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The Endocannabinoid System and the Respiratory System

Serious respiratory issues such as Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease require careful management by medical professional, but some people who suffer from chronic respiratory challenges report benefits relating to the use of  cannabinoids.

Equally those that experience respiratory issues due to coughs, colds, flu and hay-fever also report a positive effect.

The lungs

Because the smoking of the cannabis plant has become popular recreationally, the impact of cannabis and its constituents on the lungs have been an area of great research and interest over the last few decades.

Both the lungs and the bronchial tissue have been found to contain mRNA (Genetic information) for Cb1 and CB2 receptors. Likewise mRNA for both receptors has also been found in alveolar macrophages and leukocytes within the lungs. This confirms the presence of a strand of the Endocannabinoid system within the respiratory system.

The research

Studies have shown that the Endocannabinoid Anandamide increase permeability on the airway epithelial cell line. Studies also suggest that Endocannabinoids (including 2-AG) can be made in-situ within the lungs, having an effect locally. Although we know that the Endocannabinoid system within the lungs play a role in immune modulation and the conducting of immune cells (such as neutrophils, eosinophils, leukocytes and macrophages) we’re still not really sure how this works.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that helps heal damaged tissues and resolve infections. Neutrophil blood levels increase naturally in response to infections, injuries, and other types of stress.

Definitions:

  • Eosinophils are specialised immune cells
  • The eosinophil is a specialised cell of the immune system.
  • A leukocyte is a colourless cell which circulates in the blood and body fluids and is involved in counteracting foreign substances and disease; a white (blood) cell.
  • A Macrophage is a large phagocytic cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, especially at sites of infection.
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