Is Cannabis a Good Option for Treating Asthma?

This might sound weird and ridiculous but contrary to popular opinion, cannabis can help asthma sufferers in many ways.

I couldn’t believe it myself when I first started researching this topic, but, as it seems, compounds found in cannabis can relieve certain acute and life-threatening symptoms of asthma.

When you think about cannabis, I bet the first thing that pops into your mind is smoking a joint.

Of course, smoking is most often associated with various adverse effects on our lungs, but there are many other healthier ways of administering cannabis.

For example, you could make delicious THC gummy bears and lollipops.

As I found out, cannabis and asthma have a three-millennia long relationship.

Around 1200 BC, ancient Egyptians used the herb to treat many conditions, including asthma.

French writer Marcel Proust used cannabis regularly to manage asthma symptoms, often referring to cannabis as “anti-asthma cigarettes”. (1)

More recently, and not so long ago, before cannabis was demonized and pushed into illegality, cannabis was used as a cough medication:

In the early 1920s, medical practitioners were allowed to prescribe cannabis, which resulted in tinctures being one of the preferred additions to cough medicines—since they didn’t make patients depressed and constipated (as morphine did). (2)

Cannabis prohibition started soon after, and the tobacco industry expanded to unimaginable heights.

When the lung cancer-tobacco link was discovered, smoking (especially weed) started being labeled as very dangerous for everyone, even more so for people suffering from respiratory diseases.

Recently, thanks to new clinical research, the link between cannabis and asthma was inspected in greater detail.

In this article we’ll investigate the science behind using cannabis with asthma, patients’ experiences with the plant and the best methods to get medicated if you’re suffering from asthma.

Quick introduction to asthma

Asthma is a chronic, long-term inflammatory disease of the lungs, which affects the airways.

Genetics usually play a major role in developing this condition, but a lot of things can irritate the airways and trigger an asthma attack, like:

  • Air pollution,
  • Different allergens (like pollen or dust),
  • Exercise,
  • Smoking (especially cigarettes),
  • Respiratory infections (flu or cold),
  • Some medications (such as aspirin),
  • Strong emotions (stress and even laughing),
  • Changes in temperature or humidity (even the cold air).

All those stimulants cause obstructions and spasms in the irritated and sensitive airways. And that’s when the symptoms start to appear:

  • Coughing (especially in the morning and during the night),
  • Shortness of breath,
  • Chest tightness and pain,
  • Wheezing.

Depending on the individual, asthma attacks can occur a few times a day or a few times per week.

The disease affects people of any age, but usually, the first symptoms start to occur in early childhood.

Interestingly enough, boys are more likely to develop asthma than girls, but adult women are more prone to getting asthma than adult men. (9)

Also, young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than older adults.

Because of all the pollution in the air and an ever-growing variety of allergens, it’s no wonder that the number of asthma sufferers is on the rise since the ‘60s, increasing by 15% in the last decade.

Sadly, there is no permanent cure for this condition, but there are a few types of treatments to keep it under control.

Usually, asthmatics have an inhaler with them at all times, because an asthma attack can happen just about anytime.

There are two types of inhalers, preventers and relievers.

Logically, preventers are used regularly in order to prevent the airways from becoming sensitive.  Reliever inhalers are used to control the acute symptoms when an asthma attack happens.

Usually, if patients avoid things that trigger their symptoms and take their medications regularly, keeping the condition under control is not an issue.

However, asthma is persistent and can be very frustrating and exhausting. Conventional medications are not so perfect for the health in general since they contain steroids and immunomodulators with a lot of side effects.

That’s why many patients are looking for a more durable and less-harmful solution.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease. There’s is no permanent cure for it, only a few types of treatments to keep the condition under control.

My question is how does cannabis compare to mainstream pharmaceuticals used for treating asthma?

The research on cannabis use in asthma patients

Exclusive bonusDownload a free dosage guide that will show you the exact step-by-step process Dr. Dustin Sulak used to successfully treat more than 18,000 patients with cannabis.

Discovering the link between cannabis and asthma started back in 1975 with one small and very simple research.

A group of researchers led by Dr. Donald Tashkin artificially induced bronchial spasms in eight “clinically stable” asthma patients, focusing on the behavior of their airways.

In different sessions, spasms were induced through methacholine inhalation and by aerobic exercise.

Patients were then administered either placebo or actual cannabis with 2% of THC.

Placebo subjects recovered from bronchial spasms in 30 to 60 minutes, on average. Subjects who were given 2% THC cannabis were relieved from spasms almost immediately. (3)

This was a revolutionary discovery at the time with all the stigma around cannabis and smoking with asthma.

In March 1985, a 20-year-long study was initiated and it concluded that moderate cannabis smokers who were diagnosed with asthma improved their lung function without suffering the lung damage, when compared to cigarette smokers. (4)

With all these anecdotes circling around about cannabis stopping asthma attacks, it was obvious that the time had come to prove that cannabis is a bronchodilator.

