. Reduces inflammation in the throat
  2. Makes it harder for immune cells to attack the cells
  3. Relaxes tight muscles in the chest
  4. Alleviates common side effects of asthma (such as insomnia or anxiety)
Best CBD Oils For Asthma
  • Royal CBD Oil— Best CBD Oil For Asthma Overall
  • Gold Bee CBD Oil— Best Organic CBD Oil
  • CBDistillery CBD Oil— Best CBD Isolate Oil For Asthma
  • Blessed CBD— Best CBD Oil For Asthma in The UK
  • Endoca CBD Oil— Best CBD Oil For Asthma in Europe
Tips for Getting the Most Out of CBD and Cannabis Extract Use for Asthma:
  1. Always consult your doctor before using CBD with asthma
  2. If symptoms of asthma become severe, it’s important not to rely on CBD to alleviate symptoms. Always visit a doctor in the event of an emergency
  3. Start with a very low dose of CBD and build up the dose gradually to make sure you are not allergic to anything in the CBD product
  4. Always use CBD alongside other forms of treatment such as dietary and lifestyle changes
  5. If using CBD with children, always consult with a pediatrician before starting CBD supplementation and use CBD extracts made from isolate only
  6. Use oral CBD only — avoid smoking or vaporizing to get your dose of CBD

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition involving inflammation of the airway leading to the lungs — leading to difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of asthma can be anywhere from mild to life-threatening. Asthma can be present all the time or appear in the form of asthma “attacks” sporadically when being exposed to triggers like exercise or allergies.

Allergic asthma is considered an atopic condition — which involves other allergy-related conditions such as dermatitis and food allergies.

Atopic individuals tend to be hyper-reactive to a list of environmental compounds and foods. It’s most common in developed countries — affecting as many as 1 out of every 5 people [4].

There is no cure for asthma. Treatment is aimed at lowering the intensity and frequency of attacks, and identifying and removing triggers.

Asthma Attacks

Asthma attacks are temporary periods of increased symptoms. In most cases, something triggered the attack — such as dust, cigarette smoke, exercise, or food allergies.

During an asthma attack, as the airway becomes inflamed, the amount of air that can fit through the bronchioles is reduced, requiring more effort to give the body the oxygen it needs.

Attacks can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few days.

Symptoms of Asthma

Signs of Emergency During an Asthma Attack

Although all asthma involves inflammation in the airway, there are a few distinct types of asthma depending on the cause:

What Are the Different Types of Asthma?

1. Allergic Asthma

Allergies are caused by an activation of the immune system to particular compounds. We can develop asthma symptoms from the same allergens that give us a runny nose, watery eyes, and itchy skin.

When we’re exposed to these compounds, the immune system identifies the compounds and sounds the alarm. Specialized cells known as mast cells release neurotransmitters like histamine that go on to cause most of the negative side-effects.

Our airway leading down to the lungs is high in these immune cells — their job is to make sure no infectious organisms find their way into the lungs where they can proliferate and make us sick. During an allergic asthma attack, it’s these immune cells that were there to keep us safe that make the condition worse.

Histamine released from mast cells causes the airway to fill up with fluid and close shut.

2. Non-Allergic (Intrinsic) Asthma

Other forms of asthma can happen without the activation of mast cells during an allergic reaction.

Our airway is controlled via the central nervous system. When we’re exercising, for example, the central nervous system makes the airway wider to allow more air into the lungs and then shrinks it up when we don’t need it to preserve heat loss and keep infectious organisms out of the lungs as much as possible.

In some cases of non-allergic asthma, the cause of the condition is mediated through the central nervous system dysfunction that leads to a narrowing of the airway. Medications or exercise can cause this form of asthma.

Causes of Non-Allergic (Intrinsic) Asthma Include:
  • Aspirin-induced asthma
  • Asthma with fixed airflow obstruction
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Cough-variant asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Nighttime (Nocturnal) asthma
  • Asthma with obesity
Common Asthma Triggers

Measuring Asthma Severity

Doctors will often measure the severity of asthma symptoms using a 4-step scale.

Step 1: Intermittent Asthma

Asthma symptoms appear less than two days per week and don’t interrupt daily activities. This level usually involves short-lived flare-ups and rarely involves nighttime symptoms.

Step 2: Mild Persistent Asthma

The symptoms occur more than two days per week, but only slightly interfere with normal activities. This level of asthma may or may not involve occasional nighttime flare-ups.

Step 3: Moderate Persistent Asthma

The symptoms occur daily and interfere with daily activities. This level of asthma involves frequent nighttime and daytime flare-ups, and usually require medications to keep symptoms at bay.

Step 4: Severe Persistent Asthma

The symptoms occur throughout the day and may strongly interfere with daily activities. Asthmatics experiencing symptoms at this level often have difficulty with physical activity and frequently suffer from nighttime flare-ups.

