Cannabis Oil

Dear Dr. Mahler: I read on-line that Cannabis oil placed on the tongue helps reduce breathing difficulty.  Is this true? I have COPD and am taking Advair Diskus twice a day and I use ProAir 2-3 times as needed on most days. Thanks. Susan from Auburn, CA Dear Susan: Cannabis sativa is the name for marijuana and contains tetrahydrocannabinol (abbreviated: THC) which is responsible for the psychoactive effects.  Typically, the dried leaves and flowers of the plant are smoked or taken orally with food (baked in brownies for example).
Cannabis plant

Cannabis plant

As of July 2014, cannabis can be used for personal medical use in 23 states and the District of Columbia. California, where you live, was the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis in 1996. Medical marijuana in the US is controlled at the state level. Cannabis oil is made from a special strain of marijuana called “Charlotte’s web” that has low levels of THC, the ingredient that leads to the “high.” The oil has elevated levels of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component that has a number of therapeutic benefits including those that limit seizure activity. The oil is taken in an oral liquid form, not smoked like traditional marijuana. As of June 7, 2015, 15 states had okayed the use of cannabis oil.  California is not on that list. My review of the medical uses of cannabis oil on the internet revealed that it has been used to treat anxiety/stress, headaches, and for pain relief. It may also stimulate appetite. I could not find any reasonable report of using cannabis oil for relieving breathing difficulty. However, if the oil does help reduce pain, it is possible that it may also make it easier to breathe.
Cannabis oil

Cannabis oil

The medical community depends on randomized studies to evaluate new treatments. To my knowledge, there are no such studies examining any effect of cannabis oil for treating breathlessness. I hope this information is helpful for you and others. Sincerely, Donald A. Mahler, M.D.  

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.