Asthma: Information About the Condition, Symptoms, and Remedies
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Airways are tubes that carry air in & out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, & they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms.
The natural treatment of asthma focuses on several key principles: reducing allergic exposure, reducing the sensitivity and spasticity of the airways of the lungs, balancing the allergic/inflammatory pathways in the body, and correcting nutrient imbalances.Recent years have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding how medical marijuana or cannabis can be beneficial for treating Asthma.
Symptoms of Asthma include:
- Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.
When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it’s called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.
Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.
Reducing exposure to airborne allergens is to determine what the individual is reacting to. There are two basic options to determine this: skin allergy testing (which is done by an allergist) and blood allergy testing (which can be done by most physicians). Once the allergic triggers have been identified, a plan should be developed to reduce exposure to those allergens. Dust mites, for example, can be found in especially high numbers in carpets and bedding. These items can be removed, treated, or covered to reduce dust mite populations. Air filters can be an effective way to remove allergens from the air as well. Both HEPA and ionizing air purifiers work well, but ionization units should be chosen carefully for low ozone output, which is itself an irritant.
Food allergies are very common in people with asthma, especially when the asthma starts early in life. A 1981 study of 284 asthmatic children found food sensitivities in 75% of them, and other studies have identified food allergy as the sole cause of asthma in up to 40% of adults. Dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, citrus, peanuts, and chocolate are some of the most common offenders, although any food can be a potential allergen.
Many people with asthma don’t produce enough stomach acid, a condition which can lead to food allergies and decreased nutrient absorption. A 1931 study found that 80% of asthmatic children produce insufficient amounts of stomach acid. This problem can be corrected with hydrochloric acid supplements.
Reducing the spasticity of the airway is also an important goal. Magnesium is well known for its ability to relieve muscle spasm, and this includes the muscles that surround the airways of the lung. Green tea and the herbal medicine Lobelia are also effective bronchodilators.
Balancing the allergic/inflammatory pathways in the body is also very important. Omega-3 oils, which are found in fish and flax seeds, can be an effective way to do this. One study found that children who eat fish more than once per week have one third the risk of developing asthma as those who don’t eat fish regularly. Avoiding tartrazine dyes (found in many artificial colorings), preservatives, aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is also important as these substances promote the production of leukotrienes, potent inflammatory substances involved in asthma.
Nutrients that are important in the treatment of asthma include vitamins C, B6, and B12, and the minerals selenium and molybdenum. There have been 11 clinical studies since 1973 that have studied the use of vitamin C in the treatment of asthma, seven of which showed significant improvement. Vitamin B12 and molybdenum both act to reduce sensitivity to sulfites, a common ingredient of restaurant foods that aggravates asthma in an estimated 5-10% of sufferers.
Hyperventilation & Marijuana Information: Treat Hyperventilation With Cannabis
Hyperventilation is a condition in which you suddenly start to breathe very quickly. Healthy breathing occurs with a healthy balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. You upset this balance when you hyperventilate by exhaling more than you inhale. This causes a rapid reduction in carbon dioxide in the body.
Low carbon dioxide levels eventually lead to narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This reduction in blood supply to the brain leads to symptoms like lightheadedness and tingling in the fingers. Severe hyperventilation can lead to loss of consciousness.
For some people, hyperventilation is rare, and only occurs as an occasional, panicked response to fear, stress, or a phobia. For others, this condition occurs regularly as a typical response to emotional states, such as depression, anxiety, or anger. When hyperventilation is a frequent occurrence, it’s known as hyperventilation syndrome.
Hyperventilation can also be caused by the following:
- The use of stimulants
- Drug overdose (aspirin overdose, for example)
- Severe pain
- An infection in the lungs
- Lung diseases, such as asthma or COPD
- Heart conditions, such as a heart attack
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis (a complication of high blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes)
Are Cannabinoids as Effective as Albuterol? Treating Asthma, Marijuana Vs. Albuterol!
Are Cannabinoids as Effective as Albuterol for Treating Asthma?