Treatment Options for Asthma

  • Corticosteroids
  • Adrenergic receptor agonists (Salbutamol)
  • Anticholinergic medications (ipratropium bromide)
  • Epinephrine
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • Mast cell stabilizers

Guide to Using CBD for Asthma

There are many different causes for asthma, but the underlying cause of symptoms remains much the same — inflammation and excess mucus production in the airway leading down to the lungs.

Therefore, the treatment is similar for different types of asthma — with one of the primary treatment options being anti-inflammatory compounds. CBD is a particularly strong anti-inflammatory — exerting beneficial effects over multiple different types of inflammation.

There are no clinical studies to date on the effects of CBD on asthmatic patients to confirm how effective CBD is on real-life patients, but there are a lot of studies highlighting the specific inflammatory messengers inhibited by CBD that play a role in regulating asthma attacks (more on this in the next section).

CBD is a promising supplement for reducing the underlying causes of asthma.

It’s important to speak with your doctor before using CBD and avoid smoking or vaporizing cannabis as your source of CBD. Opt for using other forms of CBD instead — such as capsules, oils, tinctures, and edibles. It’s important to let your doctor know if you want to try CBD since it interacts with some medications.

What Does the Research Say?

In 2015, an animal study was published involving rats who were treated with 5 mg/kg CBD for two days. After the treatment was finished, researchers measured the inflammatory activity in the animals. All inflammatory markers except for IL-10 were substantially reduced — indicating that CBD was able to lower the inflammatory factors driving the symptoms of asthma [3].

Asthma caused by allergic reaction involves an increase in specific immune reactive cells (Th2 cytokines) [5]. Research shows that CBD specifically targets many of the Th2 cytokines including IL-6, IL-2, TNF-a, IFN-c, IL-6, IL-12, and IL-17 [6, 7].

Inflammatory Messenger Role In Asthma Reaction Effects of CBD
TNF-a Heavily involved with severe asthma reactions Reduces Asthma Reaction
IL-6 Stimulates T-cell activity Helps Prevent Asthma Triggers
IL-4 Stimulates IgE activity Reduces the Severity of Asthma
IL-13 Increased mucus production Prevents Excess Mucus Production

This means that the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD work at several different levels of the inflammatory response. Multi-level treatment approaches such as this are far more effective than treatments focusing on only one aspect of inflammation.

Even conventional treatments use multiple treatment options such as steroidal inhalants (puffers) and oral medications.

How CBD Affects Asthma
  • Inhibits inflammatory response associated with both allergic and non-allergic asthma
  • Resists immune cell migration into the inflamed airway tissue
  • Alleviates symptoms of correlated medical conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and mood disorders
  • Relaxes the muscles in the airway and chest to reduce symptoms of asthma

Other cannabinoids such as THC provide powerful benefits towards asthma. Some of the effects of THC toward asthma include:

  • Relaxes the airway to allow better flow of oxygen (bronchodilator)
  • Reduces several different inflammatory markers linked with asthma
  • Relaxes muscles in the chest and airway to reduce symptoms

What’s the Recommended Dose of CBD?

Figuring out the right dose of CBD to use with asthma symptoms requires a bit of trial and error. This is because everyone responds to CBD differently.

Most people take a medium or high strength dose of CBD to find relief for their symptoms.

However, it’s wise to start with a smaller dose first and build up gradually over time to make sure there are no allergies to the product you’re using — which could ultimately make asthma symptoms worse.

If you’re especially prone to allergies, it’s recommended that you take this one step further and start by placing some of the oil or tincture on the back of one hand. After about an hour, if you don’t show any signs of allergy, you can start with a very small amount of the CBD product in the mouth. If no side-effects or allergies occur after an hour, you can start with the low-strength dose.

Over the next few days try building the dose up gradually until you find relief from your symptoms.

CBD and Asthma: Does CBD Oil Help People with Asthma?

CBD may help with asthma, but the evidence we have is less than ideal, to say the least. But that doesn’t change the fact that asthma continues to affect millions of people in the U.S.

Conventional treatments are available, with different degrees of success. However, not everyone reacts well and might want an alternative option.

Although CBD and asthma are loosely connected, there’s a chance it may help with the difficult and potentially dangerous complications associated with the condition.

So does CBD oil work for asthma? If so, what are its benefits and limitations for using CBD for asthma? How do you even begin using CBD? We’ll discuss those questions and more.

Does CBD Oil Help with Asthma?

CBD oil may help with asthma, as it addresses some of the reactions – like inflammation – associated with many different conditions. However, research is pretty sparse on which (if any) types of asthma are controllable or treatable using CBD.

