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It's hard for those who haven't experienced or don't understand cannabis to believe any smoke could bring someone out of an asthma attack. Dr. John P. Morgan of New York School of Medicine once explained to me the difference to the lungs between smoking cannabis and smoking tobacco.  If I understood him correctly, he said that  tobacco smoke predominantly caused degeneration of the peripheral airways and alveolated regions of the lung where cancer is found, while marijuana smoke affected mainly the large pathways where cancer is not usually found.  He also explained that if one smokes tobacco, it is almost a must to reduce some of the harms to the lungs by smoking cannabis too.

An asthma attack is frightening to watch and much more frightening to experience. Now I'm not a doctor and don't claim to know the medical explanation, but I have watched asthmatics fumble for a couple of tokes and seen them begin to breathe deeper and more easily within a minute or two.  Seeing is believing, research is the explanation. And there is plenty of research to convince the open-minded non-believer.

A book you really should read is "Benefits of Marijuana" by Joan Bello. She explains the wholeness of the plant, not just one little aspect separated from all the others as researchers tend to do.  Here is an excerpt from that book on the lungs.  Kay Lee


Asthma is the shortness of breath and wheezing caused by spasms of the bronchial tubes, overproduction of mucus, and by swelling of the mucous membranes. Clinical research indicates that THC in both synthetic and natural forms acts as a bronchial dilator which clears blocked air passageways and allows free breathing.(2), See Spasms. See Psychological Effects--Stress. See Psychoactivity. See Pulmonary Effects.

Can Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer?

From Benefits of Marijuana  Joan Bello, author explains how the benefits are achieved

The non holistic Western measurements of substances has reported the existence of carcinogens in marijuana smoke, which means that what is seen under the microscope has been associated with cancer. However, all the statistics show no increase in cancer among those who smoke marijuana – even those who have smoked it long-term and heavily. The Paradox is: that the host of the smoke was not included in the test tube measure. Very par for the course of mechanistic science. When legal cigarettes are inhaled, the tiny air sacs of the lung constrict, the veins and arteries constrict as do all the muscles associated with breathing and throughout the body as well. Since the heart beat goes up considerably also – the pressure within the fluids and gases of the body increase. Cancer results from toxins not being eliminated effectively through non-oxygenation and from stasis. The result is a build-up of unhealthy and polluted cells which then try to survive by over-reproduction and deformed mutational reproduction. Smoking today’s legal cigarettes can be likened to closing oneself up in a tiny closet of poisonous fumes. I use the word legal cigarettes because I have been told that natural tobacco actually does not have the same deleterious effects on the body and I am prone to believe that. Some say it is the dioxins in the paper that are killing cigarette smokers, others believe that the addictive substances added by the cigarette companies is really the culprit. No well defined studies have ever looked into this important issue.

Marijuana smoking, on the other hand, is like walking swiftly in a field of daisies. Our veins dilate, our arteries dilate, toxins are swiftly moved out of our organism because our heart is pumping a tiny bit more quickly – but is not nearly as stimulated as with legal tobacco cigarettes.  During the marijuana experience, the pipes are bigger for elimination, the pump is stronger and the oxygenation is enormously increased by the relaxation of the lung's tiny air sacs and, of course, the relaxation of the musculature surrounding the lungs - thereby facilitating even greater inhalation of the universal nurturance and exhalation of all impurities.  


Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lungs

One of the major arguments that has been presented by opponents of legalization of medicinal marijuana is that smoking anything is unsafe and marijuana smoke is even more harmful than tobacco. These people claim that there are over 400 chemicals in "crude" marijuana and no one should allow sick people to be exposed to them. (There are over 800 chemicals present in "crude" broccoli.) They also claim that there are twice as many carcinogens present in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke. One of the major opponents of rescheduling marijuana is Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who says medical marijuana is a cruel hoax.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse said in its 1990 report on marijuana's pulmonary effects, that they found, "No difference in prevalence of chronic cough, sputum production or wheeze was noted between the marijuana and tobacco smokers (included within their study), nor were additive effects of combined smoking of tobacco and marijuana on the prevalence of acute or chronic respiratory symptoms apparent." (citation) (NIDA book, p. 65)

