Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant commonly used for its oil and smokable flowers. If you are unacquainted with cannabis, you may find it difficult to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana plants. While both are cannabis varieties, there are clear differences between them, including their chemical composition and uses. Like marijuana, hemp produces a variety of cannabinoids, including THC. However, the levels of this intoxicating cannabinoid in hemp are low. Instead, hemp is mostly comprised of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Users enjoy the therapeutic effects of this cannabinoid by using hemp in various forms. One popular way is by smoking hemp flowers and hemp-derived CBD products. While some benefits of hemp-derived CBD are unquestionable, the question remains whether the use of hemp is beneficial or harmful to the lungs. Read on as we dig deeper into the effects of hemp on lungs.
Is Smoking Hemp Flowers Good for the Lungs?
More hemp users are now smoking hemp flowers to enjoy the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids in the plant. Along with CBD, the flower contains compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. These other compounds are the reason for the “entourage effect.” This effect refers to the effectiveness of CBD when used together with all of the naturally-occurring compounds found in hemp.
Smoking hemp flower is a highly effective way of delivering CBD into the bloodstream via the lungs. However, smoking of any cannabis variety may lead to respiratory problems. Smoking involves the burning of the various compounds of the plant, which often causes damage to the lungs over a long time. What’s more, byproducts of combustion like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and tar prove problematic when deposited in the lungs over time. While hemp doesn’t contain the same carcinogens as tobacco, the mere act of smoking hemp flower could negatively affect the lungs.
Hemp-derived CBD has been found helpful in reducing inflammation and phlegm. However, smoking hemp flower remains a significant health concern, especially for those with pulmonary disease. Experts warn that smoking cannabis varieties like marijuana and hemp can lead to large air sacs (bullae) in the lungs, which could cause lung collapse or popping.
Can Smoking Hemp Flower Cause Lung Cancer?
Medical experts associate tobacco smoking with lung cancer due to the various carcinogens and substances produced. Following this association, there has always been a question of whether the smoking of hemp and other cannabis varieties can cause lung cancer. So far, there haven’t been sufficient studies to indicate that smoking hemp can result in lung cancer. In fact, studies on how hemp can be used to help people with lung cancer are ongoing.
COPD and Smoking Hemp
Chronic Obstructive Inflammatory Disease is a lung disease associated with chronic inflammation and obstructs airflow in the lungs. The association between hemp and COPD remains unclear, but any link seems to relate to how a person uses hemp and how often they do. However, studies indicate that prolonged smoking of hemp flowers may obstruct airways and damage lung tissue.
While there may be no definitive link between smoking hemp and COPD development, it could worsen the symptoms of people who already have the disease. For instance, excessive hemp smoking can damage the tiny blood vessels in the airways. In turn, this may worsen symptoms such as mucus production and coughing. Prolonged hemp smoking may also result in microscopic injury to large airways, which may worsen chronic bronchitis symptoms.
Aspergillus and Hemp Flower
With more people favoring the smoking of hemp flower, it would be important to mention Aspergillus and why it is a concern. Aspergillus is a common mold that grows indoors and outdoors and may be present in hemp materials such as flowers. When inhaled, it can cause serious lung infections, especially in people with a compromised immune system.
Particularly, Aspergillus flavus, a mold species in this genus, causes lung infections and produces a toxin that can cause cancer. Other mold species like Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus terreus are also known to cause lung infections. Before purchasing hemp products like dried hemp flower, it is vital to verify that it is tested for microbiological contamination.
Vaping of Hemp-Derived CBD Oil
Studies have indicated that smoking hemp flowers could have adverse effects on the lungs. Some users also find vaping as an effective method of consuming hemp-derived CBD. Vaping involves the inhalation of the vapor produced when CBD oil is heated using a vaping device such as a vape cartridge. Removing the carcinogenic smoke from the process gives us a different angle on the real effects of hemp on lungs.
A lesser highlighted aspect of vaping CBD is the likely respiratory risk posed by cuticle waxes, which are the oily fatty layer of lipids covering the surface of hemp. By smoking hemp flower, the cuticle wax is burned away. On the other hand, vaping involves lower temperatures compared to smoking, which means that the wax layer doesn’t burn away. Hemp experts believe that the oily bits may collect and settle in the lungs, which may cause health problems in the long term.
