Can CBD help with COPD, and if so, how?

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most widespread respiratory disorder worldwide, with the condition being the third primary cause of death in the United States(1). COPD is identified by a persistent limitation of airflow in the lungs due to the body’s response to toxic gases and particles in the environment. 
  • No cure is available for the respiratory disorder, but physicians often prescribe medications, oxygen therapy (inhalers), and sometimes surgery to alleviate its symptoms. The problem with these COPD treatments is that they are expensive to maintain and can result in adverse effects in individuals(2).
  • Several research findings suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) may be beneficial for COPD patients as it can reportedly alleviate the primary symptoms associated with the disease. CBD is found to inhibit airway obstruction(3), enhance lung functionality(4), and reduce inflammation(5) caused by respiratory disorders.
  • Despite the promising reports, most of the CBD trials on respiratory diseases were done on animal models, and there is no substantial evidence pointing towards CBD as a treatment or cure for COPD.
  • People planning to purchase CBD oil products should seek medical advice from a doctor before deciding to administer CBD for their health condition.

Why People Are Turning to CBD for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is the most common chronic respiratory problem in the world and the third primary cause of death in the United States(6). Despite being such a widespread burden, it is a health dilemma that failed to receive the attention it needs.

COPD is characterized by a consistent limitation of airflow in the lungs due to the body’s response to harmful gases (second-hand smoke and air pollution) or particles in the environment. The disease is a significant cause of morbidity worldwide and results in increasing economic and social burdens(7).

There is no cure for COPD, but doctors often prescribe medications, oxygen therapy, and surgery (lung transplant) to ease its symptoms. However, the downside to these treatments is that they can be costly over time with some oral steroids causing adverse reactions(8).

Several studies show that cannabidiol (CBD) could potentially improve the quality of life for people with COPD. CBD is a chemical component that is naturally found in the Cannabis sativa plant and is said to have numerous therapeutic health benefits.

A study in 2013 published in the medical journal Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics reveals that CBD inhibits airway obstruction in allergic guinea pigs(9). The test subjects were given substances and allergens that induced bronchial muscle contractions resulting in the narrowing of their airways.

Upon intake, the researchers discovered that CBD enhanced the quality of life of the subjects, suggesting that the compound may be useful in dealing with obstructive airway disorders(10).  

In 2015, a study by scientists from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, showed that CBD might help improve the airways in mice with acute lung injury (ALI). The experts analyzed the effects of cannabidiol as a treatment for ALI to understand how it works against inflammation in the lungs(11).

A day after administering CBD, test results on the rodents showed that their lungs functioned better while also displaying a lower presence of inflammation-causing substances. Such data suggest that CBD may be useful as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of inflammatory lung diseases(12).

The European Journal of Pharmacology published a more recent study on CBD and how it may help reduce airway inflammation and scarring caused by asthma in mice. Data from the research revealed that CBD treatment might help reduce inflammatory processes while improving the lungs’ ability to inflate(13).

Data from these results, when put together, show that cannabidiol can potentially alleviate COPD symptoms and enhance the quality of life of patients

How CBD Oil Works to Help with COPD

According to the studies involving CBD, the chemical compound is known to exert its positive effects by activating the endocannabinoid system (ECS)(14-16). The ECS is a system that modulates numerous functions in the body to provide balance and promote well-being(17).

Cannabinoids, like CBD, interact with the ECS through its CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors to activate specific bodily responses, thus helping provide balance.

A study on the endocannabinoid system and its role in managing the airways was published in 2019, proving this point. It reported that cannabinoids work with the ECS to inhibit inflammation by reducing the number of cells that cause it (18).

The study also stated that these natural compounds, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), induce bronchodilation in the body by engaging with the ECS. 

Bronchodilation is the ability to open up the air sacs to make it easier to breathe, especially for an individual with a disease like COPD.