The study also found that marijuana smoke and that of tobacco affected the lungs in different ways. Tobacco smoke predominantly caused degeneration of the peripheral airways and alveolated regions of the lung, while marijuana smoke affected mainly the large pathways. Because these two drugs affect different parts of the pulmonary system, their damaging effects can be additive.(citation) (NIDA book, p. 72)

Another study, this time conducted by the National Center for Toxicological Research, used 62 male rhesus monkeys to test various effects of regular (heavy exposure twice weekly) and chronic (heavy, regular smoking) use of marijuana. After a year of smoking, then seven months without exposure, some of the monkeys were sacrificed and autopsies were performed on them. The results were very encouraging as they said, "The data presented here suggest that seven months after the last smoke exposure, there is not evidence of increased marijuana smoke-induced carcinogen-DNA adducts in the lungs of exposed monkeys." (Citation) (redo and get citation from SciCitationIndex) Furthermore, the report concluded in saying, "The general health of the monkeys was not compromised by a year of marijuana smoke exposure as indicated by weight gain, carboxyhemoglobin and clinical chemistry/hematology (studies of the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells) values."
There are inherent risks in inhaling hot vapors, especially those that contain particulate matter such as tar found in smoke. This is an undisputed fact, but the dangers associated with marijuana smoke are not as drastic as some people would have you believe, and the risks involved can be greatly reduced by utilizing alternative methods of ingestion

Marihuana and Asthma, Dr. Lester Grinspoon
Cannabis: Wonder Drug of the'90s - by Grinspoon - 1 citations
Herbal medicines for asthma: a systematic review - by Huntley

Marihuana and Asthma, Grinspoon. National Academy of Science, 1982. Therapeutic
Possibilities in Cannabinoids, Editorial, The Lancet, 3/22/75 p667-669

The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use Chapter 6.4
The most reliable acute effect of exposure to cannabis smoke is bronchodilation (National
Academy of Science, 1982), 
6.4 Effects on the respiratory system

From the National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 25

The most reliable acute effect of exposure to cannabis smoke is bronchodilation (National Academy of Science, 1982), which has principally been of interest because of its possible therapeutic effect upon asthma (see below pp193-194). Other than bronchodilation, it has proved difficult to demonstrate any effects of acute cannabis smoking on breathing "as measured by conventional pulmonary tests" (National Academy of Science, 1982, p58).

The major concerns about the respiratory effects of cannabis use have been the possible adverse effects of chronic, heavy cannabis smoking (Tashkin, 1993). The two largest issues of concern have been the production of chronic bronchitis as a precursor of irreversible obstructive lung disease, and the possible causation of cancers of the aerodigestive tract (including the lungs, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and trachea) after 20 to 30 years of regular cannabis smoking. These risks are the primary focus of this section of the review.

There is good reason to expect that chronic heavy cannabis smoking may have adverse effects upon the respiratory system (Tashkin, 1993). Cannabis smoke is similar in constitution to tobacco smoke, and contains a substantially higher proportion of particulate matter and of some carcinogens (e.g. benzpyrene) than does tobacco smoke (Leuchtenberger, 1983; National Academy of Science, 1982). Hence, the inhalation of cannabis smoke deposits irritating and potentially carcinogenic particulate matter onto lung surfaces. Cigarette smoking is known to cause diseases of the respiratory system, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and various forms of cancer affecting the lung, oral cavity, trachea, and oesophagus (Holman et al, 1988). Although tobacco smokers smoke many more cigarettes than cannabis smokers, cannabis smoke is typically inhaled more deeply, and the breath held for longer, than tobacco smoke, thereby permitting greater deposition of particulate matter on the lung surface (Hollister, 1986). It therefore seems a reasonable inference that chronic daily cannabis smoking may cause diseases of the respiratory system.