According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology , there are six types of asthma:

  • Allergic
  • Non-allergic
  • Occupational
  • Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction
  • Asthma-COPD overlap
  • Adult-onset asthma

Again, we have little research to work with. From what we know so far, CBD seems to impact some kinds of asthma. Studies don’t cover all six asthma types. Allergic and non-allergic categories received the most attention, so we’ll focus on them.

Research on CBD and Allergic Asthma

As the name implies, allergic asthma symptoms start when triggered by allergens. This could range from pollen to cockroaches, according to the Cleveland Clinic .

CBD may support the treatment of allergic asthma – at least if you’re a mouse. A 2019 study in the European Journal of Pharmacology looked at allergic asthma in mice. They found that CBD helped reduce “airway hyperresponsiveness” through its indirect link with the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Through these pathways, CBD helps alert the body to create an anti-inflammatory response.

There’s now evidence this experimental treatment works on humans. Naturally, we need more animal and human trials.

Research on CBD and Non-Allergic Asthma

Research into cannabinoids as bronchodilators in non-allergic asthma dates back several decades. A 1984 experiment published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics saw results with delta-9 and delta-8 THC but noticed no change with CBD.

However, the CBD dose was a massive 1200 mg – far above the necessary amount for a new consumer. Given cannabidiol’s biphasic behavior, such a serving might not have been necessary. “Biphasic” means CBD’s potency isn’t linear. Once you exceed your ideal dose, the benefits start to drop.

Below is an image showing a visual of what the Biphasic Effect is:

The researchers likely didn’t know or fully acknowledge this issue. It begs the question as to whether gradually introducing CBD might have yielded different results.

Could CBD have worked otherwise? Only full clinical human trials can answer that question.

What Does Asthma Do to Your Body?

Although asthma is well-defined, there’s no “textbook case.” In other words, every patient experiences different severities and triggers. Treatment responses may also differ.

But regardless of what you deal with, asthma’s inflammatory response constricts the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Inevitably, the reaction leads to things like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Universally, it’s a condition that can be limiting or potentially deadly in the case of severe asthma. Oral and inhaled medications are available for treatment and prevention, but there’s no cure.

This may not be news to you as an asthma patient, but you might be surprised at how CBD oil may improve your quality of life.

Mechanism

We all know asthma is a potentially deadly respiratory condition, but how does it work? According to the American Lung Association , asthma puts the lining of your airways into a “hypersensitive state.” Airways become red and swollen, much like how our skin reacts to sunburns.

Some known asthma triggers include:

  • Weather changes
  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Allergens
  • Chemicals
  • Smoke

While a trigger doesn’t necessarily lead to a life-threatening emergency, it likely will cause a “flare-up” or “asthma attack.”

While the airways inflame and constrict, surrounding muscles also tighten. In some cases, this can fully obstruct breathing. At this point, you’ll need urgent medical care.

Could CBD help with coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath during an asthma attack? Theoretically, yes, it could. There’s a lot of supporting evidence for CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory properties. Since inflammation is the driving mechanism during a flare-up, there’s a chance CBD may work.

But – not to sound like a broken record – we need more research.

Complications

If treated, patients can live fairly normal lives. However, if you fail to address the problem, asthma could cause a condition called “airway remodeling.”

According to the American Lung Association, ignoring asthma eventually leads to long-term or permanent damage. Eventually, these scars worsen and reduce the effectiveness of asthma medications.

How is Asthma Treated?

Fortunately for patients, there are many treatment options. The American Lung Association tells us medications available for both long-term preventative solutions and short-term immediate relief.

One option is an anti-inflammatory medication. Again, this function brings us back to CBD and its reported potential to reduce swelling.

Preventing Asthma Attacks

Since there’s no cure for asthma, your only options are treatment and prevention. Remember that ignoring it is the worst thing you can do, so don’t wait.

Prevention is the best treatment. Prescription medicines can be very effective, but avoiding triggers is also an excellent way to avoid flare-ups.

What Asthma Patients Say About CBD for Asthma

Not only are there success stories, but many are quite old. This shows CBD and asthma were on a lot of people’s minds.

For instance, a Reddit post four years ago by “DoxyRuby” says:

“Within 2 days [of vaping CBD], I went down to using my rescue inhaler once or twice a day. For the last three weeks, I’ve used it a total of 4 times – once when I went out into the cold winter air, and three times when I went somewhere that was dusty and had dogs (which I’m allergic to).”

Similarly, an unnamed Reddit user was surprised by the effectiveness of CBD capsules, saying:

“I was experimenting with CBD capsules (also targeting other aches and pains) and it seemed to reduce the frequency and intensity of flare-ups. So was ok on a lower dose preventative.”

Are There any Side Effects of Taking CBD for Asthma?

