Cannabis THC and Effects on Breathing Asthma and COPD

This podcast arose out of a conversation between Robert and Shango Los about the historical evidence that cannabis had been used to alleviate the symptoms of asthma. There is curiosity about how today’s variety of ways to get cannabis in the body can be useful for this purpose. We discuss dabbing, smoking, vaping, eating and tinctures and their effects on Breathing, Asthma, and COPD.

One of the important effects of certain strains of cannabis is how it can enhance one’s ability to “feel” the body and how it is moving in response breathing. By being able to give this process more acute attention,

one can learn how to self-regulate body tensions to a more relaxed state which furthers the ability of breath to nourish the tissues and organs of the body. The results of this ability to self-regulate helps to increase breathing effectiveness in the delivery of oxygen and the balance of all the gases working in the body. When breathing feels nourishing it  facilitate health and proper breathing mechanics.

Anxiety can be a symptom of improper breathing mechanics as well as decrease the body’s facility to deliver oxygen effectively. Using cannabis to enhance the experience of breathing can soothe anxiety. Too much of the time is spent wondering if one is breathing “correctly”. This kind of thinking decreases the body’s ability to breathe. More effective is having a direct experience of a breathing cycle that nourishes.

Come give a listen, or see the transcript, to this delightful conversation that covers these topics and more.

podcast Cannabis - THC and Effects on Breathing, Asthma, and COPD Podcast: Cannabis – THC and Effects on Breathing, Asthma, and COPD


Shango:                                00:00:06               Breathing is at the heart of what it means to be a living human. We don’t usually think about it much because breathing is an autonomic function and happens without us even really thinking about it at all. Similarly, when we inhale cannabis, we spend a lot more time choosing our favorite strain in smoking or vaping device. Then we do thinking about the role our lungs play in this process because cannabis is a bronchial dilator, many who use cannabis think that means that cannabis cannot injure or impact our lungs and that’s simply not true. It’s wishful thinking. To think that whatever we inhale, we’ll be fine, so long as it’s cannabis. The reality is far more complex than that. Inhaling cannabis can help lungs in many ways for sure, but there’s also methods that negatively impact the lungs as well. Not only that, if you are toking on a budget, there are definitely ways to smoke that are more effective at getting you high with less flower or oil.

Shango:                                00:01:37               My guest this week is Robert Litman. For over 30 years. Robert Litman has guided clients and students in the use of movement, breath and sound as a tool for personal growth and efficient body mechanics. He co-developed the Wellsprings practitioner program with Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum Movement and co-taught with her for 18 years. He was on the Faculty of Continuum Movement until 2014 and has made many contributions to continuums practices, particularly in the sciences, incorporating respiratory physiology, neuroanatomy, and cellular biology.

Shango:                                00:02:35               Robert has been a faculty member and head of the department of Anatomy and Physiology and movement education at the Desert Institute of the healing arts massage school. He teaches the Buteyko breathing technique, helping people with a variety of disorders and is also an organizing member, registered educator and trainer of the Buteyko breathing educators association. Robert has advanced certifications in the Duggan French Approach to Somatic Pattern Recognition and a certification as a breathing behavior analyst. He’s also a specialist in breathing and the use of psychoactive substances. He founded his practice personal practice, The Breathable Body in 2003 and regularly leads classes and workshops worldwide. Welcome to the show Robert.

Robert:                                 00:03:18               Well, thank you. Good morning to you.

Shango:                                00:03:20               So before we get into the mechanics of breathing,  I want to set the tone correctly for this show because you know it’s important for folks to get that you are very integrative and holistic in your practice. And you know, I’ve already described your practice in the introduction, but would you set the context for us by explaining how cannabis inhalation can increase our awareness of breathing and the body as a whole towards the general betterment of everybody who tokes cannabis?

Robert:                                 00:03:49               Yeah. One of the things that I have played with and discovered for myself as well as my clients is increases body awareness. When I say body awareness is our ability to be able to sense what is going on inside of our bodies, sort of like an animal does, you know, operating from their senses. When we operate from our senses we’re more in touch with how breathing is actually moving inside of our organism. Being able to sense that and feel into how our lungs open, how our body spreads out, when we breathe in and how it comes back into its normal shape when we breathe out. We’re able to then have better access to using our breath to soothe the nervous system. Cannabis is a bronchial dilatot, opening up our airways.  I like that particular piece of the awareness that gets included in smoking cannabis or taking it in other forms. And so that when we learn that about ourselves, even when we are not using cannabis, we’re able to implement what we’ve learned just throughout the day to help soothe our nervous system and any kind of breathing dysfunctions that we may have.

Shango:                                00:05:08               So I know we’re going to be talking a lot about the relationship between cannabis, breathing and anxiety today. Can you break out just a little bit, um, how breathing is, interacts with the nervous system?

Robert:                                 00:05:27               Cannabis can have an effect of relaxing you, you tend to breathe from a deeper place inside of your body. It’s more down in the lower belly, your diaphragm is more active in breathing, which sets the tone for the nervous system to recognize that we’re not on fight or flight, that it’s a time for the body to be in a more parasympathetic mode of relaxation. When we’re anxious, we tend to breathe up high and our chest and which is a much smaller space sending a message to our nervous system that something is threatening us. And so we’re in fight or flight and when we’re in fight or flight, we’re breathing way too fast. And usually in a case of people who are anxious and not moving quickly, fight or flight, there’s a mismatch and so there’s a lot of adrenaline running through the system, but we’re not moving so the body gets anxious.