In a 2014 study, researchers isolated bronchi samples from 88 participants, both from healthy subjects and asthma patients. They induced bronchial spasms by electrical stimulation and then administered THC as well as some other, synthetic cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids (THC to be precise), activated CB1 receptors, which stopped the spasms and dilated the organs. (5)

In layman terms, the most psychoactive substance in cannabis expanded the airways, making it easier for air to get into the lungs.

At that time it was obvious—compounds found in cannabis can quickly stop an asthma attack because patients can feel the effects of cannabis almost immediately.

After years of research, one thing was getting ever more clear: THC was winning over CBD in this race.

CBD is known as a great anti-inflammatory agent and has been stealing the attention of users, medical experts and scientists in the last 5 years.

THC has been underrated in the past few years because of its intoxicating effects.

I found a study from 2015 which reminded me of THC’s medical value. Although it was an animal study, it made some very important conclusions and provided a strong base for further research.

In this study, researchers analyzed six different cannabinoids: THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, CBD-A, and THC-V.

They wanted to find out if those cannabinoids would stop the constriction of the airways caused by inflammatory proteins.

It was surprising to see that only THC and THC-V inhibited contractions, other cannabinoids didn’t, including CBD.

In fact, THC had a much a stronger effect than THC-V, which actually blocked CB1 receptors inducing some negative effects. (6)

Cannabis proved to have bronchodilator effect on the airways.

Alternatives to smoking cannabis

As you can see, all these studies prove that cannabinoids from pot are not so bad for asthma patients as we originally thought.

However, until we have more conclusive evidence and a scientific consensus on this topic, take the above findings with a grain of salt.

Which brings me to another point:

Compounds from cannabis are not bad for our lungs, however, smoking is—even though cannabis smokers don’t suffer from lung cancer as much as tobacco smokers. (7)

Unfortunately, we have substantial evidence that smoking should be avoided and one particular study from 1998 found that young healthy adults who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have lung inflammation, just like tobacco smokers. (8)

So, if you just want to get high, or manage other conditions you might be suffering from (like anxiety or ADD) there are other ways to enjoy weed and get the best from it.

Edibles are a safe and healthy way for asthmatics to enjoy cannabis.

Just Google and you’ll find tons of recipes for pot brownies, biscuits, candies and many, many more.

Cannabutter is a base for every pot cake and it’s really easy to make, so you can experiment with different ingredients as much as you want.

However, be careful with edibles because it’s actually really easy to take a lot more than you can handle.

Edibles are metabolized in the digestive system and they take up to 45 minutes to start producing effects (compared to smoking, which produces effects almost immediately), but the high from edibles is both longer and stronger.

It’s a frequent mistake for inexperienced cannabis users to take more edibles before they start feeling the initial effects, but by then it’s too late: they get too high and might not feel very well.

Don’t worry, because no matter how high you get, you can’t overdose and die from weed. You might get an anxiety attack or become paranoid, but it will all go away after a few hours.

And how can an edible help asthma patient?

Since it takes longer for cannabinoids from edibles to enter the bloodstream, this way of consuming pot probably won’t stop an asthma attack.

However, if you use edibles on a regular basis, it can help you prevent an asthma attack, just like it did for subjects in the abovementioned studies.

Smoking is not the only way to use cannabis. You can also vape, make edibles or cannabis tea.

What do other asthma sufferers think about smoking cannabis?

We explored what science has to say on this topic, but what about real patients? How do they feel about smoking cannabis with their condition?

For me, the best way to find out what’s really going on is to go to Reddit and find some threads like this one where real people share their own experiences.

In this instance, the experiences of asthma sufferers seem to be divided.

Cannabis and asthma on reddit

Cannabis and asthma on reddit

If you are suffering from asthma and you’re still using cannabis, feel free to share your experiences with us in the comment section below.


  1. Jackson M; “Divine Stramonium”: The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma; Medical History; April 2010; 54(2):171-94
  2. Conrad C; Hemp for Health: The Medicinal and Nutritional Uses of Cannabis Sativa; Inner Traditions/Bear, 1997
  3. Tashkin DP, Shapiro BJ, Lee YE, Harper CE; Effects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma; American Review of Respiratory Disease; September 1975; 112(3):377-86
  4. Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, Richman J, Safford M, Sidney S, Lin F, Kertesz S; Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years; JAMA; January 2011; 307(2):173-81
  5. Grassin-Delyle S, Naline E, Buenestado A, Faisy C, Alvarez JC, Salvator H, Abrial C, Advenier C, Zemoura L, Devillier P; Cannabinoids inhibit cholinergic contraction in human airways through prejunctional CB1 receptors; British Journal of Pharmacology; Jun 2014; 171(11):2767-77
  6. Makwana R, Venkatasamy R, Spina D, Page C; The effect of phytocannabinoids on airway hyper-responsiveness, airway inflammation, and cough; Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; April 2015; 353(1):169-80
  7. Zhang LR, Morgenstern H, Greenland S, Chang SC, Lazarus P, Teare MD, Woll PJ, Orlow I, Cox B; Cannabis and Respiratory Disease Research Group of New Zealand, Brhane Y, Liu G, Hung RJ; Cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk: Pooled analysis in the International Lung Cancer Consortium; International Journal of Cancer; February 2015; 136(4):894-903
  8. Roth MD, Arora A, Barsky SH, Kleerup EC, Simmons M, Tashkin DP; Airway inflammation in young marijuana and tobacco smokers; American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine; March 1998; 157(3 Pt 1):928-37
  9. Melgert BN, Ray A, Hylkema MN, Timens W, Postma DS; Are there reasons why adult asthma is more common in females?; Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2007 May;7(2):143-50. Review.