Although THC, another primary compound of cannabis, is known for its bronchodilator effects(19), certain CBD products do come with them because of their synergy. A study in 2011 revealed that combining CBD and THC might bring about individual positive responses in the body, especially in treating inflammation and pain(20).

Studies in 2012 and 2017 provide additional evidence that cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, can help reduce airway inflammation, which is common in respiratory infections like COPD. It brings about its therapeutic effects by working with the CB1 and CB2 in the ECS(21-22).

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for COPD

The Pros

  • Preliminary findings on CBD suggest its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation and swelling of the airways in patients with respiratory diseases like COPD(23-24).
  • One study, in particular, showed that CBD’s therapeutic benefits took effect after one day, revealing better lung capability and significantly reduced signs of inflammation in patients(25).
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the potential of products obtained from cannabis, such as CBD. It also supports further research on its health benefits(26).
  • Compared to THC, CBD does not alter the mind, as it is a non-psychoactive compound.
  • Many states now allow the purchase and use of CBD even without a prescription.

The Cons

  • Most of the studies involving CBD as a potentially effective treatment for airway disorders were done on animals, with no proof that they exert the same respiratory effects in humans.
  • Despite being lauded for its therapeutic applications, research on CBD reveals that it can interact with other medications, which may lead to adverse reactions in the body(27).
  • There is a lack of proper regulation concerning CBD use, and many of its products, especially those sold online, are labeled inaccurately(28).
  • At this time, the FDA only approves the use of one CBD product, called Epidiolex, a prescription drug used in treating epilepsy(29).
  • It is against the law to sell CBD by labeling it as a dietary supplement or adding it to food products.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for COPD

COPD has no cure, and its prescribed forms of treatment often come with disadvantages. However, there are some home remedies that may help alleviate the symptoms of the disorder.

Some people try to cope with their COPD by consuming enough vitamins, eating food rich in antioxidants, exercising, and taking herbal remedies, such as eucalyptus and ginger.

A 2019 study revealed that high levels of oxidative markers showed decreased lung function in subjects, while increased presence of antioxidants resulted in the opposite. This data led researchers to speculate that using antioxidants to target oxidative stress caused by air pollution may benefit people with COPD(30).

The National Emphysema Foundation (NEF), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by lung disorders, recommends antioxidant vitamins as a natural remedy for COPD. The NEF believes that consuming vitamins A, C, and E can improve pulmonary function(31).

CBD works in the same way in that it is said to have antioxidant activity that is more effective than vitamins C and E(32).

According to a study, low doses of CBD offer physiological effects, which may help promote and maintain good health(33). Among the effects that the research mentions include CBD being an antioxidant, another trait that makes it appealing as a treatment for respiratory disorders.

Meanwhile, a study on mice showed that curcumin, a chemical produced by plants like turmeric, inhibited COPD-like airway inflammation in the test subjects. Scientists of the study also suggested that curcumin may be an active agent against lung cancer due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties(34).

This characteristic of turmeric is probably why some patients use it as an alternative treatment for COPD symptoms. Several members from the COPD Foundation community claim that using turmeric can help with lung inflammation(35).

Nowadays, people can find CBD products infused with curcumin to maximize the supposed lung health benefits of these two chemical compounds. 

The habit of smoking is highly discouraged in COPD patients, so inhaling CBD via vaping, despite its purported benefits, may not be ideal. This scenario is probably why many health providers suggest the oral intake of herbal remedies and supplements instead.

Today, one can find CBD products sold in various formats with edibles, tinctures, gummies, capsules, and tablets being among the most common orally ingested variants.

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for COPD

At this time, three types of CBD oil are produced by companies. One can find CBD in the form of full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD as an isolate.

The most popular among the three is the full-spectrum variety, which possesses all of the natural compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant. It contains THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and even other minerals like fatty acids.

Good quality full-spectrum CBD products are typically high in CBD, with small amounts of the minor cannabinoids, and very minimal THC (often less than 0.3%).

