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Cannabis (Marijuana) Use and Its Impact On Asthma and Allergies

Allergy & Asthma Network and Joanna Zeiger, PhD, hosted a Twitter chat on June 11 on cannabis (marijuana) use and its impact on people with asthma, exercise-induced bronchospasm, allergies, eczema and urticaria. Dr. Zeiger answered questions during the Twitter chat that are summarized here for you.

Dr. Zeiger is also CEO and researcher with Canna Research Group, an organization seeking to better understand how people are using cannabis to manage medical conditions.Dr. Zeiger is also a former U.S. professional triathlete who was the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where she placed 4th in triathlon. She is the author of “The Champion Mindset – An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness.”

You are invited to take the Allergy & Asthma Network Pain, Exercise and Cannabis Experience (PEACE) survey on cannabis use. You must be 18 years of age or older. You can take the survey whether or not you have used cannabis, used cannabis in the past, or currently use cannabis.

Questions and answers about cannabis (marijuana) use for asthma, allergies, eczema and exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB)

What are the natural compounds found in cannabis?

  • THC – tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the compound in cannabis that is psychoactive and gives the “high” sensation. It’s consumed by smoking and in oils, edibles, tinctures and capsules.
  • CBD – cannabidiol. CBD is the cannabinoid that is associated with anti-inflammatory and immune modulating properties, and is not psychoactive, so it does not typically provide a “high” sensation. It’s sold as gels, gummies, oils, supplements and extracts.

What is cannabis (marijuana) research telling us about the potential benefits and risks of using cannabis for people with asthma and allergies?

Joanna Zeiger: Asthma is a disease with many causes, meaning not all patients with asthma react the same way to various triggers. For some people with asthma, cannabis is an immediate bronchodilator – it relaxes the airways which can help breathing.

The drawbacks are that inhaled cannabis is an irritant and can cause increased cough, sputum and wheezing. So, risks far outweigh benefits and asthma specialists do not recommend inhaled or vaped cannabis for the treatment of asthma.

Cannabis can be used to decrease anxiety, but it can also be a drawback if it decreases the appropriate concern for managing asthma – especially if that concern causes patients to stop taking prescribed medicines that control their asthma.

The take-home message is cannabis should not be inhaled or vaped by people with asthma. Other preparations (e.g., oils, topicals, edibles) may not have any specific beneficial effects on asthma or other allergic diseases.

Are you suggesting asthma patients smoke cannabis (marijuana)?

Joanna Zeiger: We DO NOT recommend that people with asthma should smoke or vape cannabis. It is not a safe way to consume cannabis with this condition.

What do people need to know about starting cannabis (marijuana) as a medical treatment for asthma or allergies?

Joanna Zeiger: I always tell people the first thing to do is figure out what it is you want to treat. For those with chronic illnesses, it would be optimal to have a discussion with a physician knowledgeable in cannabis.

Seek medical advice when starting any type of treatment. What are the symptoms you want to address? Is it nausea? Insomnia? Pain? The type of condition you are treating will help dictate which type of cannabis you need and how you consume it.

Once you start using cannabis, keep a log of any change in your symptoms to determine whether cannabis is providing effective relief or possibly adverse effects.

If a specific cannabis product doesn’t work, it may not be a failure of cannabis – it may not be the right product for you and your condition. Again, consulting with a physician knowledgeable about cannabis is important.

Can you explain what you mean when you say it may not be the right cannabis (marijuana) product?

Joanna Zeiger:There are all sorts of cannabis products out there. Some have lots of CBD and no THC, some have all THC and no CBD, and there are variations in between. Each person responds differently to different ratios of CBD and THC.

It takes some time to determine what works best. Plus, there is the route of administration. Some people like oils, while others do better with edibles. We do not recommend inhalation for people with asthma.

So there is some experimentation involved.

What are the different ways people can consume cannabis (marijuana) as a medical treatment?

Joanna Zeiger: The most common: smoking, vaping, tinctures, oils, topicals and edibles. How you take cannabis can have a different impact. The amount of time until you feel effects of the cannabis can also differ depending on how you administer cannabis.