Robert:                                 00:06:19               It’s what’s happening, where’s the threat, and what am I supposed to do a better right in this particular moment. So the mind gets really active in that regard. If we were really in fight or flight and running for our life, there would be no mind involved. So cannabis has this ability to soften the nervous system, soften your breathing, and relax the body so that you’re breathing more from your diaphragm and more with ease and at a slower pace. That’s the biggest issue, breathing at a slower pace. When we’re really anxious or if we’re having an asthma attack, will tend to breathe 20 to 30 times per minute. Normal breathing rate is about 12 to 14 times, maybe even eight to 12 breaths per minute. And when we’re really in parasympathetic mode and really relaxed, we’re breathing around six breaths per minute. And so that’s  the learning that we’re looking for as to how to establish both the pace and the rhythm of breathing and also the volume of breathing and that we’re breathing less per minute than when we’re in fight or flight.

Shango:                                00:07:27               That’s really interesting. And you know, even though I didn’t just talk, the fact that you and I are talking about breathing is increasing the awareness of my breath, which now I’m doing it with more awareness and I notice it slowing down and you know, I’m excited because we’re doing the recording, but I just calmed myself down just by listening to you talk about healthy breathing. Awareness is everything. So, so let’s talk about now the actual mechanics, right? We all take breathing for granted. There are right ways and wrong ways to do it. And our body actually has to do several things for us to successfully breathe. Thank goodness that it’s on autopilot. So, we can unpack this later on when we’re talking about some of the challenges. Would you explain the mechanics of inhalation?

Robert:                                 00:08:22               A really clear question. Well, when we breathe in a inhalation, the diaphragm is descending, that’s the major breathing muscle that it’s right down at the lower ribs. And when the diaphragm moves properly and lowers down towards your pelvis, it’s increasing the size of your lungs. It’s stretching the bottom of the lungs. That’s the first stage. The second stage is the ribs on the side. If you had your hands on the side of your ribs, they will start to elevate. And that begins to take the lungs wider. In a really full and big breath when you need a lot more air than the front of the chest will move, which will increase the dimension of the long front to back. So the function of that is to change the internal pressure of the lungs, so when the lungs are fully closed and we’re at the end of the exhale, the pressure inside the lung is less than the pressure outside in the atmosphere, which is surprising, but it’s true.

Robert:                                 00:09:29               And so when the lungs begin to open up at the pull of the diaphragm and the ribs, the pressure outside of the body is greater than the pressure inside. This space is expanding and so what happens automatically, it’s air is drawn into the lungs. It’s almost like you say, we don’t even have to think about it, but because of the pressure changes in physics and wants to move from a higher pressure gradient to a lower pressure gradient So, the air is coming into the lungs to equalize the pressure both outside and inside automatically, which is what happened when we’re sleeping. We’re not thinking about it, which is one of the amazing things about breathing that is both under our control and it happens automatically.

Shango:                                00:10:11               That’s probably a really healthy fail safe for our human. That as we exhale, there’s like an automatic bounce back to inhaling again, that makes evolutionary sense to me.

Robert:                                 00:10:26               Yeah. People who speak a lot have experiences like getting up to speak, say, or being on a radio show where they get anxious and they start to breathe too fast and they begin to hyperventilate and they get dizzy and they pass out. Well, that’s the failsafe right there. You can’t kill yourself by breathing too much. You’ll end up fainting. And the mechanism of fainting, of course, is that when you’re faint your body will go back to breeding at a rate that is actually commensurate for what the body needs. And so, um, you’re coming back to normal that way.

Shango:                                00:11:03               That makes sense. Yeah. So as somebody with lifelong asthma, I’ve always thought that inhaling cannabis would be bad for the lungs because of the resin collecting on the lung Cilia inside and, and grouping those up. And also I always expected the throat and the lung to be irritated from the heat. Um, but you know, I got laughed at on a lot of social media threads about that belief and so I read more and more about it and it does seem that I’m wrong. And the more studies that I read about, um, you know, tobacco inhalation, marijuana inhalation, you know, whether it’s dabbing or joints, they all seem to suggest that overall inhaling cannabis is good for the lungs. How can that be? So why isn’t inhaling cannabis smoke coating our lungs with additional resin and making things worse?

Robert:                                 00:12:01               Well, one of the things you have to speak about first is how much you’ve been a smoker at one time, how much you’re taking in, what kind of volume and what kind of heat it’s at. So in terms of asthma, there are strains that are bronchial dilators. There’s actually, I’m in my own reading too, there are six ways that cannabis actually helps, helps the lungs, but we have to be careful about how much you smoke and how much, uh, how much heat is in the smoke. Because when you know there’s too much heat and the smoke, you’re coughing, which is actually a reaction to kind of push out what got in there that it doesn’t need to be in there. So we’re looking at other effects of it in terms of micro dosing cannabis, we’re looking at anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, Bronchial dilation and anti-spasmodic, and it’s analogies.

Robert:                                 00:12:50               It helps with the pain. So it the, the Bronchial dilating effect is the most important because with asthma, that’s what happens when you’re starting to have an asthma attack. The smooth muscle in the airways is contracting in a way that doesn’t allow the air to be released. So cannabis offers that effect where it hits the smooth muscle and it relaxes it to let the air flow begin again. So I think in terms of what you’re talking about in terms of the resins, it just really depends on how much you smoke. There’s most of the readings and most of the studies have been done with cannabis are about small doses.

