Affecting millions of Americans, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases that obstruct airflow from the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. The term COPD typically includes two main progressive lung conditions – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. While there’s no cure for the disease as of yet, treatments and lifestyle changes can help slow the progress of the disease and relieve symptoms. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids, specifically cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have anti-inflammatory properties that may potentially help treat COPD.
While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, about one in four of those with the disease have never smoked. Exposure to lung irritants, such as dusts, air pollution, or chemical fumes, can also increase risk. In some cases, a rare genetic condition can cause the disease. With COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways, either because the airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality, the walls or airways become thick and inflamed, the airways get clogged with mucous, or the walls between air sacs get destroyed.
Cannabinoids — natural compounds extracted from the seeds and stalks of cannabis plants like hemp — have demonstrated in multiple studies to effectively reduce inflammation. Cannabinoids like CBD And THC interact with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid receptors. Activating these receptors helps the endocannabinoid system regulate inflammation, suggesting that cannabinoids may potentially be useful for helping manage inflamed airways in those with COPD.
One animal study found that CBD specifically had a potent anti-inflammatory effect and was effective at improving lung function, indicating the non-psychoactive compound could be a useful therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory lung diseases. Another study found CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties to help in the recovery of acute lung injury.
Cannabinoids have also shown to have bronchodilatory effects, which helps to open up the airways to improve airflow to the lungs. Activating cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) helps dilate bronchial tubes by inhibiting contraction of the smooth muscle surrounding the lungs.