One hundred years ago, products such as Dr. Schiffmann’s Asthmador was the go-to for relief for asthma. Is it possible that cannabis may be the next generation asthma medication?
In the 18th century, Scottish physician and botanist, James Anderson, traveled to India and became surgeon of the East India Trading Company and in 1781 was made surgeon-general of Madras Provence (British India). This Provence covered most of southern India, including the state of Tamil Nadu, where he likely discovered the ancient science of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda translates to science of life and is a practice of natural medicinal methods, originating there more than 3,000 years ago. He likely was shown various medicinal uses of local herbs and plants; valuable insight which was not offered at the University of Edinburgh. It is said that one practice he made note of was the inhalation of smoke to treat those suffering from bronchial disorders. Likely after observing the successful use of this treatment, he shared the information to those in the West and the rest is history.
Around the mid-19th century, pharmacists began marketing mixed herbs to be ignited and inhaled by asthma sufferers to open their bronchial passageways. They found relief from inhaling the smoke by way of fumigation, pipes, cigarettes, cigars and powdered ozone papers. By the 1870’s asthma cigarettes had become a popular form of relief. Ingredients in the blends varied, but they included such plants as jimson weed, belladonna, henbane and sometimes lobelia (Indian tobacco) or even cannabis.
Many baby boomers today have childhood memories of a stinky weed their elders lit up to alleviate their asthma attacks and report that after their guardians had a dose, they often became euphoric!
Debbie, who posted on The Smithsonian, National Museum of American History website, was oblivious that the stinky stuff she smelled growing up was likely cannabis! This led to an awkward experience, of which she wrote, “…having been a frequent ‘user’ of Asthmador as an asthmatic child in the 1950’s, (d)uring my first week as a freshman, I was walking down the hall of my dormitory with a friend when a certain odor wafted from behind…I commented, ‘Hmmm…Asthmador!’ My friend looked puzzled and responded, ‘That’s pot your smelling,” which left Debbie with the firm belief that, “(i)f marijuana and Asthmador are not the same, they are certainly close cousins.”
The main difference between the nightshade herbs, which were used in these formulations, and cannabis are the plant compounds. Belladonna and jimson weed both contain atropine, an alkaloid also identified in other toxic plants and associated drugs including caffeine, nicotine, and cocaine.
In the science and practice of Ayurveda, jimson weed is one of many medicinal plants seemingly having its roots in folklore, but in fact the seeds, leaves and roots have been used in Ayurveda for centuries in places such as Tamil Nadu, India, where, the entire plants were harvested and used as a bronchodilator and a sedative. If not implemented or dosed properly, it can produce toxic side effects including vision problems, increased heart rate, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Belladonna can also be deadly, but has been used in herbal medicine for centuries to treat spasms, relax muscles, treat respiratory health and histaminic reactions. On the other hand, the cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis are non-poisonous, but produce similar effects when it comes to asthma relief. The nightshades can indeed be deadly, but there has never been a death caused by the medicinal use of cannabis. In 1971, President Nixon began the war on drugs and the cigarettes began to lose popularity. By 1980, they were no longer available.
Alex, a participant of User Reviews for Cannabis on the drugs.com site, claims that, “(a)s a chronic asthmatic, … nothing has come close to marijuana in alleviating (his) breathing problems.” He goes on to explain that, when first diagnosed, he was, “put on different inhaled steroids…(which) caused severe side effects,” such as, “extreme weakness, low blood pressure (and) palpitations, even at the lowest doses.” After researching, he, “found…that cannabis was the cornerstone of asthma treatment in the nineteenth century,” so he, “tried it out through a vaporizer,” and it worked, “even better than Albuterol in opening (his) airways and stopping attacks.” He concluded that, “(i)t really is amazing.”
Many ancient herbal remedies, have been modernized and turned into synthetic pharmaceutical forms, but today cannabis in its natural form is still effective when treating bronchial disorders such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. In 2016 a U.S. company specializing in the development of cannabis-based medicines, announced the release of an inhalation medication for those suffering asthma/COPD for use in patient nebulizers.
Various methods and doses of cannabis can be utilized and a doctor’s recommendation is a good place to start. I think it’s safe to say that cannabis is making a come back for good reason and could certainly be a first line treatment for generations to come!
M.A. Merriman for bepainfreeglobal.com