The scent of marijuana has been dancing around our heads much more frequently with its legalization! This year we're celebrating with several ways: we had our medicated bake sale, and we also brought on an expert (from the neurobiology realm) to discuss a symptom that we often see clinically: the chronic smokers' cough.
Before we get started, a bit about Dr. Michele Ross...
Dr. Ross is a neuroscientist with fibromyalgia who has used Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in her healing journey. With her understanding of the body-mind-spirit, she has authored five books including Vitamin Weed, created numerous online courses including the first certification on Cannabis & Motherhood, and has educated thousands of patients, clinicians, and cannabis industry professionals around the world. Check out her social.
Anyone who has pulled a puff of a marijuana joint or a vape pen knows that burning feeling in your throat, and the inevitable coughing fit that happens after The embarrassing coughing session after smoking weed may go away for experienced cannabis users, however, that doesn’t mean chronic cannabis users are in the clear. Many cannabis smokers develop a chronic cough from their habit, even when they are not smoking.
Why Does a Cough Develop From Smoking Weed?
Regular cannabis smoking, whether from a joint, a bong, or a vape pen, may cause tiny injuries or trauma to your throat and lungs from toxic chemicals like ammonia that are inhaled from burned cannabis. Scientists have found regular marijuana smoking can lead to lung cells losing cilia, the little hairs that help sweep debris out of the lungs. Regular inhalation of cannabis can also lead to an impaired immune system (similarly, in TCM, immunity is largely connected to the lung function and organ), as macrophages are less able to attack bacteria and viruses that are inhaled. Both of these physiological changes in the body can lead to excess coughing, as it’s harder for the lungs to get rid of air pollution and microbes you breathe in.
Electron micrograph (EM) of the cells lining your lungs and airway | sciencesourcemedicalimages.com
Why Quitting Weed Might Not Be the Answer
The most obvious way to stop a chronic weed cough is to stop smoking marijuana, but for medical marijuana patients who may depend on the plant for relief or better sleep, this may not be an option. Even cannabis users who buy from adult-use marijuana dispensaries may simply enjoy the relaxation they get from smoking cannabis and not want to quit.
Finding A Long-term Fix For A Weed Cough
While drinking water or sucking on hard candies or cough drops can help an irritated throat from weed smoking, it’s not a permanent long-term solution for the cough. After searching for solutions, and most of them failing hard, I finally found something that works for both me and my clients. Tea!
While I am a big fan of tea, I really never really explored more than green tea, black tea, and some herbal flavors like chamomile tea. Then I was introduced to TCM, which regularly uses teas and other foods as a way to promote recovery and maintain wellness. TCM uses a potent combination of different fruits, vegetables and herbs as tonics for specific symptoms. What’s fun is that these tonics, which look like tea bags, can be used as teas, or even added to soups to help turn an average bowl of ramen into a healing functional meal.
A Throat Soothing Tonic for Weed Cough
While I had heard of TCM formulas for period pain or upset tummy, I didn’t realize that there were ancient formulas to soothe the throat. While a throat soothing tonic could help when you have the cold or the flu, it is now your secret weapon in preventing and treating weed cough. Five Seasons TCM makes a throat soothing herbal tonic that includes powerful ingredients like Chinese licorice, Chrysanthemum, and Osmanthus that can help reduce hoarseness, lessen irritation, moisturize the throat, and soothe the lungs.
Try drinking the throat soothing tonic tea while smoking or for 3-5 days until your weed cough clears. Then drink the tonic tea once a week to keep your throat healthy and happy. Now no one needs to know you’re a weed smoker because your cough is gone!
From a TCM viewpoint, smoking weed or smoking any herb for that matter is a warming or yang-producing activity. Weed itself already has warming energetics, and the addition of heat produced from burning or vaporizing heats and “burn up” the natural fluid that lubricates the organs in the body. This can lead to dryness with some heat in the body. The lungs are especially prone to dryness in general, and this dryness is understood as a Lung Yin deficiency.
Lung Yin deficiency can look like: sensations of heat in the body in the afternoon, night sweats, hot sensations in the palms and soles of feet, red malar flush on the cheeks, red tongue, perhaps with a thin dry coat. There may also be signs of a dry unproductive cough (no sputum or phlegm), or cough with a scanty sticky sputum, dry itchy throat and low hoarse voice. Not all smokers will develop a Yin deficiency cough but it's more common in smokers than not (especially in long-term users).
In addition to the throat tonic and food therapy, our in-house acupuncturist, Kai Yim LAc, recommends sleeping with a humidifier on for the drier patterns that are accompanied by dry nose and throat, dry cough with no sputum or only scanty sputum, and red-tipped tongue.
Learn more about dryness.Cover image credit: @thoughtcatalog