Smoking and vaping are not recommended for lung health due to reported adverse effects. Inhaling does lead to very fast onset of action, which may be beneficial for people who have severe acute pain but should be avoided in those with asthma.

Edibles take much longer to work – up to 45-70 minutes – but the lasting effects are much longer than inhalation and can last for hours. This is ideal to aid sleep.

Topicals work differently altogether and their effectiveness depends on the type of injury or pain you are trying to treat. That’s why defining your goal for cannabis use will help dictate your treatment options.

How safe is using cannabis (marijuana) as a medical treatment?

Joanna Zeiger: Inhaling cannabis is least safe for people with asthma. As noted previously, inhaling cannabis by smoking or vaping should be avoided by those with asthma.

For anyone using cannabis, particularly those with a chronic illness, safety is paramount and comes first. Determine with your doctor the safest method of using cannabis and the lowest possible dose that provides optimal relief.

Use cannabis responsibly. If you feel too high, sleep it off or wait it out. Do not overindulge. Even though cannabis can have medical value, it can also have adverse effects.

Should patients tell their doctor if they use cannabis oil or consume/smoke marijuana?

Joanna Zeiger: Yes, patients should not be afraid to discuss cannabis with their doctors. Patients want to be sure there won’t be any adverse effects of using cannabis with any other medications. And doctors need to know the benefits and adverse effects.

Do people have allergic reactions to cannabis (marijuana)?

Joanna Zeiger: Yes, people can have allergic reactions to cannabis. We do not yet know the exact numbers, but it can be an occupational hazard for those who work directly with the plant.

What are some benefits of cannabis (marijuana)?

Joanna Zeiger: We published several articles from a survey we did on athletes – the Athlete PEACE Survey study. (The AAN PEACE study is in part based on the Atlete study.) The athletes reported several benefits to cannabis use.

The athletes reported decreased pain, improved sleep, less anxiety, fewer muscle spasms and improved well-being. These benefits have also been reported in many other studies in medical patients.

We know that cannabis is helpful for people with seizure disorders and can alleviate nausea and lack of appetite in cancer patients. There is evidence cannabis can help inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatic conditions.

Additionally, cannabis seems to help people with post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.

What are some adverse effects of cannabis (marijuana)?

Joanna Zeiger: Cannabis can cause psychosis in some people, as well as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, a situation where vaping of certain illicit products of cannabis causes severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

Other adverse effects of cannabis include cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, sleepiness, poor concentration and coordination.

The mantra in the world of cannabis is to “start low and go slow.” This means start with low doses and build up use slowly until you reach a beneficial amount or potential adverse effects. This approach is similar to starting most medications.

For eczema, is there a difference in using CBD vs. products that contain THC? Do they work on different immune issues? What sort of products do you recommend?

Joanna Zeiger: There just isn’t a lot known right now about how cannabis affects eczema. That is why we are doing the Allergy & Asthma Network PEACE survey – to learn more!

It would be beneficial to speak to a doctor who specializes in cannabis to help direct you to products that could potentially help you without causing adverse effects.

Do you have asthma? And do you consume cannabis (marijuana)?

Joanna Zeiger: Yes, I have asthma and allergies. I also have chronic pain for which I use cannabis (edibles mainly, sometimes topicals). It has been helpful for sleep. It reduces pain and muscle spasms and decreases nausea.

What is the goal of the Allergy & Asthma Network PEACE Study?

Joanna Zeiger: We want to understand how people with asthma and allergies consume cannabis, whether it helps or hinders their allergic conditions and if cannabis affects their usual medication use to treat asthma and allergies.

We also aim to understand knowledge and attitudes of cannabis in people with asthma and allergies. Different patient populations likely use cannabis differently, but to know for sure we must look at it systematically with the Allergy & Asthma Network PEACE Survey.

Also, we need to start learning more about #cannabis use and its impact on asthma, allergies, eczema and urticaria so we can educate patients and doctors on proper cannabis use.

How can people take the Allergy & Asthma Network PEACE Survey?

Joanna Zeiger: The AAN PEACE Survey is very comprehensive. It may take 10-12 minutes of your time, but it is important so that we learn more to help people with asthma and allergies. We thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the survey.