6 thoughts on “Is Cannabis a Good Option for Treating Asthma?”

  1. I’m a 74 yearold and I’ve been eating marijuana for several weeks. I have never used anything that relieves my asthma like pot. Inhalers only irritated my lung and made me cough. I just eat it raw and wash it down with water. No more inhalers for me!

  2. Am a 23yearold from East-Africa (Uganda to be exact) where the use of Marijuana is still illegal …Anyways I started smoking pot at the age of 17 (i was just curious about what being high on Marijuana felt like… ) for the next 3 years i was using it just for recreational purposes, one day something strange happened… i started to notice that whenever i smoked pot and i had allergies, i felt relived after a few minutes or immediately…since then i started to use marijuana as a substitute for the medication i was receiving i couldn’t tell anyone of course that could probably get me jailed or seen as a disgrace to the family… to hell with what the society thinks… anyway one day am cleaning my room and that annoying thing happens again my allergies are triggered and in no time i get an asthma attack i just wasn’t ready to swallow those many tablets and pay highly for the asthma medication, I rolled up a joint and smoked…the effects weren’t immediate but there was a change … i kept smoking a few hits – 3 times a day (didn’t want to get so high)… and in like 3 days i was perfectly normal this was unbelievable, it usually took me around a week-plus in case i used the medicine(tablets) from hospital to gain my normal breathing without pain and cough … i haven’t looked back since then… I Pray Marijuana is legalized soon for it could be of a very huge advantage with the vast opportunities that i would create for the people.

  3. just being near smoke is not good for me or any asthmatic. Eating pot is surely safer though as others warn be wary of overdosing. Try small micro-doses for desired effect. I have found small mints that provided a small dose, 2.5mg, and this is fine for me.

    I do think from experience when young you believe you are NOT harming your lungs by a little smoke, but you are.

  4. I’m an asmathic since my 6 months, the first 5 years of my life were between hospital and home, at 6 I got an expensive aerosol machine that allowed me and my parents to live better. Until my 16/17 even doing a lot of sports (swimming, tennis, volleyball) and being fit my stamina was awful, I couldn’t run too much or swim too fast even using my medication religiously, 3 inhalers plus SOS one. At that stupid age I started to smoke, even when everyone told me I was going to die by doing it, it didn’t happen. However, It didn’t help to my bronchial asthma of course, until I started to smoke pot at the same time, basic street hashish and coincidentally my asthma attacks stopped to occur so frequently even continuing smoking tobacco. Until my 24 when I started to work I was a regular consumer and I never had any major problems with my asthma using only the SOS inhaler sporadically, I didn’t do any sports. Then suddenly I stopped because I didn’t want to be a “junky”. At that time I thought my asthma has gone because of the ageing like all specialists had sold to me, but after 4 months I needed to go to hospital in urgency because I couldn’t breathe at all, they gave me corticosteroids and I came home, afraid I decided to quit smoking tobacco definitely and I started to be medicated with 2 inhalers plus the SOS again for keeping me ok. Two years after in the end of one terrible Spring with lot of pollen in the air, I had the worst asthma attack I remember I had to stay in the ICU for 2 days with the ventilator and then hospitalised for a week. After that I started to take a stupid amount of medication on the first months, plus the usual 2 inhalers and SOS. I couldn’t run, going uphill, nothing, without using my SOS, sometimes twice.

    In that Fall, I started to date with my current wife and later I started to smoke pot again just for fun (no we vaporize), coincidentally again my asthma attacks decreased until I forgot to use my medication. With this I started to smoke tobacco again and besides I didn’t use the medication I used SOS inhaler a few times. But the magic happened when I left tobacco for good (only using it in the mixture for vaporize), my SOS inhalers started to expire and I could run half marathon without much effort. I could never do that if I didn’t use cannabis. And this is possible because my air capacity is near the double now than while I was a teenager or after in my adult age when I didn’t smoke at all and with lot of medication.

    If marijuana does any harm it didn’t happen to me, to the very opposite. I had some psychological problems because the use of it in my early age, but it only happened because the street drugs are not good. Used with care and consciousness it heals for sure, I’m the living proof it works. The plant should be studied in detail for its benefits, because it has so many variants, strains, terpenes, cannabinoids that while we don’t do it, it’s useless to believe in any study done with using only THC or CBD, because each strain has a completely different effect on the human body and mind.


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