Several AEA and THC Bronchodilator Studies Say Yes
Ongoing research is proving cannabis-based medications effective for safely treating a wide spectrum of medical conditions. The plant’s effectiveness has even inspired Dr. Donald I. Abrams, a cancer specialist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Mount Zion, to claim that “if marijuana were discovered in the Amazon today, it’d be front-page news worldwide—a miracle drug.” At United Patients Group, we curate the news about cannabis-based medicines to make it easier for patients to understand and benefit from this so-called “miracle drug.” In this post, we explore the subject of cannabis as a bronchodilator, which some suggest could make it an alternative to Albuterol.
What Is Allergic Asthma?
Let’s first examine the problem: Asthma. People who suffer from asthma experience difficulty breathing, which can be very dangerous. Allergies are the most common cause of asthma. Nine out of ten children with asthma have allergies, compared with about half of adults with asthma. Allergens—substances that trigger an allergic reaction, such as pollen, dust mites, and mold—trigger our immune system into responding as if it were under attack from bacteria or viruses. Our noses run, our eyes itch, and we sneeze as our bodies work to remove the allergen. Our bodies also produce chemicals called IgE antibodies that cause the release of chemicals like histamine, which in turn causes swelling and inflammation.
Treatment for allergic asthma often includes the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators that relax constricted muscles around and decrease sensitivity in the airway.
So what does this have to do with cannabis? And, seriously—is anyone really suggesting patients should smoke pot to help them breathe better? How is that even possible? We’ve all seen people violently cough after taking a hit off a joint or bong. Incredible as it might seem, scientists have found that while marijuana—like cigarettes—contains combustible compounds that induce bronchospasms, or coughing, it also contains compounds that inhibit (reduce) coughing.
Let’s start our review of the research by examining a joint exerting a dual effect on bronchial responsiveness. The researchers observed that when the muscles in the lungs were constricted by an irritant (capsaicin), AEA relaxed the smooth muscles and strongly inhibited coughing. But when the airways were relaxed (by removing the constricting effect of the vagus nerve), AEA caused a coughing spasm.
The good news is that THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, has similar effects on our bodies to AEA, including the way they both regulate our respiratory system. Research goes back at least four decades. In a 1975 article titled “Effects of Smoked Marijuana in Experimentally Induced Asthma” in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Donald P. Tashkin, MD, Professor of Pulmonary Care at the University of California, Los Angeles, summarized the effectiveness of THC on asthma:
After exercise induced bronchospasm (asthma), placebo marijuana and saline were followed by gradual recovery during 30 to 60 min, whereas 2.0 per cent marijuana…caused an immediate reversal of exercise-induced asthma and hyperinflation.
A year later, in a 1976 study where cannabis smoke reversed experimentally induced bronchospasm in three asthmatic subjects, researchers compared a THC aerosol containing 0.2 mg THC with a salbutamol aerosol (0.1 mg) in 10 asthmatic subjects and found that both drugs significantly improved respiratory function. Salbutamol started working more quickly than THC, but their effects were equivalent an hour later.
“We think that by targeting cannabinoid receptors in the upper airways we can control coughs in a number of conditions. …That’s important because most treatments currently available basically act on the brain cough center, a small region of the brain that is the target for codeine and similar drugs.”
AEA and “Runner’s High”
Interestingly, THC and AEA both do more than just regulate our respiratory systems—they also seem to induce a sense of euphoria. A 2004 study determined that AEA, not dopamine, is responsible for the euphoria known as a “runners high” that athletes experience when they exert themselves. The study’s lead investigator, Arne Dietrich, concluded that our bodies release cannabinoids to help them cope with the sustained strain of moderate or intense exercise. Dopamine as the source of a pleasurable “runner’s high” has been ruled out in other studies that involved the use of dopamine blockers on athletes, who still experienced euphoria when strenuously running or cycling.
Suggested Forms of Administration of Cannabis to Treat Asthma
As mentioned earlier, although cannabis exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic actions, cannabis smoke also contains combustion products—many of which are known carcinogens—similar to those found in tobacco smoke. For those suffering from respiratory disease, inhalation of these combustion products can be avoided by taking cannabis through other forms of administration.
For that reason, many doctors recommend vaporizing over smoking, and some suggest a combination of oral administration of cannabis and an on-demand inhaled medication to mitigate acute asthma attacks.
For more information of how cannabis can treat asthma, please consult with a doctor who is qualified to treat your medical conditions and understands cannabis-based medications.