Shango:                                00:13:26               Yeah, that makes sense. So that’s interesting  that really there’s a threshold point where the regularity of smoking cannabis switches over from being, um, necessarily healthy for the lungs to actually being potentially detrimental. And of course, you know, I’m sure that everybody like me is wondering how do we know where that point is? And I’m assuming that it’s different for every person, but do we really only know where our threshold is when we reach it and we start experiencing negative side effects from too much smoke inhalation?

Robert:                                 00:14:00               So let’s talk about mucus. So the lungs have this ability to make mucus. You start to expectorate, you start to notice that you have a little bit more mucus and the coughing up. So why is that mucus being produced in the first place? It’s being produced to protect the lungs. Something is irritating the lungs beyond what they normally need and the body’s making more mucus to cover it up and to help it move it out because the mucus has meant to either be swallowed or coughed up. So my experience is when I start to feel like I’ve got more mucus in my body, I know that I’m smoking too much and that I’m putting too many irritants into my lungs.

Shango:                                00:14:46               That actually makes a lot of sense too because, you know, people, will joke about, you know, the mucus or feeling chunky after, you know, after a big session. And I myself, you know, when I go to full weekend cannabis events that are more party than convention, like a, like Emerald Cup down in Sonoma county at the end of the Emerald Cup by the time I’m driving home, you know, I feel like  there’s been a war zone in my lungs and if something, you know, they feel they feel sore and tired and, and that is from, you know, successive joints with friends and colleagues at the event because, you know, certainly my usage goes up  at something like that. So that makes sense. Um, you know,

Robert:                                 00:15:35               excuse me for interrupting, but you said something really important there. It’s like the throat has been overused. So, um, let’s see, what’s the word I want to use here? You know, unaware as the best word I can come up with at the moment about how our lungs are really taking care of us. I mean, they are the most essential thing we do. Yes, we could talk about our heart being very essential, but the way the heart runs of course is that it has to receive the oxygen that the lungs bring in. So it’s a rule of threes – three minutes without breath, three days without water, three weeks without food. It is the most essential process that our body goes through and we take it for granted most of the time so that when our lungs are feeling sore and feeling tired, it’s a time that we can say to ourselves, you know, you’ve got your lungs,  they’ve been taken care of us for a really long time here. How about I slow down, relax my body, breathe in a quiet way. Let me take care of my lungs for a while.

Shango:                                00:16:31               Right on. So before we go to the break and then our second set, we’re going to talk a lot about vaporizers and the difference between that and smoke. But um, I want to hit one more moment on a different warning signs or, or at least like little yellow flags that people can look for. You mentioned mucus, which I’m sure is maybe even the most prevalent one,  but when somebody is new to cannabis, um, and they don’t have the experience of years and years of it, like, like many folks, do you know,  what things can they look for to let them know that, um, they, they may be reaching their outside threshold of inhalation and so maybe need to start considering, you know, tinctures and other less inhalation inhaled cannabis.

Robert:                                 00:17:21               Well, it’s interesting about what the other things that drive breathing is the ratio between carbon dioxide and oxygen in the system. Then most of the time we think about the oxygen as a nutrient and carbon dioxide is the waste gas. And actually the truth of that is carbon dioxide regulates the distribution of oxygen in our bodies. So when I talked about hyperventilating, the reason we faint is because the carbon levels get so low because we’re blowing it out all the time that the oxygen distribution to the brain slows down and we faint. So it’s the same thing with smoking too much cannabis. If you’re  exhale in big exhales, you’re disrupting the blood gases in your body so you can start to get headaches. It can start to get tingling in your hands and feet. You can start to feel your blood pressure rise, your heart rate increase when those are signs that perhaps your exhale and too much through your mouth. So you could think about exhaling through your nose, but those would be some of the signs that you’re overdoing. Dehydration would be another one. Um, so those, those are some of the signs.

Shango:                                00:18:34               Wow, that’s, that’s really interesting. So, so based on that, would it be a safe to say rule of thumb that taking more smaller hits is going to be better for our lungs than taking monster bravado hits?

Robert:                                 00:18:51               Yes, and it’s also changed. We used to think that we had to hold the air, the smoke in her lungs, and that’s, that’s been proven inaccurate. Now we don’t need to do that holding of breath, which does cause the breathing rate to get disturbed. Now we can breathe in small, small amounts that come in and then put it right out as well as taking it into your mouth first and then letting it cool there and then going into the lungs rather than taking it right into the lungd. So yes, smaller hits a much more profitable than really big hits.

Shango:                                00:19:19               I’m glad you brought up that, that myth because you know, there’s a lot of people. I mean even  I believed that for 20 some years that you take the hit and I want to hold it as long as I can because I’m thinking that it’s, it’s soaking into my lungs and I want all the cannabinoids to soak into my lungs. And then if I could, I just want to, you know, exhale, clear because I’ve got it all now. You know tthat’s wrong, but I don’t know why that’s wrong. What is wrong with that understanding of how the cannabinoids are taken  in the lungs that I don’t have to hold my breath.

Robert:                                 00:19:54               Yeah. So the one thing is the fact of what happens to the breathing rate and the rhythm of the breath gets disrupted by holding your breath in that that pattern can carry over to real life, but it’s also keeping the smoke in the lungs too long. That’s where the damage can be done by the smoke. It just needs to come in, absorb what it needs to absorb and release it.

