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Can CBD Help to Treat COPD?

Posted by Lewis Olden on
Can CBD Help to Treat COPD?

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the most common respiratory order in the world. In the United States alone, it is the third primary cause of death. While there is no currently known cure for COPD, there are existing treatments that can mitigate symptoms, but these often come with adverse side effects.

So, can CBD offer an alternative solution?

What is COPD?

COPD is shorthand for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is the name given to a group of lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties. COPD includes emphysema which causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is encompassed within COPD and is the long-term inflammation of the airways. 

COPD is commonly occurring in smokers of middle age and the elderly. There are many people who do not even realise that they are suffering from COPD. When a patient is suffering from COPD, breathing problems tend to get increasingly worse and can even limit your daily activity.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation of cannabidiol and is an organic compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD has some of the medicinal benefits of cannabis but without the psychoactive effects. This is because it is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that causes users of cannabis to experience psychoactive effects. CBD does not cause any psychoactive effects and does not get you high. 

Can CBD be used to treat COPD?

Many people believe that using CBD regularly can help open up the bronchial passages, which enables you to breathe more easily.

There were studies undertaken over 40 years ago that found that smoking cannabis dilated the lungs making it easier for asthmatics to breathe. However, there is still so much research that needs to be conducted to provide evidence of CBD being a viable treatment for COPD.

A small randomised controlled trial of 18 participants with severe COPD did not indicate that vaporised THC made a meaningful difference in breathlessness or endurance during exercise due to the airways being more dilated.

There is currently no cure for COPD, so managing the symptoms is crucial if a patient is to ensure that their life is not severely impacted.

CBD exerts its positive effects by activating the endocannabinoid system and the endocannabinoid system modulates numerous functions throughout the body to provide a sustained balance and a promotion of well-being. Cannabinoids such as CBD and CBG, interact with the endocannabinoid system through CB1 & CB2 cannabinoid receptors which then activate specific bodily responses.

Can THC be used to treat COPD?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the dominant psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant and is responsible for producing the ‘high’ typically associated with cannabis consumption in popular culture.

THC has been used in a handful of studies, although, as referenced above, typically in conjunction with CBD. However, the potential side effects of THC are far more severe than that of CBD and can include memory loss, anxiety and increased heart rate.

Less is known about THC and the prevalence of its side effects when compared to CBD. As a result, it is not typically recommended to use THC for COPD treatment until further research is conducted. 

What does the research say?

Unfortunately, there are very few robust human studies that specifically investigate the links between CBD and COPD. That said, several animal studies have shown promising results which suggest that CBD may be effective in combatting certain symptoms related to COPD.

For example, a 2015 study conducted in Brazil, found that CBD could improve the airways of mice that were suffering with Acute Lung Injury (ALI). Observations revealed that the day after CBD intake, lung functioning was improved, and inflammation-causing substances were reduced. While limited to mice, the results were promising an indicate the therapeutic potential of CBD when it comes to treating inflammatory lung diseases.

A 2013 study published in the medical journal Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics provided similarly promising results. The study revealed that CBD inhibited airway obstruction in allergic guinea pigs. After being administered with substances and allergens that narrowed their airways, it was clear that CBD dramatically enhanced their quality of life.

Finally, there was a recent study looking into CBD, airway inflammation and scarring caused by asthma in mice. This was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology and revealed that CBD could not only reduce inflammatory processes, but also improve the capacity of the lungs to inflate.

So, while definitive conclusions cannot be drawn between CBD and COPD, there are very promising signs that suggest there is a therapeutic potential. The next steps with regards to research is the progression towards human studies.

What CBD dosage should be taken for COPD?

As mentioned on several occasions already in this article, there is a distinct lack of research into direct links between CBD and COPD. Consequently, dosage suggestions are currently unclear.

The safest bet is to just follow the standard dosing rule when it comes to CBD. That is to start of small and incrementally increase your dosage until you feel that you have found the optimum amount. 

CBD side effects are minimal, but if you are concerned then you can always speak to your doctor before beginning consumption in order to take onboard some professional advice.

What are the side effects of using CBD for COPD?

It is well documented that CBD side effects are not only extremely low in prevalence, but also fairly benign. They are certainly less severe than those associated with existing steroidal treatments for COPD.

The most common side effects of CBD however, include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Minor headaches
  • Changes in appetite

It is also strongly recommended to avoid vaping CBD when it comes to treating COPD. This is because there is a lack of research into vaping in general and it can often exacerbate breathing issues.

The Pros of Using CBD for COPD 

  1. CBD has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and the swelling of airways in the lungs.
  2. CBD can have a therapeutic benefit and increase lung capacity.
  3. CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects and a very limited of minor side effects. 

The Cons of Using CBD for COPD 

  1. Many of the studies investigating the relationship between breathing and CBD have been conducted on animals rather than humans.
  2. There is still a very limited amount of research that has been conducted on CBD at a clinical level.
  3. The regulatory environment surrounding cannabis is confusing.


CBD is certainly worth trying for anyone who is suffering from COPD. The potential to enact a decrease in inflammation may make it easier to breathe and make the symptoms of COPD less severe.

While research still needs to be improved and translated into human settings, the initial results from animal studies into respiratory disorders show great promise.

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