For confidentiality, all of the survey answers are anonymous – we are not collecting names, emails or any other identifying information.

A Q&A with Joanna Zeiger, PhD on cannabis use and the benefits and risks for people with asthma and allergies.

Is Cannabis the New Allergy Relief We’ve Been Waiting For?

As widespread as they are, allergies affect an estimated 50 million Americans every year. Whether chronic or seasonal, from food to pollen to animal hair; the symptoms can be legitimately dangerous as well as irritating.

As such, those living with allergies, and the symptoms they bring (such as sneezing, coughing, inflammation, dermatitis and more) are ever on the lookout for new ways to relieve their symptoms. But what if a potential relief is already available?

Here, we’re going to look at the role of cannabis, and whether it can work to relieve your allergies or not.

Is cannabis the right treatment for allergies?

The compounds present in cannabis known as cannabinoids have a lot more uses than simply being recreational. CBD and THC are the two relevant components and have been shown to potentially alleviate pain, nausea, balance the body’s immune system, and much more. There are also signs that cannabis compounds may even be a safer treatment than the commonly used antihistamines.

Given the influence that THC has on the immune system, it is argued that it can slow or stop the overreaction of the immune system to allergens, which is the cause of the symptoms in the first place. Meanwhile, CBD has been demonstrated in preventing the airways from closing, meaning it may be able to offer relief with coughing and breathing, some of the most common allergy symptoms.

How might cannabis be able to help?

The effects of cannabis on those suffering from the symptoms of allergies are still being widely studied. However, there are some indications of symptoms it can prevent or ease, as well as how cannabinoids may even counteract the mechanisms inside the body that cause those symptoms to manifest in the first place.

Cannabis and inflammation

CBD and THC have been shown to be working treatments of inflammation. An allergic response causes inflammation, the mechanical cause of many of the most recognizable symptoms like itchiness, sneezing, hives, and the like. How cannabis impacts inflammation is still under study, though some believe that it stops the release cytokines, which are the main inflammatory pathway.

Cannabis and chronic pain

Cannabis has been shown to be widely effective in combating all kinds of chronic pain, which can come as a result of the inflammation caused by allergy symptoms. Both high-CBD and mixed CBD/THC strains may be able to soothe all types of pain.

Cannabis and histamine

The release of histamine, triggered by antibodies in response to allergens, is what brings on the different symptoms of allergies. The cannabinoids in cannabis have been shown in some clinical trials to impair the activation of the antibodies that cause the release of histamine. They may also have a role to play in how THC can suppress mast cell activation, which is another way that histamines are released.

As such, cannabis may be able to suppress the release of histamine, which could delay the onset of allergy symptoms and reduce their severity as well.

Cannabis and asthma

Many allergy sufferers are already trying cannabis alongside traditional treatments to see if it is effective at managing their symptoms. One of the symptoms it is known to alleviate is the nasal congestion, coughing and difficulty breathing that is common amongst many types of allergy, but most severe in cases of asthma.

Both CBD and THC have been shown to open constricted airways in early trials, while also soothing the inflammation that leads to the congestion in the first place. As such, it may certainly be possible that cannabis could be an effective treatment for asthma. However, as dangerous as the condition is, it’s important that you talk to a doctor before making any changes at all to your asthma treatment plan.

Cannabis and seasonal allergies

Cannabis, especially high-CBD strains and CBD products such as oils, have antimicrobial abilities that may be able to help with seasonal allergies like hay fever as well. Many prefer to use non-smoking cannabis products, as the actual act of smoking can aggravate an inflamed throat or sinus. However, CBD oil, edibles, and other high CBD products may be able to open those sinuses without causing the same discomfort.

Is it time to see whether cannabis is the allergy relief you need?

The signs that cannabis could be an effective treatment of allergies are looking very good, indeed. Planet 13 has as wide a selection of high-quality strains, from Medizin’s Animal Cookies to Sherbert that can give you the best chances of allergy success from the best Las Vegas dispensary near the Strip.

Is Cannabis the New Allergy Relief We’ve Been Waiting For? As widespread as they are, allergies affect an estimated 50 million Americans every year. Whether chronic or seasonal, from food to