Although the acronym COPD may not sound like a familiar health condition, it’s the third most common cause of death by disease in the USA. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affects more than 15.3 million Americans, deteriorating the quality of life and shortening lifespan.
While doctors consider COPD incurable, researchers are analyzing the efficacy of several potential treatment methods that can help patients manage their symptoms on top of introducing necessary lifestyle changes.
There’s some evidence that supports the health benefits of CBD oil for COPD. There’s a link between CBD use and bronchodilatory effects; CBD also reduces stress and anxiety on top of providing pain relief and higher levels of oxygen. All these qualities show promise in treating a range of lung diseases, including COPD.
What Is COPD?
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As a progressive lung condition, it makes breathing increasingly difficult for patients over time. COPD stems from inflammation in the lungs, which causes swelling and thickening of the airways. It also limits the oxygen exchange in the lung tissue, leading to compromised airflow in and out of the lungs. It also causes problems with removing carbon dioxide.
Breathing difficulty is the telltale symptom of COPD. Having problems with oxygen exchange makes it difficult to stay active, work productively, and live a happy life.
When you’re exposed to irritants on a regular basis, they may harm the lungs and airways, spurring the onset of COPD. Smoking is the most common irritant, which places tobacco smokers in a high-risk group for developing the condition.
However, a nonsmoker can have COPD too. There are additional risk factors, such as toxins, secondhand smoke, or other contaminants, such as radiation or air pollution. Some people are genetically predisposed to this ailment due to a rare mutation known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
When untreated, COPD can wreak havoc on your health, causing lung infections from low levels of oxygen in the circulatory system.
The Symptoms and Diagnosis of COPD
There are a few symptoms that may indicate the onset of COPD. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should talk to your doctor:
- Chronic cough
- Chest tightness
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Blue lips (cyanosis)
- Lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Mucus buildup that doesn’t go away for at least three months
- Swelling in ankles, legs, or feet
In order to get a COPD diagnosis, you must have the following:
- Blocked Airflow – a symptom usually deteriorating over time. It involves reduced airflow in and out of the lungs, similar to how asthma works.
- Chronic Bronchitis – this name refers to a cough that causes mucus or phlegm to build up in the lungs. If the cough doesn’t disappear after three months in two consecutive years, it increases the risk of lung infections.
- Emphysema – people with emphysema have permanently enlarged lungs as a result of the destructive impact of the disease on the walls of the air sacs.
Lung function tests are often performed to determine if a person has COPD — these tests are called spirometry.
Spirometry is a simple breathing test that may be able to diagnose COPD and define its stage. You take a deep breath and blow hard into the mouthpiece of a device known as a spirometer. Then you inhale medicine that opens up the lung airways — blowing the tube for the second time.
Spirometry defines two parameters:
- Forced expiratory volume (FEV) – how much of the air you breathe in comes out during the first second.
- Forced vital capacity (FVC) – how much air you breathe out overall
The doctor will use these two figures to create a third number that informs you about your lung function. If you score below 70%, you have COPD.
There are also a few other tests that thoroughly examine different stages of this condition:
- Alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt) deficiency test
- 6-minute walk test
- Analysis of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood
- Chest X-ray or CT
Treatment Options for COPD
While COPD cannot be cured, it’s important to remember that you can take certain steps to slow down its progression and minimize the negative impact it has on your health. Once you’ve done too much damage to the lungs, you may not be able to bring them back to their full health and function, so it’s paramount to act as fast as you can once you’ve received a COPD diagnosis.
Here are some of the most common treatment options for people with COPD:
- Ditching smoking to save the lungs from further damage
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Oral or inhaled bronchodilators
The majority of COPD cases require patients to use several different measures to manage the condition. On top of introducing the above treatments, it’s recommended to take some necessary lifestyle changes. Your doctor and dietician are the best people to talk about COPD treatment, but it’s always a good idea to do your own digging.
Does CBD Oil Help with COPD?
COPD therapies are aimed at stopping the progression of the disease and to enhance lung function. Many people get great results using a combination of oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. However, symptoms like lung inflammation and airway swelling are where the true problems begin.
That’s where CBD could help.
