Current research continues to show that cannabidiol (CBD) is a safe and effective therapeutic. CBD can help improve anxiety, pain, and inflammation.
In a new study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, researchers explore the effect of CBD on the inflammatory symptoms of asthma. They show that CBD, via cannabinoid receptors, can improve signs of asthma induced inflammation in mice.
What is Asthma? Symptoms and Causes
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the throat and lungs. Inflamed airways become swollen, narrowed, and produce extra mucus. As a result, asthma sufferers experience coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Common asthma triggers include:
- dust mites
- indoor mold
- pet dander
- outdoor mold
- tobacco smoke
- air pollution
- cockroach droppings
Airway remodeling is another hallmark of asthma. In general, airway remodeling simply refers to any change to the structure of a person’s upper or lower respiratory tract.
These changes can occur during normal development. But in the context of asthma, airway remodeling happens as a result of chronic inflammation and can cause scarring and thickening of the airway tissue, known as fibrosis.
Rising Rates of Asthma in Developed Countries
According to the 2015 Global Burden of Disease Study, nearly 300 million people around the world suffer from asthma.
Asthma rates vary widely from country to country. Depending on where you’re from, asthma affects between 1-18% of the population.
Allergic asthma is the most common and easily diagnosed form of asthma. Both allergic asthma and non-allerigic asthma share the same symptoms, but allergic asthma is triggered by the immune system’s response to environmental allergens.
In the past decades, the rates of asthma have been increasing in many developed countries. Rising rates of asthma carry a heavy societal burden with increased healthcare costs and loss of productivity.
Can CBD Help?
Researchers have made vast advances to increase our understanding of the causes of asthma. Despite these advances, successful management of the disease can still be difficult, especially for patients with severe forms of asthma.
In recent years, CBD, a cannabinoid molecule found in cannabis, has emerged as an effective treatment for many inflammatory diseases. Initial experiments in an animal model for asthma showed that CBD can help reduce markers of inflammation.
While the mechanism remains unknown, one theory is that CBD stimulation of the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 helps regulate the immune response and the release of inflammatory molecules in the airways.
CBD is also a favorable therapeutic because it is well tolerated with few negative side effects.
The New Study
A team of researchers from several Brazilian universities set out to further explore the effects of CBD on asthma.
To do this, they induced allergic asthma in mice and then evaluated the effects of different doses of CBD. The researchers also explored the relationship between the levels of CB1 and CB2 receptors and airway function and inflammation in human patients suffering from asthma.
CBD Treatment Improves Asthma Symptoms in Mice
The researchers found that airway sensitivity, a hallmark of asthma-related inflammation, decreased after CBD treatment. They also found that CBD treatment lowered the levels of several inflammation markers in lung fluid samples.
CBD had a positive effect on signs of asthma-related airway remodeling, including fibrosis. Treatment with CBD also improved the lung’s ability to stretch, though only at higher doses.
When the researchers blocked the action of the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptors—either alone or in combination—the positive effects of CBD were lost.
Asthma Patients Have Higher Levels of Cannabinoid Receptors in the Lungs
The cannabinoid receptors clearly play an important role in regulating asthma symptoms in mice, but what about humans?
The researchers looked at lung fluid samples of healthy individuals and people suffering from asthma.
They found both CB1 and CB2 receptors present in the lung fluid of asthma patients but not in the lung fluid of healthy individuals.
Taken together, these results suggest that CBD can improve inflammation and asthma symptoms in mice. The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are critical for the effect of CBD.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are also likely helping to regulate asthma-related inflammation in humans.
CBD has once again proven its worth as an inflammation fighter.
Rates of asthma are on the rise around the world. Researchers are still debating the causes of this uptick in asthma rates.
One theory is that kids raised in modern, developed countries are not exposed to germs when they’re young. Germ exposure at a young age trains the immune system. Without this training, the immune system never learns how to tell the difference between harmful and harmless environmental factors.
Others believe the causes are more complex—a combination of rising rates of obesity, antibiotic use, and vitamin D deficiency, all of which affect your immune system, could be contributing factors.
Prevention is always the best place to start, it’s important to find safe and effective treatments to improve the quality of life for those already suffering from chronic disease.
Though more research is needed, particularly in human patients, CBD has the potential to offer relief for asthma sufferers.