Shango:                                00:20:20               I see. So the fallacy in the thinking is that I’m getting an infinite amount of canabinoids can be absorbed through the lungs in any particular breath. When the reality is if you just take  a small to medium sized, hit and breathe it in to the capacity for the lungs, the cannabinoids hit its limits and then you exhale and that’s great. But if you take a bigger hit and you hold it for longer, you’re actually causing damage without actually any increased benefit because your lungs can fill themselves up with all the cannabinoids that a can take in just with a simple small hit.

Robert:                                 00:21:06               Yes. A couple of things. One is that a red, blue, red blood cells lineups singularly as they traveled through the lungs and it takes three quarters of a second for a red blood cell to pick up the oxygen and then whatever else is going to pick up from the lungd, so it’s on its way in three quarters of a second. The other piece of so you can imagine that the parade’s going into the bloodstream is very available to pick up what’s ever in there. The other piece of that is that if you start holding, you’re holding your breath with the air in there, you’re overstretching like a rubber band that’s getting used too much in it’s stretched position  If you’re smoking and holding it for a long periods of time, you can be  doing damage to the elasticity of the lungs.

Shango:                                00:21:48               Wow. That’s really interesting. Alright, cool. So, uh, after the break we’re going to start talking about vaporizers. we’re going to take that short break and be right back. You are listening to Shaping Fire. And my guest today is breathing specialist Robert Litman. Join me at the upcoming  event in Los Angeles for gathering of the top minds in cannabis medicine. Field experts will present their latest findings and best practices in treating a variety of conditions with cannabis, including epilepsy, pain, traumatic brain injury, cancer, autism, and more laboratory professionals will share their revolutionary technologies in cannabinoid terpenoid, extraction delivery methods and quality and safety testing. Cal Med 2018 is October 22nd through 24th at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA. And while the final speakers list is still coming together, the speakers who are already announced give you plenty of reasons to get your ticket today. Prepare yourself to learn from 54 thought leader presentations focused on furthering the convergence of medical cannabis research treatment and product development.

Shango:                                00:27:53               You know how to breathe in smoke, what’s going on and  why we enjoy it so much with cannabis. And before we talk vaporizers, I want to talk about what it was essentially the old school vaporizer, right? If, if, if we were using a bong and we didn’t want it to hurt as much, we added ice and, and for me that’s a good part of college. So, so where are we kidding ourselves that, that adding ice to the Bong, um, made it easier on our lungs or did it just make it feel easier because it makes the, it makes the experience of the smoke a little less harsh?

Robert:                                 00:28:59               Well, is there a difference between feeling and the truth of that experience? It is all based on feeling and it does cool. The smoke, I mean, how many times have you burned your throat and lungs. And so anything that helps cool it down so that there’s not that burn that has to be rehabilitated by the throat and lungs is going to be advantageous.

Shango:                                00:29:24               Right on. So  all of you who put ice in your bongs, thumbs up. And for those of you who live near the snow, you’re snowbanks are still good to go as well.

Robert:                                 00:29:34               The thing  about it for using it for, for asthma and learning how to use your breath properly with the smoke is, you know, you got to stay somewhat current.

Shango:                                00:29:46               this is true. So while we’re still talking about asthma, you know, people who will listen to the show regularly know that I’m a big fan of vaporizers. I mean I love smoking joints and bongs as well when,  but for daily use I’m really much more about the vaporizer  because it makes my whole life a little bit better and the vaporizers that are out now are infinitely better than the ones that we had just a few years ago. But you know, since you are looking at this as more of a, you know, a science and Dr Lee’s direction, how much truth is there actually to the idea that vaporizers are healthier for people generally. But especially for people with breathing issues like as medics and COPD and things like that.

Robert:                                 00:30:30               Well, you certainly don’t get any of the ash and tar from the paper. And it is a, it is definitely a cooler smoke. You’re not even going up over 180 degrees. Well, when you’re combusting through a pipe or through paper, you can be up to a thousand degrees temperature. So there’s quite a bit of difference right there alone as well as, like I said, with especially with papers, you’re getting all the particulates that are in the papers. So vaporizers you don’t get any of that. You don’t get an ash, you’re just getting the vapor. The vapor is carrying the terpenes and  THC.

Shango:                                00:31:07               Certainly experientially , it’s much nicer to the point that when, when I turned people onto my waterpipe vaporizer, at first they’re not even certain if they got a hit because they’re expecting the irritation and the end, the choking and all of that. And what they normally just say as, oh, that tastes good. Which is of course a great response. But then by the time they’ve had their second or third hit and they, they’ve gotten used to the idea that they exhale and it’s more of  a light, tasty vapor than it is smoke it, you know, people start to get into it at At that point what’s going on differently in the body? Is it just simply that the body is not clenching because I’m not smoking in all those extra tars and particulates that you mentioned?

Robert:                                 00:32:06               That’s very true. I like the way you say that because the lungs are very responsive to atmosphere and so if there’s things in the atmosphere like tars and ash, they are going to contract to make sure that they do not absorb those things. And so with vaporizer its not going on alert. Right on. Um, so the other piece, the other piece that I was going to say about it is that, you know, when you’re vaporizing and you don’t think there’s much smoke coming out, you kind of have to wait to see what the effects are.

Shango:                                00:32:39               Yeah, that’s actually a good point. You know, historically I would judge, high I was going to get based on my exhale, like, so if somebody has a big exhale into big cloud of smoke and everybody in the smoking circle goes, oh, you know, because that person’s in for a fun ride. Um, but with, with a vaporizer, I really have to judge it in how much I pack into the vaporizer because there’s not that visual cue anymore. And, and certainly when I was learning how to use a vaporizer, I would, you know,  both over and under pack until I learned how to use this new tool that makes sense.