Although the research into the health benefits specifically for COPD is scarce, CBD has been highlighted as a potent anti-inflammatory in numerous studies. It also has anti-microbial properties and can regulate the body’s internal balance (homeostasis) through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a complex cell signaling network in the body that regulates the functioning of the other organ systems, including the immune system, digestive system, and central nervous system. Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are spread throughout the body and are responsible for the physiological and psychological effects of plant-based cannabinoids such as CBD.
The activation of CB2 receptors triggers a variety of effects, from anti-inflammatory responses to pain relief. CBD is said to have similar anti-inflammatory benefits for COPD to a newly invented drug called roflumilast. I
Here’s everything you need to know.
Medical Studies on CBD for COPD
- A 2015 study conducted on mice analyzed the effects of CBD on the mice subjected to LPS-induced acute lung injury. The results showed that — 24 hours after administration —total lung resistance and elastance was decreased along with lowered levels of proinflammatory cytokines. The authors concluded that CBD has remarkable anti-inflammatory effects and could be used to improve lung function in patients with lung diseases (1).
- Another study performed on guinea pigs in 2014 shed more light on this subject, providing evidence that cannabis compounds can inflammation, cough, and improve lung function in the subjects (2).
- The authors of a 2014 review of the existing studies on CBD and lung diseases stated that “The present and previous data suggest that in the future, cannabidiol might become a useful therapeutic agent for the attenuation and treatment of inflammatory lung diseases,” suggesting cannabidiol’s effectiveness in treating COPD (3).
- According to a 2016 literature review, cannabinoids act as bronchodilators, meaning they’re able to open up the lung airways and facilitate normal breathing. People with emphysema may find these properties very useful for treating COPD. Emphysema is a respiratory condition that causes breathing difficulties. It destroys the walls of the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs that make it possible to absorb oxygen through the blood (4).
How to Use CBD Oil for COPD?
Since the legalization of hemp in 2018, the popularity of CBD products has skyrocketed. CBD oil — also known as CBD drops — is the most common product used for COPD. It ensures a relatively fast onset and long duration of effects, with higher bioavailability than oral forms. Oral products, such as gummies and traditional oil capsules, are better suited for on-the-go users who don’t want any guesswork involved in dosing. This form of CBD takes a bit longer to kick in — between 40–90 minutes — but the effects last longer than with oils. Finally, you can use topical products for localized relief (e.g. chest pain). Vapes are another popular way to consume CBD due to their high bioavailability and the fastest onset of effects. However, vaping may raise understandable concerns for COPD sufferers.
Should You Even Consider Vaping CBD for COPD?
Only a few studies have investigated the impact of vaporization on lung health. However, most of these studies have looked into the safety of vaporized versus smoked cannabis when it comes to heart disease and lung cancer. None of them analyzed the safety and risks of vaping CBD oil for COPD.
With that in mind, it’s better to choose other consumption methods, such as oils, capsules, or edibles. In fact, any route of administration that doesn’t require you to inhale the CBD is more favorable for COPD.
Will a CBD Vape Pen Negatively Affect My COPD?
There is not enough research to definitely say if vaping products contribute to COPD like smoking cigarettes. Initial studies, however, suggest there’s a link between vaping and COPD. That’s why health agencies recommend that people abstain from CBD vape pens if they want to manage the condition successfully.
CBD Dosage for COPD
Due to the limitations in the research, there are no dosage recommendations when it comes to taking CBD for COPD. Cannabidiol is a highly versatile compound, but dosing requires a good understanding of the factors involved in the process.
Another reason why dosing CBD for COPD seems challenging is that different products contain different concentrations of CBD. For example, the potency of CBD oils may range from 100 mg to 1,500 mg of CBD per bottle. That’s why these products come with droppers; a glass dropper with a scale allows for easy and precise dosing. If you want to save yourself the guesswork at the cost of some bioavailability and delayed onset, you can choose CBD capsules or gummies. These products contain a fixed amount of CBD in each serving.
Most of the time, you’ll need to go through some trial and error. Even if CBD doesn’t mitigate all of your COPD symptoms, there’s a chance that your body will experience some other health benefits, such as better stress management, healthier sleep, and less pain.
We recommend that you start at low doses and gradually work your way up to the point where you experience the desired effects. Once there, you can lock in at that dosage, as people don’t build a tolerance to CBD.