Despite the reasonableness of this hypothesis, it has nonetheless been difficult to investigate the contribution of chronic heavy cannabis smoking to diseases of the respiratory system (Huber et al, 1988; National Academy of Science, 1982). A major problem is that most marijuana smokers also smoke tobacco, which makes it difficult to disentangle the effects of cannabis from those of tobacco smoking. The problems in quantifying current and lifetime exposure to cannabis, because of variations in quality and potency, make it difficult to examine dose-response relationships between cannabis use and the risk of developing various respiratory diseases. There is also likely to be long latency period between exposure and the development of these diseases, especially in the case of cancers of the aerodigestive tract. This period is approximately the length of time since cannabis smoking became widespread in Western societies. There are also technical difficulties in designing studies which are sufficiently sensitive to detect increased risks of diseases arising from relatively rare exposures, such as chronic daily cannabis use.

Therapeutic Possibilities in Cannabinoids, Editorial, The Lancet, 3/22/75 p667-669

[Cannabis and cannabinoids. Possibilities of their therapeutic use]
Heim ME. [Article in German] PMID: 7076098 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Newer aspects of therapeutic potentials of cannabis and cannabinoids are reviewed. The major active constituent of cannabis sativa, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and synthetic cannabinoids are evaluated in several clinical trials on their antiemetic efficacy in cancer chemotherapy induced vomiting. 80% of patients refractory to standard antiemetic treatment could be improved with the synthetic cannabinoid levonantradol. Other therapeutic effects, which are presently investigated in clinical trials are analgesia, antispasticity, anticonvulsion and the reduction of intraocular pressure in glaucoma. The future goal of cannabinoid research is the separation between specific pharmacologic activities and undesirable psychotropic effects.


"Effects of Smoked Marihuana in Experimentally Induced Asthma," Tashkin, Shapiro, Lee & Harper, American Review of Respiratory Disease, v112, 1975

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, Grinspoon & Bakalar 1997 Yale University Press

High Times, 1997

Overview of the Human Research Studies on Medical Use of Marihuana, Geiringer, 1996.

Health Aspects of Cannabis Dr. Leo Hollister

Bronchial Asthma

A general study of the effects of marijuana on respiration revealed a bronchodilating action in normal volunteer subjects. Marijuana smoke was calculated to deliver 85 or 32 µg of THC per kg. A fall of 38% in airway resistance and an increase of 44% in airway conductance occurred in the high­dose group. The low­dose group showed lesser changes, but they were still significant as compared with baseline. The sensitivity of the respiratory center to carbon dioxide was not altered by either dose, indicating no central respiratory depression (172).

Asthma was deliberately induced by either inhalation of methacholine or exercise in asthmatic patients. They were then treated with inhalation of placebo marijuana, of saline, of isoproterenol, or of smoke derived from marijuana containing 1 g of THC. Both marijuana smoke and isoproterenol aerosol effectively reversed both methacholine- and exercise­induced asthma, while saline and placebo marijuana had no effect (160). Aerosols of placebo­ethanol, of THC (200 µg) in ethanol, or of salbutamol (100 µg) were tested in another study of ten stable asthmatic patients. Forced expiratory volume in 1­s forced vital capacity, and peak flow rate were measured on each occasion. Both salbutamol and THC significantly improved ventilatory function. Improvement was more rapid with salbutamol, but the two treatments were equally effective at the end of 1 h (181).

Both delta­8 and delta­9­THC have bronchodilating effects, while neither cannabinol nor cannabidiol has such actions. Thus, this action resides only in the psychoactive material. No evidence of tolerance to this effect developed over 20 days of continual administration (58).



The Cannabinergic System as a Target for Anti-inflammatory Therapies

Acute and subacute bronchial effects of oral cannabinoids.

Comparison of bronchial effects of nabilone and terbutaline

Bronchial effects of aerosolized delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol

Bronchodilator effect of delta1-tetrahydrocannabinol administered by aerosol

Effects of smoked marijuana in experimentally induced asthma.

Marijuana and oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on specific airway conductance

New Synthetic Delta-9-THC Inhaler Offers Safe, Rapid Delivery

Smoked marijuana and oral delta-9-THC on specific airway conductance in asthmatic subjects




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