One of these problems could be the formation of hardened granulomas that could occur from the gathering of cuticle wax in the lungs. While this may be nothing more than speculation due to the lack of clinical studies, it is cause for concern. Hemp users who favor vaping can avoid CBD vape oils with cuticle waxes by choosing those that have undergone winterization. Winterization is a technique that helps remove all fatty acids, waxes, and lipids with higher melting points than other compounds in the plant.
Thinning Agents in CBD Oil
Another safety concern is the chemical composition of thinning agents used together with CBD vape oil. Normally, hemp-derived CBD oil is too viscous to be used with vape pens or other vaping devices. Therefore, the oil needs to be treated to reduce its viscosity. Thinning agents are some of the products used to treat the oil. However, substandard thinning agents may contain polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol. These often break down into carcinogenic compounds like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. This particularly occurs when these compounds are sublimated in high-temperature vape cartridges.
To vape hemp-derived CBD oil safely, it is important that you invest in quality products such as vape pens and vape oil. High-quality vape pens help maintain the right temperature. This helps guarantee efficient vaporization and prevents the breakdown of thinning agents into cancer-causing compounds like acetaldehyde. It is also important to choose winterized CBD vape oil to eliminate the risk of granuloma development due to the deposition of waxy bits in the lungs.
Hemp-Derived CBD Oil for Lungs
COPD and asthma are some of the respiratory conditions for which CBD has been found to potentially offer a solution. CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can therefore be used to ease the inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation can be responsible for the sensitivity of the nerves within the lungs.
Research has indicated that CBD can reduce total lung resistance, and the migration of leukocytes into the lungs. It can also inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines. Overall, CBD administered therapeutically has anti-inflammatory effects on the lungs and therefore improves lung function and could help treat inflammatory lung diseases.
CBD and Lung Cancer Treatment
So far, there are no studies that suggest that CBD can be used specifically for lung cancer treatment. However, early research suggests that the properties of this cannabinoid may help ease some symptoms of lung cancer and its treatment. Some of these symptoms include:
Hemp-derived CBD may reduce the pain associated with lung cancer or the nerve damage associated with treatments like chemotherapy. Unlike other cannabinoids that bind with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBD influences the activity of other compounds in the ECS. For instance, in pain management, CBD inhibits the re-uptake of anandamide, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pain regulation. By inhibiting its reabsorption, CBD increases the levels of anandamide in the bloodstream, therefore reducing the experience of pain.
Nausea and Vomiting
Patients undergoing lung cancer treatment often struggle with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Research indicates that radiation and chemotherapy are some of the stressors that may cause excessive secretion of serotonin. This neurotransmitter regulates various bodily functions like digestion, modulation of mood, and physiological processes like vomiting.
Excessive secretion of serotonin, therefore, causes nausea and vomiting among lung cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment. CBD influences the activity of 5-HT serotonin-producing receptors, which indicated its potential in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Final Thoughts On the Effects of Hemp On Lungs
Hemp plants largely consist of cannabidiol (CBD), which is known for its potential therapeutic effects. Flowers and hemp-derived CBD oil are some of the commonly used products of this cannabis variety. Hemp flowers are mainly used by smoking, while CBD oil can be used by ingesting directly. Smoking hemp flower has long been a health concern as it is thought to cause lung damage in the long term. Particularly, smoking hemp has been associated with the formation of air sacs in the lungs, which could cause lung collapse. Smoking of hemp flowers has also been thought to aggravate lung conditions such as COPD.
On the brighter side, however, vaping or consuming pure hemp-derived CBD oil may even improve lung function by easing the inflammation of the bronchial tubes and reducing total lung resistance. Overall, smoking hemp flower is harmful to the lungs while vaping or ingesting hemp-derived CBD oil could help improve lung function with minimal negative effects. Remember that vaping has been associated with some lung injuries, so carefully inspect your product before attempting any form of vaping.