However, the combination of all these elements results in a synergy popularly known as “the entourage effect.” This type of effect is said to bring about the full potential of CBD, with experts claiming that the compounds work more efficiently together than when separated.

The 2011 study mentioned earlier regarding the synergistic effects of CBD and THC when combined supports this concept(36).

Broad-spectrum CBD oils are the CBD products that possess all of the same compounds from cannabis except for THC. It undergoes an extraction process that explicitly removes tetrahydrocannabinol.

This variant of CBD is ideal for people who do not wish to consume THC and simply want to benefit from the other phytocannabinoids of cannabis.

The last type of CBD product is known as an isolate, the purest form of cannabidiol in the market. CBD isolates contain 99.99% cannabidiol and are often produced in a white crystalline form.

Whichever type of CBD oil one chooses, buyers must purchase only the best CBD they can find to maximize its benefits.

The following are tips to ensure that a person can get the safest and most reliable CBD products today:

  1. Look for the certificate of analysis (COA) or the laboratory report of the CBD product selected. This document is especially important since it indicates that the item has undergone thorough testing and contains precisely the specifications listed on its label.
  2. Read up on product and shop reviews if buying from an online store. If purchasing from a physical dispensary, check if it has proper authorization to sell CBD.
  3. Only buy organic CBD derived from hemp. The hemp plant is the most reliable source of quality cannabidiol.
  4. Ensure that the legalities involving CBD are followed in the state where it is planned to be bought and used.
  5. Consult a medical professional, preferably someone experienced in medical cannabis, before deciding to use CBD for the symptoms of COPD.

CBD Dosage for COPD

There is a distinct lack of proper guidelines regarding the consumption of CBD oil for COPD and other medical conditions. However, a report concerning cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations found that doses ranging between 1 and 50 mg/kg per day showed significant health improvements in 23 studies(37).

The review also stated that CBD was well-tolerated, with only minor side effects involved, when consumed by humans.

Perhaps the unofficial golden rule for CBD dosage is to start with small doses and observe its effects. If there are no adverse reactions, users can slowly increase the dose until the desired results are felt.

How to Take CBD Oil for COPD

When seeking pain relief from COPD, users suggest taking CBD sublingually by way of a tincture and dropper. This approach puts drops of CBD cannabis oil under the tongue and keeps it there for at least 30 seconds before swallowing to be effective.

Another way to take cannabidiol is through CBD capsules and tablets, which can be ingested daily. People that use this CBD delivery format claim that pills do not interact with the lungs (unlike vape products) and are therefore suitable for respiratory conditions.

There are also CBD edibles in the form of gummies that can be consumed similar to a supplement. This type of CBD product often comes in different flavors for better taste, but can take a while to reveal its effects since it first has to go through the digestive tract.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly called COPD, is a worldwide respiratory concern and the third leading cause of death in America. The health condition results in airflow limitation in the lungs caused by an inflammatory response in the body against harmful irritants and gases.

COPD has no cure, and doctors often prescribe treatments to ease the symptoms of patients suffering from the disorder. Studies show that cannabidiol, or CBD, can potentially benefit COPD patients by improving the common signs associated with the said condition.

CBD has shown to inhibit airway obstruction by opening up airways, improving lung function, and reducing elements that worsen inflammation due to respiratory disorders. 

However, most of these studies were made on animals, and there is no solid proof that CBD can treat COPD.