Robert:                                 00:33:21               We started this conversation around asthma and about body awareness. So slowing it down, cooling the temperature down gives a chance for the consciousness and the awareness to actually pay attention to the process without having to be so reactive. So there’s an engagement. You breathe in, breathe out, you kind of sitting with what, how’s this, how’s this acting in my body? And what kind of additional effects is it happening right now, especially if I’m using it at a time that my lungss are contracting and having a bit of an asthmatic attack, I want to feel that instantaneous, a dilation that’s, that’s possible.

Shango:                                00:34:00               And for folks who don’t have asthma or a COPD, I would think that this would be a winning strategy for them as well, simply because, you know, for a lot of people, if you take, you know, a monster hit and it has a lot of particulates smoke in it, um, and you start coughing, uh, you know, perhaps your adrenals kick off a little bit. Maybe you get a little anxious, maybe you do get that soreness. So even if you’re just toking for fun, I’m using a vaporizer, may be to your benefit, just because it’s an easier experience.

Robert:                                 00:34:32               Yeah. And one of the things that I’m speaking to about choking, excuse me, choking and coughing. Again, when we go back to what we said earlier in the day about breathing from the diaphragm, breathing from the chest, coughing and choking or all energies that come upward and it doesn’t take that long to get patterned into a different breathing patterns. So if you cough for a little bit, you’ll probably notice right away the next couple of breaths you’re up in your chest. So then you have to be conscious about bringing your breathing back down to the lower part of the body. So if you’re vaporizing easily and taking small hits on it, you can kind of stay with that experience as you begin to deepen into your breathing.

Shango:                                00:35:12               So, so this next question, I don’t know if you’re going to have an answer for this, Robert. It’s definitely non sequitur and I haven’t seen any studies on it, but I’m going to ask anyway because you’ve already surprised me a couple times. Um, so you know, when some people, when they first start vaporizing, they say that the high is different than when they’re smoking joints. And, you know, doing a lot of both and having  using a lot of different kinds of vaporizers. I have to agree with that to a certain extent. Certainly I can get just as high from a vaporizer as I can from a joint, but somehow the tenor of it is different. It’s, it’s a little, it’s a little cleaner, it’s a little less violent.  I don’t really know why that’s there. There’s a difference. I suspect it’s because there are attributes to the experience of the high that people feel after smoking a joint that, that they don’t feel after a vaporizer. So I don’t know if that was a very well worded question, but if you understand where I’m going, what are your thoughts?

Robert:                                 00:36:25               Well, I do. I do understand where you’re going. That’s my experience as well. But I’m really about engagement and participation with an experience . I do notice that  it is a different kind of high. I would say that I don’t feel as high, but I’m not sure that’s exactly accurate, but I do feel like I’m not engaged. My body’s not engaged with having to filter out the negative attributes of smoking so I can stay more connected to the experience. That’s my best answer for that and that’s the part that I like. I like to being engaged with the process that I’m participating in and I liked being engaged with my awareness that I stay present in my body and in my experience I don’t like getting so far out that I have to manage too many different experiences at one time being high and clearing my throat, all those different pieces. I think the body, what we’re not aware of is that the body is on alert in some way that takes us out of the immediate enjoyment of the experience.

Shango:                                00:37:26               I like that answer. Good. I’m glad I asked. Thank you. So, um, you know, a lot of these folks who are listening, a lot of folks that listen to this show work with COPD patients like I do. Um, and, and a lot of books talk about COP patients. I have a feeling that people don’t really get what’s up with that condition as much as they do with asthma. So will you just describe what COPD is and just so for everyone’s understanding.

Robert:                                 00:37:57               The initials stand for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So something’s happening in the airways – obstruction. So over time from asthma where it usually develops, it’s an order of allergies, asthma, cop, emphysema, the airways are so occluded or tightened and twisted that it’s hard to get the air in and out.  What’s beginning to happen is that the little air sacks in the lungs. there’s 300 million of those little air sacs that move air. And I just like this little statistic, if you cut them open and laid them side by side and have a surface area of a tennis court to move air back and forth. So those little air sac (alveoli) start to just stiffen and they lose their elasticity. The blood vessels that are picking up oxygen  around those Alveoli start to separate a little bit.

Robert:                                 00:38:56               So the movement of air and oxygen decreases. We can’t get as much oxygen. We’re not  saturated as much. So the where we go with this with COPD, it is really important that breathing rhythms and breathing volumes and the balancing of the blood gases that are available or at their optimal. So even if we’re getting less oxygen than normal, we are able to move it. That’s the issue. It’s not just that what we can take in what’s in our blood, but how does it get from our blood into our cells? Where it does the most good and making the energy that runs our body. So COPD is a very  debilitating. Energy wise, out bodies don’t have enough energy to operate fully. COPD people get supplemental oxygen or learn how to breathe really in the most effective way to minimize the reduction of not moving the oxygen from the blood to the cells, but maximizing that potential.

Shango:                                00:39:55               So I run into patients all the time asking me about cannabis as a bronchial dilator and they want a vape it. Um, but when I originally started hearing this from people, I thought that was crazy, right? Because with COPD why would you want to inhale anything? And then I went ahead and I started looking at the studies and there seemed to be a mix, some to some suggests that you want to inhale cannabis vapor so that you are directly applying it to the lungs for the bronchial dilation in general relaxation effects. But then, but then some talk about, uh, the potential use of oral tinctures to which would be more systemic, and not targeted towards the lungs. So, so what are your thoughts about the benefits of taking a cannabis tincture and their ability to bronchial dilate? The lungs without actually inhaling the vapor for this is for more severe COPD folks who are looking for relief. Yeah.