Yes, CBD has some commonly-known side effects, but they’re mild and often temporary. A 2017 study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research noticed the following CBD side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Diarrhea

CBD also interacts with certain medications, which could trigger other side effects. It’s important to verify with a doctor first, as the interference could be dangerous.

We’ll get into that next.

Can CBD Interfere with Any Asthma Medications?

Yes, CBD could interfere with some asthma medications, but we don’t have a full list.

As for asthma, the District of Colombia Department of Health mentions just one medication so far. They advise that smoking cannabis reduces the levels of theophylline. The drug prevents asthma flare-ups by relaxing the airways.

We have no information about whether CBD oil or any ingested CBD interacts with theophylline. Along with asthma, the drug treats lung illnesses like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The issue stems from CBD’s presence in the liver, which metabolizes CBD using the P450 liver enzyme family. Unfortunately, many medications do the same.

When forced to “share” the enzyme, CBD dilutes or increases the medication’s blood concentration. This problem could theoretically reduce or increase the effects of oral asthma medications.

Consequently, this can weaken the medicine’s benefits or trigger side effects. In a worst-case scenario, the contradiction could impact lung function.

How to Use CBD Oil for Asthma

It’s easy to use CBD oil for asthma. Dosing is a matter of slow titration, while you can easily measure your intake using a marked dropper.

Just hold the tincture under your tongue for 60-90 seconds (or as indicated on the label) and swallow.

But before you try cannabis oil for asthma, there’s some crucial information to keep in mind, including side effects, safety concerns, consumption methods, and dosing.

Do CBD Inhalers Help with Asthma?

Yes, it’s likely CBD inhalers help with asthma. Unsurprisingly, there don’t appear to be any human trials in something so specific. But the 2019 study mentioned earlier used inhalable CBD mist.

Again, the mist yielded promising results as a bronchodilator.

Is it Safe to Vape CBD with Asthma?

No, it’s not safe to vape CBD with asthma unless you fully understand your triggers. Some people immediately notice their airways relax from vaping CBD. However, if smoke exacerbates your asthma symptoms, inhaling CBD could cause a reaction.

It’s important to mention that cannabinoids vaporized in oil or e-liquid don’t generate smoke but rather a vapor aerosol. This could impact whether or not the CBD products trigger flare-ups.

Regardless, asthma patients shouldn’t vape or start using CBD until they speak with a doctor.

How much CBD to Take For Asthma

There’s no exact answer for a proper CBD dose for asthma. However, a 2017 study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that participants could consume up to 1,500 mg of CBD.

Unfortunately, we’re just as blind as they are in that area. We know that suddenly giving new users 1,500 mg of CBD isn’t the best approach. Again, CBD is biphasic, so it’s possible starting so high could hamstring cannabidiol’s effects.

Many factors influence dose, including:

  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Tolerance
  • Metabolism
  • Symptom severity

Make sure to read our blog post on CBD dosing to understand how CBD dosing works and how you can maximize your results.

Type of CBD

The CBD products you choose also influence dosing. There are three categories to choose from:

  • Full-spectrum : retains all cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Isolate: no cannabinoids or terpenes other than pure (up to 99%) CBD
  • Broad-spectrum : middle ground where only THC is filtered out

Isolate isn’t the best choice because it contains pure CBD without the other cannabinoids and terpenes to improve or focus the therapeutic effects. If you decide to use isolate, odds are you’ll need a lot more than its counterparts.

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum are reportedly better than isolate. Full-spectrum CBD oil doesn’t deliberately filter out other compounds. Consequently, it could contain up to 0.3% THC.

Broad-spectrum manages to retain everything else while completely removing THC.

Consumption Method

Using CBD for asthma is difficult since we know so little about its benefits or side effects. Vaping is fast-acting, but there are concerns about how it may trigger an asthma attack.

Oral CBD products are preferable, such as CBD oil or CBD gummies. They’re easier to dose than vaping, but you risk potential drug interactions.

How to Find Your Optimal CBD Dosage

You find your optimal CBD dosage through slow, steady increases. There’s some flexibility, but it’s best to use the lowest dose possible for the first few days, then gradually increasing as needed.

This “start low and go slow” method is meant to avoid taking too much CBD. Cannabidiol is biphasic, meaning it reaches a peak where additional CBD will reduce the effectiveness. Starting gradually not only prevents you from overshooting the “sweet spot,” but it also helps your body gradually adjust to CBD.

For more information, check out this dosage guide from Colorado Botanicals , including a handy dosage calculator to help pinpoint your dose in seconds.

Final Thoughts on CBD and Asthma

CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects on asthma need way more research. Theoretically, there could be potential. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely CBD for asthma will be at the forefront of medical research.

Hopefully, in time, we’ll discover enough information to help improve the lives of asthma patients everywhere.