  1. Hatipoğlu U. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: More than meets the eye. Ann Thorac Med. 2018;13(1):1-6. doi:10.4103/atm.ATM_193_17
  2. Yasir M, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Corticosteroid Adverse Effects. [Updated 2020 Apr 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:
  3. Dudášová A, Keir SD, Parsons ME, Molleman A, Page CP. The effects of cannabidiol on the antigen-induced contraction of airways smooth muscle in the guinea-pig. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2013;26(3):373-379. doi:10.1016/j.pupt.2013.02.002
  4. Ribeiro A, Almeida VI, Costola-de-Souza C, et al. Cannabidiol improves lung function and inflammation in mice submitted to LPS-induced acute lung injury. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2015;37(1):35-41. doi:10.3109/08923973.2014.976794
  5. Vuolo F, Abreu SC, Michels M, et al. Cannabidiol reduces airway inflammation and fibrosis in experimental allergic asthma. Eur J Pharmacol. 2019;843:251-259. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2018.11.029
  6. Hatipoğlu U. op. cit.
  7. Qureshi H, Sharafkhaneh A, Hanania NA. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations: latest evidence and clinical implications. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2014;5(5):212-227. doi:10.1177/2040622314532862
  8. Yasir M. et al. op. cit.
  9. Dudášová A. et al. op. cit.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ribeiro A. et al. op. cit.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Vuolo F. et al. op. cit.
  14. Khan MI, Sobocińska AA, Czarnecka AM, Król M, Botta B, Szczylik C. The Therapeutic Aspects of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) for Cancer and their Development: From Nature to Laboratory. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(12):1756-1766. doi:10.2174/1381612822666151211094901
  15. Chye Y, Christensen E, Solowij N, Yücel M. The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol’s Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:63. Published 2019 Feb 19. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00063
  16. Makwana R, Venkatasamy R, Spina D, Page C (2015, April 1). The Effect of Phytocannabinoids on Airway Hyper-Responsiveness, Airway Inflammation, and Cough. Retrieved from:
  17. Komorowski J, Stepień H. Rola układu endokannabinoidowego w regulacji czynności dokrewnej i kontroli równowagi energetycznej człowieka [The role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of endocrine function and in the control of energy balance in humans]. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2007;61:99-105.
  18. Bozkurt TE. Endocannabinoid System in the Airways. Molecules. 2019;24(24):4626. Published 2019 Dec 17. doi:10.3390/molecules24244626
  19. Ashton JC, Hancox RJ. The Case for Cannabinoid CB1 Receptors as a Target for Bronchodilator Therapy for β-agonist Resistant Asthma. Curr Drug Targets. 2018;19(11):1344-1349. doi:10.2174/1389450118666170615101220
  20. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  21. Pini A, Mannaioni G, Pellegrini-Giampietro D, et al. The role of cannabinoids in inflammatory modulation of allergic respiratory disorders, inflammatory pain and ischemic stroke. Curr Drug Targets. 2012;13(7):984-993. doi:10.2174/138945012800675786
  22. Ferrini ME, Hong S, Stierle A, et al. CB2 receptors regulate natural killer cells that limit allergic airway inflammation in a murine model of asthma. Allergy. 2017;72(6):937-947. doi:10.1111/all.13107
  23. Dudášová A. et al. op. cit.
  24. Vuolo F. et al. op. cit.
  25. Ribeiro A. et al. op. cit.
  26. US Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from:
  27. Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
  28. Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
  29. US Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 5). What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. Retrieved from:
  30. Hampson AJ, Grimaldi M, Axelrod J, Wink D. Cannabidiol and (-)Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998;95(14):8268-8273. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.14.8268
  31. Iffland K. Grotenhermen F. op. cit.
  32. Russo EB. op. cit.
  33. Millar SA, Stone NL, Bellman ZD, Yates AS, England TJ, O’Sullivan SE. A systematic review of cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;85(9):1888-1900. doi:10.1111/bcp.14038
  34. Moghaddam SJ, Barta P, Mirabolfathinejad SG, et al. Curcumin inhibits COPD-like airway inflammation and lung cancer progression in mice. Carcinogenesis. 2009;30(11):1949-1956. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgp229
  35. COPD Foundation. Turmeric Supplements. Retrieved from:
  36. Russo EB. op. cit.
  37. Millar SA, Stone NL, Bellman ZD, Yates AS, England TJ, O’Sullivan SE. A systematic review of cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;85(9):1888-1900. doi:10.1111/bcp.14038
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