Robert:                                 00:41:03               I’m a big fan of the tinctures. It depends what’s going on. whether there’s s some kind of obstruction that’s going on in the lungs themselves or whether it’s in the airway’s going towards the lungs, so you have to kind of take a look at what’s going. If the damage is more systemic in the lungs and I like tinctures and so a lot of the studies that have been done, tinctures are a good way to go and it is the oldest form of taking cannabis. Even in Egypt. In ancient times they used tinctures in India and China. When you’re thinking about  dilating for asthma or for COPD, it would be more effective to do that. When you are having a moment when you really are bronchial constricted the vape well get to it much sooner. If you’re just trying to keep the airways open and relaxed than tinctures will do the job, but if you want, if you’re having an attack and really can’t catch your breath and you’re not able to move any air, i. So you need to vape in that particular time.

Shango:                                00:42:09               I get it. So taking a tincture is more of a preventative and vaping is more like crisis management. Exactly. That makes a lot of sense. So before we go to our second commercial, I want to create this opportunity because  when I met with you, you went through this wonderful little breathing exercise and  I think that everybody would, would appreciate having this experience. So we’re talking about asthma, we’re talking about COPD, we’re talking about taking too big of hits and we’re talking about crisis management  and all of these can be answered by creating a soothing, breathing pattern. And this example  you teach this on your youtube channel as well. So if people hear this once in your car with the podcast and you want  a longer version of it, you can that on the breathable body website and on his youtube page. it’s only about 90 seconds. Robert, would you go ahead and do the soothing, breathing pattern of exercise for folks and then after everybody’s all chill, we’ll go to commercial.

Robert:                                 00:43:21               Okay. Do I have a little time for a little backstory on this? Yeah, yeah. Go right ahead. Okay. So we’ve been talking about nose breathing a little bit. So let me just say a couple of things. That nose breathing is the way the body uses air most effectively. You breathe through your mouth as often as you eat through your nose is what we’d like to say in class, and that you pace yourself so y0u breathe through your nose almost all the time. Why is that is because it’s the best utilization of carbon dioxide. The body retains more to help the oxygen move. When you breathe through your mouth, you give up way too much carbon dioxide. now as I sit and hyperventilating and we’ve seen this experience when somebody is about to faint and they breathe into a paper bag that breathing back their own carbon dioxide and they reduced the ability to faint

Robert:                                 00:44:05               So this exercise is designed when you’re feeling anxious or when you feel like you’re breathing too fast. how to bring the body back to a little slower breathing rate as well as to maximize the use of your carbon dioxide to help oxygen get distributed more quickly, which will bring the system back into relaxing. So I’m going to do this in eighty one seconds. The count is  up to the count of six and then back from the count of six. So you’ll understand when I do it. If you’re having an asthma attack, you would do it up to the count of 10 and then come back from 10. Sit comfortably, I’m going to say it this way, I’m going to tell you to breathe in. I’m going to tell you to breathe out and I’m going to tell you to suspend your breathing, so I’m having you breathe in to the rate of two seconds out for the rate of three seconds, and then we’ll be holding periodically moving from two seconds up to six seconds and back again, so don’t over breathe. Don’t try to breathe harder, be in a relaxed place. Just let the air come in as naturally as it can in this particular time. Whatever your breathing rate is and rhythm is, let it be that. Don’t Overdo it, right? Here we go. So when I say ready, take a breath in. Take a breath out and suspend your breeding. One to take a breath in. Take a breath in, out, and suspend one. two. Take a breath in, out One, two, three, take a breath in, breath out. Suspend one, two, three, four. Breathe in, breathe out, suspend one, two, three, four, five. Breathe in, breathe out suspend one, two, three, four, five, six. Breathe in , breathe out. Suspend one, two, three, four, five. Breathe in, breathe out. One, two, three, four. Breathe in. breathe out, suspend  one, two, three.  Breathe in, breathe out, Suspend one, two.  Breathe in, breathe out

Shango:                                00:46:57               I am very chill now. Um, yeah, so this feeling that I have right now is why I wanted to include it in today’s show because when we did this in person, um, it actually makes me feel like I’m gently high, um, and it’s just working with my body’s natural rhythms and uh, not only is this great for folks with asthma and COPD and related, you know, blockage type things, but um, but also, um, as more and more people are experimenting with cannabis and people introduce themselves to dabbing and, and cannabis is getting stronger. Um, sometimes we can feel anxious when we’re using cannabis. And so this, this breathing exercise, you know, so far it has been 100 percent effective in me when I get a little off my game and get anxious when I’m toking. This brings me right back to where I want to be. And for something like that, to be so effective and only take a minute and a half of concentration, I would call that something pretty powerful tech.

Robert:                                 00:48:09               what’s happening with the feeling, all that breath holding in between is increasing the CO2, which is really allowing the body to flood with oxygen, and so that’s what you’re feeling when you’re feeling a little high, getting so much more oxygen to your brain and once the brain has more oxygen says, well, okay, we can chill.  There’s no threat going on where we’re fully fed, we’re nourished.

Shango:                                00:48:33               Fantastic. So let’s go ahead. I’m so calm now. Let’s go ahead and take our, uh, our second break and we’ll be right back. You’re listening to shaping fire. And my guest today is breathing specialist Robert Litman. While I certainly still enjoy smoking joints, I moved over to using vaporizers about three years ago. The high was a little different than burning the flower and in the end I decided I preferred it for daily use, especially because I have asthma. More importantly though, I could taste my flower so much more. It’s hard to express to you how significantly different cannabis with a good terpene profile tastes. When vaped instead of burned.

