On this page you can find a summary of the last news and researches from scientist publications sources. Most of these reasearches are pre-clinical conclusions on small groups of people or observations on animals, this article or our products are absolutely not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your professional healthcare for any specific condition.

What is Dyspnea?

Dyspnea means shortness of breath, and sometimes it is referred to as “air hunger”. Dyspnea can range from mild and temporary shortness of breath to a severe and life-threatening condition. It should be noted that in people with severe dyspnea, cannabidiol can’t be used alone. However, these patients are treated with oxygen through a face mask, nasal cannula, or endotracheal intubation.

Although dyspnea is a very common problem, occurring in 1 out of every 4 individuals, there are many causes for this symptom. Based on the underlying cause, dyspnea is treated differently. Shortness of breath can be a result of overactivity, prolonged stay at high altitude, or as a symptom of a wide list of medical conditions.

Various infections and conditions are known to cause dyspnea. The mechanism through which this occurs is by the responsiveness of the respiratory system (lungs and airways) to the invading organism. This leads to what is called bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the airways), and this finally leads to dyspnea.

Often, dyspnea reflects the presence of an underlying chronic condition; however, sometimes, it can occur after intense physical activity or a sudden change in temperature. There is a very wide variety of diseases that can cause dyspnea, ranging from heart diseases to lung disorders. Also, there are two types of dyspnea: acute and chronic. Acute dyspnea is defined as the sudden occurrence of shortness of breath. Meanwhile, chronic dyspnea is the persistence of shortness of breath over a prolonged period of time, and oftentimes, it is caused by chronic diseases.

Many medical conditions can cause acute dyspnea

There are many medical conditions that can cause acute dyspnea, which include:

  1. Asthma
  2. Anxiety
  3. Pneumonia or lung inflammation
  4. The presence of a foreign body inside the airways, such as coins, foods, and hard objects.
  5. Allergy
  6. Loss of huge amount of blood (> 1 liter)
  7. Acute heart failure
  8. Exposure to highly toxic or allergic dust
  9. Sudden and rapid reduction in blood pressure
  10. Pulmonary embolization

Meanwhile, there are many causes for chronic dyspnea, which include:

  1. Asthma
  2. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the most common disease that causes dyspnea in adults
  3. Heart diseases
  4. Obesity
  5. Interstitial lung fibrosis

Since inflammation is the main pathology in the majority of lung diseases that cause dyspnea, cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, has gained much attention for its potential as a therapeutic option for dyspnea.

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Regulating Breathing

Many phytocannabinoids exists in the hemp plant, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. However, CBD has gained much attention for its therapeutic roles in various medical problems, including pain, inflammation, and many others. Cannabinoids don’t exist in marijuana alone; however, they also exist in our body in the form of endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids interact with target receptors known as cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). The system that regulates the activity of these endocannabinoids along with their attachment to cannabinoid receptors is known as the Endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is known to regulate many physiological processes in humans, such as sleep, pain perception, mood, and many others. Many medical conditions are associated with disturbances in the ECS. Therefore, cannabinoids were suggested as potential drugs for the treatment of many health issues. 

CB1 receptors are found mainly in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), while CB2 receptors are found mainly in the peripheral tissues as well as the immune system. Unfortunately, there is no solid evidence to suggest that cannabinoid receptors are found in the airways of humans. However, these receptors are well expressed in the immune cells that line the airways of the lungs. For example, CB2 receptors are predominantly expressed on eosinophils and monocytes (immune cells), both of which also express CB1 receptors but to a lesser extent. Eosinophils are well known for their role in promoting chronic inflammation, particularly in patients with allergic asthma.  Based on that, it was suggested that cannabinoids could target the CB2 receptors on those immune cells to module the inflammation of the lungs and the airways.

Do Endocannabinoids Treat Airway and Breathing Problems?

Many research studies have investigated the role of various cannabinoids in modulating inflammation and the immune response in many lung and airway diseases. In these studies, researchers have also investigated the role of activating CB1 and CB2 receptors in regulating the airway responsiveness and reaction towards various organisms and infections. 

In this context, many cannabinoids were studied, including anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Current research indicates that the activation of both CB1 and CB2 is very beneficial in improving the state of dyspnea in patients with respiratory diseases.

The activation of CB1 receptors have been shown to result in the following beneficial effects:

  1. It causes bronchodilation (widening of the airways), making the amount of air that reaches the lung much higher than before.
  2. It provides protection for the mucus membrane that lines the airways, and thus, preventing the invasion of various organisms and infections. 
  3. It inhibits the contraction of the smooth muscles that line the respiratory tract. The contraction of these muscles is known to cause a severe and acute shortness of breath.
  4. It inhibits mast cell activation, which is known to cause severe inflammation and hyperresponsiveness of the airways leading to dyspnea.
  5. It alleviates the degree of airway inflammation and reduces the chest pain that is associated with dyspnea.

Meanwhile, the activation of CB2 receptors have been shown to result in the following effects:

  1. It prevents neurogenic inflammation

Clinical Trials on the Effects of Cannabinoids on Dyspnea/Breathlessness

Although cannabis has been investigated for its role in treating dyspnea, limited research exists on the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in alleviating airway inflammation and improving dyspnea. 

In a recent randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 9 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were recruited. All of these patients complained of dyspnea. Five patients were given a cannabis extract (10.9 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD) sublingually, and the remaining four patients received a placebo. The following parameters were studied: the degree of breathlessness, mood, and ventilatory parameters. These parameters were measured at the time of recruitment and 2 hours from receiving the drug. Compared to placebo, COPD patients who were given THC + CBD reported fewer instances of “air hunger” or breathlessness. However, no significant change between the extract (THC and CBD) and placebo was detected as regards the remaining parameters. That being said, it should be noted that the number of included patients was very small to detect any significant effect of the extract and the duration was too short to detect any improvement in dyspnea following its administration.  Therefore, more clinical trials of larger sample sizes and longer durations are still needed to further confirm the efficacy of CBD on the shortness of breath in patients with respiratory diseases. 

In conclusion, if you are experiencing severe and sudden shortness of breath, then you should seek medical attention as fast as possible. However, if you experience mild dyspnea, then you should consult your physician prior to taking CBD. 

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