If you live with COPD, you may have already heard some of the claims about treating the condition with CBD.
Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is an organic compound found in the cannabis plant. It contains some of the medicinal compounds of cannabis, but without the psychoactive component that causes you to feel “stoned” or high.
In some early trials done on animals, CBD has been shown to be somewhat promising to treat some symptoms of COPD, such as airway inflammation and coughing.
It’s not completely understood how well COPD might (or might not) work for treating COPD. Let’s take a look at what the research says about how effective CBD might be for treating COPD.
Those who claim that CBD is an effective treatment for COPD tend to believe that CBD can open up your bronchial passages, helping you to breathe easier.
And there’s reason to believe that this is true. Studies from over 40 years ago strongly suggested that smoking marijuana dilated the lungs, helping make breathing easier for some people with asthma.
But what we don’t know still far outweighs what we do know. A small 2018 randomized controlled trial of 18 participants with advanced COPD didn’t indicate that using mainly vaporized THC made any meaningful difference in endurance or breathlessness during exercise as a result of airway dilation.
In an even smaller 2011 study, participants were given either cannabidiol and THC oil or a placebo to see if it helped with the symptom of breathlessness. It didn’t appear to.
But participants who were given the CBD/THC combination were less likely to feel “air hunger,” or have complaints of not being able to breathe, in follow-up observations.
There are also some animal trials worth considering. In a 2014 animal study, mice with acute lung injuries experienced reduced inflammation and improved lung function. But this doesn’t tell us much about whether CBD is an effective, long-term treatment for the symptoms of COPD in humans.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the extract of the cannabis plant that contains psychoactive properties.
While CBD products are typically used to relieve pain and can’t produce the feeling of being “high,” THC can produce that feeling. And while CBD is often used as a therapeutic and is widely considered safe for ongoing use for most people, THC usage is not as widespread or accepted.
As mentioned above, THC has been used in at least one study of how CBD affects lung function for people with COPD. But THC also has side effects that CBD does not, such as increased heart rate, memory loss, and anxiety.
Because these THC side effects may be less predictable or harder to control, it’s not typically recommended that you use products containing THC for COPD until further research indicates that it’s effective or safe.
Even though research doesn’t definitively link CBD to any benefits for people with COPD, it may still be safe to incorporate CBD into your lifestyle, especially for other symptoms.
Here are some different options for taking CBD. However, take note that not all of them are safe for use with COPD.
CBD oil is one of the most popular ways that people take CBD to treat their COPD.
You can diffuse CBD oil through a diffuser in your home, which has minimal side effects. But it can be hard to control the dosage.
Some people also apply CBD oil topically to the neck and chest as a way of soothing COPD symptoms. The only current evidence that this works is purely anecdotal.
You may also inhale CBD oil through a vape pen or other vaping device. This can produce a feeling of relaxation while delivering CBD directly into your bloodstream and your lungs.
Keep in mind that vaping itself does have side effects. Vaping can also cause lung irritation and inflammation due to the inhalation of hot vapor that may contain other potentially harmful substances. Vaping CBD oil might not necessarily have benefits that outweigh the possible harm, especially if you have COPD.
Look for products that have a certificate of authenticity so you know that you’re getting a clean product, and avoid vapes that have any additives.
You may also consume CBD through gummies, food products, or food-grade CBD oil.
Consuming CBD means that it can take some time for the effects of the CBD to actually kick in. It can also take a while for you to figure out how much CBD you need to consume in order to feel the effects and manage COPD symptoms.
Once again, any evidence that you can consume any kind of CBD product for COPD is purely anecdotal.
Some people smoke cannabis as a way of accessing the benefits of CBD and THC.
It’s possible that this does relieve some symptoms of COPD for some people in some cases. But smoking cannabis can also inflame and irritate your lungs.
A small 2016 research review showed that smoking cannabis caused an increase in lung symptoms in 8 out of 9 studies, which can sometimes worsen COPD symptoms or your long-term outlook.
Talk with a doctor before considering using CBD to treat COPD.
Your doctor may be able to tell you whether CBD is safe for you to use, especially if you have any other conditions or symptoms that CBD might worsen.
Your doctor may also be able to help you get a medical marijuana card. In some states, this allows you purchase CBD products for medical use at a lower price and from a wider selection of shops.
Next, you may first want to look into your current state laws about CBD use. Some states require the use of a medical marijuana card for people who use CBD, with no option to purchase CBD legally for recreational use.
To buy CBD legally (and safely), keep these tips in mind:
- You’ll need to verify your age. Most retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or online, will also ask for age verification. In most states where CBD is legal, you’ll need to be 18, but in others, you may need to be 21.
- Verify that the products you are using have been vetted and are safe to consume. CBD products being sold in grocery stores or chain retail settings may make unsubstantiated claims about their efficacy, but contain only trace amounts of CBD (or none at all). Research the products that you are considering and look into third-party studies that prove out their claims.
- Find manufacturers, sellers, or retailers you can trust. Don’t try CBD products on a whim without researching them first. Many trustworthy and well-regulated manufacturers make a wide range of products, so find a credible seller (or a few) and stick with them to avoid exposing yourself to new or untested products.
- Avoid hempseed oil and Cannabis sativa seed oil, as neither contain active CBD. Look for products that contain the ingredients hemp oil, full-spectrum CBD, or cannabidiol.
There are currently no dosage or usage recommendations for using CBD to treat COPD. That’s because the research is largely preliminary and, in some cases, inconclusive.
If you have COPD, speak with a doctor before you start any treatment regimen and get sound advice about what will work best for you given your symptoms, overall health, and other lifestyle factors.
The use of CBD can cause side effects that can vary according to your method of use. CBD affects everyone differently, so it’s hard to predict exactly what side effects you’ll experience (if any at all).
Common side effects from using CBD in any form may include:
- fatigue or lethargy
- changes in your appetite
- dry mouth
If you have COPD and choose to smoke or vape CBD oil, you may notice that your lungs feel raw or swollen. You may feel like your symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest tightness, feel triggered or aggravated.
It is possible that CBD can be used to treat symptoms of COPD. But most research about its efficacy for COPD is either preliminary or inconclusive.
There are also side effects of using CBD that may outweigh the benefits, especially if you are a person who already has lung inflammation as the result of COPD.
Speak with a doctor about whether or not CBD is a realistic treatment option to manage your COPD symptoms.