Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have questions about whether cannabidiol (CBD) could help them feel better. CBD comes from cannabis, which is best known for producing marijuana. However, the cannabis plant is also the source of other substances that, like CBD, can be used medicinally and have served that purpose in some cultures for thousands of years.
On MyCOPDTeam, several members asked about taking CBD for COPD, posting comments such as these:
These types of questions continue, with many members wondering whether CBD might give them or their loved ones some relief.
CBD, when taken alone, does not have psychoactive properties because it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what makes people feel high when they smoke marijuana. However, CBD is still an active substance in your body that may have anti-inflammatory properties, which could potentially help with COPD symptoms. Researchers don’t know yet whether it will help people living with COPD.
CBD attaches to receptors on cells that control the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system helps regulate many functions in your body, including:
Your body already produces chemicals to regulate these processes, and CBD can help activate that system, too.
Everyone has two types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2. Although both are located throughout the body, CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain, and CB2 receptors are used primarily in the immune system. Both THC and CBD bind to both types of receptors.
CBD can be used in several ways. CBD products sold regularly include gels, lotions, and other topical applications that are typically used on sore muscles. You can also consume CBD in pills, teas, and edibles like desserts, chocolate, and gummies. You can also use vaping to inhale CBD.
There’s not enough research yet to provide clear answers on whether CBD can help with COPD symptoms or if it may be useful under certain circumstances.
Because COPD is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs and CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, it makes sense that this substance might help people with COPD feel better. One 2011 study suggested that CBD may ease “air hunger” — the feeling of perpetual breathlessness, or shortness of breath, that many people with COPD experience. However, the study was very small, and it focused on how people felt about their breathing, not on their actual air volume or oxygen percentage.
On the other hand, another small study indicated that CBD may actually cause, rather than eliminate, lung inflammation. However, this study was performed only on lung tissue, not on people who could report their results as they experienced them.
Research into the ways CBD might help people living with COPD is ongoing, but results thus far aren’t conclusive. Despite this finding, some people with COPD report that CBD improves how they feel. One MyCOPDTeam member said, “I have been using CBD for about 18 months. I personally have noticed that my chest does not feel tight any longer, and it also helps with mucus and inflammation.”
“I recently tried cannabis oil, and I was very impressed with it,” another shared. “It is very relaxing, especially if you have anxiety from shortness of breath or the exhaustion of fighting for every breath.”
Others who’ve tried it haven’t noticed a change. “I tried the CBD oil. It did absolutely nothing for me,” one member said.
Currently, the only approved use for CBD in the United States is to treat a rare type of epilepsy. Epidiolex, a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), contains purified CBD that comes from hemp and is highly regulated.
Because CBD is not otherwise rigorously regulated, the amount in each product or serving may vary, even if manufacturers attempt to produce it in consistent, uniform ways. Additionally, some products may end up containing other chemicals, including THC, even if the manufacturing process is designed to eliminate it.
There are also side effects to consider. CBD can cause:
Even if these effects aren’t severe, they could lower your quality of life and make you feel worse. If you already feel fatigued or have trouble keeping weight on because of COPD, then CBD might make these symptoms worse and cause more problems than it helped you solve.
Liver damage is also possible when using CBD. While liver damage is most likely the result of taking too much CBD too often or overdosing, it can also occur spontaneously or in connection with other drugs or medications you’re using. You might decide that trying CBD isn’t worth the risk of dealing with liver damage on top of living with COPD.
CBD can also interact negatively with some medications, although commonly used COPD treatments aren’t among them. If you have more than one diagnosis, however, and are on multiple medications, you’ll want to be extra cautious when trying CBD. Also, all drug interactions with CBD are likely not known yet. As medical knowledge grows, it may turn out that CBD interacts with some of the medications you’re taking.
If you’re interested in trying CBD to help manage COPD, talk to your health care provider to get medical advice. Let them know what you want to try and why, and see what they have to say. You should take this step before starting any new medication or choosing a new treatment option, regardless of what it is.
If your doctor has concerns, they can share them with you and help you make a plan that prioritizes your overall health and feeling well, both physically and mentally. They can also ensure that CBD won’t interfere with other drugs you take, and they can advise you on the dosage, timing, and form of CBD that’s best for you.
MyCOPDTeam is the social network for people with COPD and their loved ones. On myCOPDTeam, more than 119,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with COPD.
Are you interested in trying CBD gummies to help with COPD? Have you discussed CBD with your doctor? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.