Safety and Side Effects
It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking CBD. Despite being a natural and safe substance, CBD carries a risk of potential drug interactions. If your lungs are already weak from the damage caused by COPD, you may be more vulnerable to these interactions and the side effects of CBD.
Common unwanted reactions to CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Appetite changes
- A temporary drop in blood pressure
Again, a consultation with a doctor experienced in cannabis use will help you determine the right dosage for your situation and avoid the aforementioned interactions with other medications. Research your potential suppliers to find out where they source their hemp from, and whether or not they provide Certificates of Analysis from third-party lab testing.
Other Natural Remedies for COPD
The following natural solutions and can help people with COPD manage their symptoms and slow the progression of the disease in a safe way:
- Quit smoking – Smoking is the major cause of COPD in the United States. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways within the lungs, causing inflammation and making them narrow. According to a recent review, COPD patients who smoke cigarettes have a more rapid decline in lung health, with an increased risk of mortality. Going cold turkey is the most effective way to slow disease progression (5).
- Taking care of air quality at home – common irritants, such as paints, dust, pesticides, pet dander, and lingering smoke, can worsen your COPD symptoms. If you want to improve the quality of the air in your household, open windows regularly, use an air filtration system, and steer clear of harsh household chemicals.
- Practice breathing exercises – a 2012 Cochrane systematic review found that people who used breathing exercises experienced improved exercise tolerance. This means breathing exercises may help patients with COPD who have difficulty working out (6).
- Manage stress – One study found that people with COPD also suffer from anxiety and depression (7). Emotional stress may compromise the immune system, increasing the risk of lung infections. People who practice mindfulness demonstrate a better respiratory rate than those who give in to distractors.
- Maintain a healthy weight — although researchers have yet to determine the impact of obesity on COPD outlook, there is evidence that people with COPD who are underweight have a higher risk of mortality. Low weight can lead to weakness in the breathing muscles and reduce lung capacity. According to a recent review, a balanced, nutritious diet can help people with COPD by providing benefits for metabolism and the heart (8).
- Engage in water-based exercise — COPD is often accompanied by muscle or bone conditions that make it difficult to exercise. Water activity puts less burden on the body, making COPD easier and more manageable for people with the condition.
Final Verdict: Can You Manage COPD with CBD Oil?
Since there is no cure for COPD, CBD oil will not heal you out of it. It’s possible that CBD will reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and help you deal with respiratory issues associated with the disease — but it’s not a magic pill.
Remember that the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD extracts, so it’s paramount to do your research before handing out your hard-earned money to anyone on the Internet. Check for the hemp source, ask for third-party lab reports, and most of all, don’t fall into the trap of buying cheap CBD oils or miracle cures from fly-by-night vendors.
- Ribeiro, A et al. “Cannabidiol improves lung function and inflammation in mice submitted to LPS-induced acute lung injury.” Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology vol. 37,1 (2015): 35-41. doi:10.3109/08923973.2014.976794
- Makwana, Raj et al. “The effect of phytocannabinoids on airway hyper-responsiveness, airway inflammation, and cough.” The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics vol. 353,1 (2015): 169-80. doi:10.1124/jpet.114.221283
- Ribeiro, A et al. “ Op. Cit.
- Ribeiro, Luis Ig, and Philip W Ind. “Effect of cannabis smoking on lung function and respiratory symptoms: a structured literature review.” NPJ primary care respiratory medicine vol. 26 16071. 20 Oct. 2016, doi:10.1038/npjpcrm.2016.71
- Tamimi, Asad et al. “The effects of cigarette smoke on airway inflammation in asthma and COPD: therapeutic implications.” Respiratory medicine vol. 106,3 (2012): 319-28. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2011.11.003
- Holland, Anne E et al. “Breathing exercises for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 10 CD008250. 17 Oct. 2012, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008250.pub2
- Singh, Gurinder et al. “Association of Psychological Disorders With 30-Day Readmission Rates in Patients With COPD.” Chest vol. 149,4 (2016): 905-15. doi:10.1378/chest.15-0449
- Guo, Yibin et al. “Body mass index and mortality in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A dose-response meta-analysis.” Medicine vol. 95,28 (2016): e4225. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000004225