Shango:                                00:52:04               In fact, I needed to do a couple jumping jacks to get my head back in the game for this last section. So, uh, during this last section, we’re going to talk a bit about, um, uh, dabbing and then a bit about a ceremonial plant medicine, so that’ll be fun. let’s talk a little bit about what we know so far about breathing and dabbing because, because you know, most of these studies around the impacts that dabbing has on the human. I’m just haven’t been done yet. Um, there’s a lot of opportunity there, but they just haven’t been done yet.  So let’s start with something really basic. So the heat coming off of DAB rigs is extraordinarily hot, especially if someone’s using a torch and if they hit it at a full temp, you know, Robert is this dabbing especially abusive to the lungs compared to other types of inhalation of cannabis.

Robert:                                 00:52:56               Yeah, it feels that way to me. I mean, it’s the burn. I go back to the burning issue. The burning issue is  going to cause the  lungs and the airways to scorch. So over time, a repetitive tearing apart of the epithelial lining, rebuilding the epithelial lining, tear it down and rebuilding it, it’s going to scar. The body is very adaptable in terms of strengthening what it needs to strengthen and it will solidify some of those tissue that are meant to be malleable. over time there’s a stiffening of the airways which not what’s meant to happen.

Shango:                                00:53:35               Yeah,  that doesn’t sound good. It’s certainly, it doesn’t feel good.  it is an odd part of cannabis culture right now. And, and you know, and I should say upfront that I dab, you know, I’ll, dab using a butane torch is when I’m out, but really I prefer dabbing at home. But, you know, I dabbed. So I’m into concentrates. But what I’m not into is that burning feeling. It seems to me that, that it’s an odd aspect of our cannabis culture that uh, the burning. And even sometimes people keeling over , from the amount that they inhaled and Keel over. I think that we’re gonna  evolve away from that as a scene and, and for me, the sooner the better. How about the inhalation of terpenes though? Um, you know, smoking a joint is one thing because there’s only so many terpenes to inhale in the joint, but with a concentrate, you know, those could theoretically reach a level of terpene toxicity, you know, and I, and I have yet to see any studies on this so, so it’s, it’s mostly just opinion, but like what’s your hunch as somebody who does this all day, every day, what do you think that the studies are going to look like when, when they’re eventually completed?

Robert:                                 00:55:02               I do think there’ll be toxicity. The terpenes is aroma therapy and you’re doing some aroma therapy are always looking for the  light smell and you know, you’re, you’re going to eventually become more immune . The body is going to develop it, a protection device, so it won’t be as effective. That’s my hunch.

Shango:                                00:55:25               Yeah, that makes sense. And you know, it also makes me concerned about  these custom sauces that people are putting into vape pens. I mean anybody who listens to the note and then to the show knows that I’m a big fan of whole plant medicine anyway, but some of these, you know, these custom terpene sauces people are making, they are being blended based on taste more than they’re being blended based on science. And it concerns me that some of these, especially tasty ones that are jammed packed with aftermarket terpenes that don’t come, you know, that are not in the original makeup of the plant. The percentage of them are so high, so they taste good. Uh, I’m just concerned about their long term effects of the lungs and I know that that could make me sound like a, like a negative nelly or whatever. But you know, as somebody who works with patients every day, this is, this is where my head’s at.

Robert:                                 00:56:21               No, you’re answering your question. I mean, it’s an artificial stimulation,  it doesn’t like that kind of stuff. Just doesn’t.

Shango:                                00:56:29               Right on. So, um, so, so let’s  up the scales. Right? So, so when someone takes a huge dab, they are inhaling heavy amounts of THC and other cannabinoids, intense terpenes and I’ve seen plenty of videos and you know, people even joke about this online in memes where someone takes a huge hit and keels over right there, their eyes are rolling back a little bit. Maybe they shake and they fall over and, you know, in some circles there, friends laugh and you know, that’s, that’s just part of our scene here. Um,  but why, right? Like, what is happening with the delivery of that hit to the lungs that somehow shuts their human down. How come it doesn’t happen to other people, you know, doing entertainment size, dabs of several grams for video. It only seems to happen to some people sometimes when they take a monster hit. Do you have any suggestions about what might be going on at the mechanization level?

Robert:                                 00:57:25               You know, all each one of us is sensitive in a different way and so some people can tolerate pain, some people can tolerate a loud noises and some people can. So it depends on a person’s nervous system to shut down is an overload. The body in the nervous systems going, I can’t handle this. I got to shut down. It’s too much. It’s too much stimulus, way too fast for this particular nervous system. And so it shuts down.

Shango:                                00:57:53               Oh, that would make sense why it’s different for, for every people. And probably even why. It’s probably also related to tolerance too. If, um, you know, over time you can probably handle more dad inhalation than you would in normal eyes. But you know, I’m thinking back to the second set, you know, it’s actually, you know, well said. that if people are gonna Dab because I’m going to continue to Dab even though I know what we’re talking about. But what I have found is that micro dabbing is the way to go because just like we were talking earlier about  the very clear reasons why it makes physiological sense to take more smaller hits because  you’ll be gentler on the lungs. Plus honestly, you’re preserving  your cannabis as well because you’re not wasting it on the exhale. Um, but, but taking more like a higher number of micro dads, so you’re taking more of a smaller inhalation really seems to be the way to go  if people are going to continue with concentrates, which they are, it’s just getting more popular, not less.

Robert:                                 00:59:07               But when we come back to the topic of this show and she was asking COPD, so you kind of have to evaluate with the micro, dab does its job for you, for that particular person. Their particular reason if you’re using it for other things like to party and have a good time. That’s a different story. But otherwise, the studies that have been done show about 200 micro grams of THC is all the lungs need to begin to expand. So it’s overkill in terms of that regard. So, um, yeah, I think of it in terms of Alpha me that we’re, we’re experimenting at both ends from microdosing to dabbing to trying to come to some middle, middle ground that says this is what’s really best for the body is where now it’s becoming so pervasive. It’s legal almost everywhere. We didn’t have that opportunity. It’s like when we’re in a candy store now trying to figure it out, what was the best candidate to use?

Shango:                                01:00:01               Yeah. Right. And we want, we want to experiment with all the candy without suddenly getting obese or having a sugar fit. Right? Yeah, totally. So, uh, yeah, interesting. A, a lot of us are learning in the mix, especially those of us in the industry who are developing these products. At the same time as we’re learning how to use these products.

Robert:                                 01:00:52               Well, I think the word you used, it was pleasurable. Was this pleasurable or not? That’s not something that we really as a culture of value is what’s pleasurable. Um, and I think that’s one of the things that we can do with cannabis, especially in microdosing, are being gentle with ourselves, is to really find that. Is it giving us the results that you want and does it feel pleasurable to me?

Shango:                                01:01:16               Well, the, the pleasure principle. There is something that is a great transition for our last topic because you know, one of the things that I’ve enjoyed hearing you speak and, and, and watching your videos is that, you know, you really blend science, a ceremonial plant medicine and experienced based spirituality together when you’re teaching people, you know, not only how to take care of their body with breath, but also people who are interested in, you know, ceremonial plant medicine as part of that health experience. So, you know, tell us a little bit if you would, why smoking cannabis can be so spiritual with the right set and setting.

Robert:                                 01:01:59               Well, I bought a friend of mine over. He kind of introduced me to this idea about speaking to the plant, to Santa Maria, Mary Jane, however you want to call her and recognizing that she’s an ally. She’s a teacher and in teaching she will go through many stages. When you ingest her, you know, it’s the first rush of her and then there’s a long period of her inside, in a new and some kind of spiritual body way. And then the piece that comes afterwards where you begin to come down from it and you feel your tiredness and your end of your journey. So you’re thinking of it as a journey, as a time period of ingesting an ally who is on board to wake up some part of your consciousness for me is mostly body consciousness. But I also like when I am moving my body, how it enlivens my psyche and my spiritual consciousness.

Robert:                                 01:02:52               So being conscious that it is an ally, that’s the best way I can say it in so many plants like other plants are master teachers, but cannabis has its own, its own textures and personality. So, you know, really engaging with the personality of the plants that you’re ingesting. Allows it to enhance what you’re wanting to bring forward in that particular moment. And different strains will do different things. So, um, there again comes back to the engagement in being intelligent about what am I using this for and what do I hope to get out of it? And let me use the plant in a way that will support that.

Shango:                                01:03:30               One of the things that I find interesting is that, you know, we have an ability to look at our inhalation of the cannabis plant in very specific analytical techniques now because we’ve got, we’ve got laboratories and microscopes and things like that. Whereas if you look back 10 or 20,000 years, um, you know, early humans who were carrying this plant around with seeds around, with them from, from encampment to encampment and selectively hybridizing just based on, on what seeds they took with them. Um, they didn’t know the analytics like we do, but they knew something moving and important was going on. Where were during the first set you were talking about how the inhalation of cannabis makes us more aware of our body and kind of expands our connectedness to the world around us and for us, you know, we can, we can actually explain that what’s going on in the brain, you know, and, and, and what parts are, are being stimulated and we can look at it with an MRI. But anthropologically looking back that far, it was much more filled with mystery and myth and storytelling and you know, engaging with gods and angels, you know, what? You know how, whatever, whatever the religion of that part of the world was. Right. Do you think that there is still a place for that kind of, of have experienced based spirituality in a modern world where everything is so data and analytics heavy?

Robert:                                 01:05:09               Yeah, I absolutely do. I think that one of the things that cultures have been doing since the beginning of time is altering consciousness and that’s what you’re doing when you’re ingesting, you’re ingesting cannabis. You’re inviting an altering of consciousness for perception. What do I not see in normal consciousness that I can see when I ingest cannabis that can inform how I live in my normal world and more in touch with my feeling, part of my reality. Then my thinking part of the reality and what magic shows up. Not like magic as something that’s just a game, but the magic of the mystery. It’s like, wow, I’m tuning into something that I’ve never tuned into before, so people are doing ceremonial cannabis evenings now where that is the focus,  what can I bring forward that I normally don’t talk about that I normally don’t see, that I need to process to help me feel more multidimensional? We are living in a multidimensional reality and that’s  fear of it (governmental). They don’t want us to feel what else might be out there that feels more human than not.

Shango:                                01:06:18               Well, may we all tune in and get more attention to the natural world and our own bodies. Thanks for. Thanks so much for being on the show, Robert,  your perspective is very unique and I appreciate it and I’m glad that you were willing to join us.

Robert:                                 01:06:34               Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to be here and I enjoyed the conversation immensely.

© Copyright - Robert Litman The Breathable Body at the Vashon Breathing Center