By Luke Sumpter

Your lungs are designed to extract life-giving oxygen molecules from fresh air. Several muscles work in concert to cause the lungs to expand and draw air in, and small sacs called alveoli allow oxygen to diffuse into the bloodstream to fuel vital physiological processes. Sure, your ancestors spent a lot of time sitting around campfires, but the lungs can only take so much smoke exposure before things falter.

If you only smoke weed occasionally, you’ve probably never experienced a persistent smoker's cough. However, if you use the chronic more chronically, you’ll know all about this irritating condition. Below, you’ll find out the cause of smoker’s cough, and what you can do to tackle the condition and give your lungs room to breathe.

What Is Smoker’s Cough?

Coughing serves an important purpose. This reflex works to propel particles out of the lungs and throat at speeds of around 50 miles per hour. Because our lungs serve such a vital function, it makes sense that they harbour this defence mechanism to purge out irritants and obstructions. We cough for a host of different reasons, including respiratory tract infections, allergies, asthma, and excessive smoking.

Public health messaging over the last few decades has made us all aware of the dangers of smoking. As well as causing many different cancers and predisposing us to killers such as heart disease, smoking takes a big toll on the lungs.

The lungs aren’t just made up of epithelial cells (those that line the airways and make mucus). They also contain hair-like projections known as cilia that help to move mucus out of the lungs. Smoking damages these structures, which means the lungs have a harder time removing all of that “stoner mucus”, giving rise to smoker’s cough.

What Is Smoker’s Cough?
  • Can Cannabis Cause Smoker's Cough?

Yes. Smoking cannabis involves combustion. Every time you hit a joint, blunt, or bong, you inhale varying quantities of toxins, carcinogens, and tar. These substances injure cilia, cause an increase in mucus production, and contribute to smoker’s cough over time.

  • Does Smoker’s Cough Go Away?

So, if you take smoking out of the equation, will you stop coughing up nasty yellow-brown blobs of mucus? Thankfully, the lungs aren’t a machine. They’re self-repairing biological units made up of dividing cells that obey the commands of your genetic code. Once you remove the damaging stimulus, the lungs happily go about clearing up some of the damage.

How To Get Rid of Smoker’s Cough

So, you’ve noticed a bit of a rattling cough developing. After visiting the doctor and ruling out any other possible causes, you want to get rid of your cough. Some of you might be wondering how to get rid of smoker’s cough without quitting smoking.

Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t work. While you may experience on and off periods, continuing to smoke will predispose you to continued bouts of smoker’s cough. Below, you’ll discover a few natural ways to ease your smoker’s cough, as well as ways to keep enjoying weed without combustion.

1. Change the Gear You’re Using

Changing the way you consume cannabis can help to address smoker’s cough. Many find that switching to vaping still offers a similar ritual and level of satisfaction to smoking, while helping to take some of the load off the lungs.

Vaporizers don’t combust cannabis flowers. Instead, they utilise lower temperatures to evaporate cannabinoids and terpenes while leaving the bulk of plant matter behind. Not only does this make for a tastier experience, but it exposes the lungs to decreased levels of toxic substances. However, vaping still carries risks of its own. Cannabis users who vape are still at risk of developing bronchitis and a daily cough[1], but preliminary evidence[2] suggests it’s an improvement over smoking.

You can also consume marijuana without inhaling smoke or vapor. Edibles such as cakes and brownies (and healthier options such as paleo bars and infused smoothies) offer a longer-lasting high without agitating the lungs. But be warned; eating THC leads to a more potent psychoactive experience as the liver converts the molecule into the stronger chemical 11-hydroxy-THC.

If you want to reap the fast onset of smoking and vaping cannabis, you can also take weed sublingually. Placing extracts under the tongue allows cannabinoids to diffuse directly into the bloodstream for a fast-acting high that isn’t too intense.

How To Get Rid of Smoker’s Cough

2. Try Some Natural Remedies for Smoker’s Cough

A warm cup of tea not only nourishes the soul, but it helps to soothe a sore throat and loosen up mucus. But you’re not limited to standard black tea with a dribble of milk and a spoonful of sugar. You have a long list of botanicals and natural products at your disposal that contain helpful constituents. When brewing up some tea, consider adding the following ingredients to the mix to help ease your wheezing:

Green tea This type of tea packs some serious antioxidants and may help to alleviate congestion.
Ginger People frequently reach for this spicy rhizome when combating the common cold. This herb possesses anti-inflammatory properties, soothes a sore throat, and relaxes membranes[3] in the airways.
Honey The result of hardworking bees, honey helps to soothe a sore throat. One study[4] even found it to address coughs as effectively as an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
Turmeric A key ingredient in Indian cuisine, this bright orange rhizome and member of the ginger family possess anti-inflammatory compounds that may help to soothe coughs.

3. Gargle Saltwater

It doesn’t taste great, but gargling salt water can help to comfort a throat made raw from a smoker's cough. Simply mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a lukewarm glass of water. Take a mouthful and gargle for around ten seconds before spitting it out. Repeat until the glass becomes empty.

4. Exercise and Practise Deep Breathing Exercises

The simple and free act of exercising can help to combat a smoker's cough. Aim to complete 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Running and cycling help to raise the heart rate, increase the body’s demand for oxygen, and speed up breathing. Challenging the lungs in this way helps to dislodge and expel stoner mucus. If you’re new to exercising, you don’t have to place high expectations on yourself. Even a simple 30-minute walk will help to raise your heart rate and get your lungs working.

You should also consider setting aside 10 minutes every day for breathing exercises. But we’re not asking you to bust out your yoga mat and kindle your kundalini. These techniques help to fill up the lungs with oxygen and improve pulmonary function. The Wim Hof[5] breathing method and box breathing[6] are popular choices when it comes to breathwork.

5. Have a Steam Bath

Shut your bathroom windows and door, turn on the hot tap, and run yourself a hot, steamy bath. What’s not to love? As well as feeling completely relaxed, the steam will help to moisturise a dry and irritated throat and loosen up mucus in the lungs.

6. Eat a Healthy Diet

Take care of your body as you start to recover from smoker’s cough. Make sure you’re getting enough calories, and try to reach the recommended macronutrient goals[7]. Moreover, avoid foods that exacerbate coughing and mucus, such as milk, yoghurt, and other dairy products. It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol and coffee intake, as these can contribute to your cough as well.

On top of proper nutrition, aim to drink 6–8 glasses of water each day to keep the mucus in your throat and lungs thin, which makes it easier to expel.

How To Get Rid of Smoker’s Cough

7. Sleep With Your Head Elevated

Sleep with an extra pillow (or two) to keep your head elevated and higher than your lungs when you sleep. This will enable you to use gravity to your advantage and drain any mucus gathering in your throat. It will also stop mucus from working its way up as you sleep, which will otherwise cause you to cough at night.

8. Put a Humidifier in Your Room

Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which can help to soothe a sore throat. Because dry air makes it harder to cough up mucus, infusing your surroundings with water vapor will help you clear out your lungs. Place a humidifier on your desk while you work, or in your bedroom as you sleep. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into the machine, which helps to loosen up mucus when inhaled.

Give Your Lungs a Break From Smoking Weed

Now you know the steps you can take to make your smoker’s cough a thing of the past. None of these strategies are cures, but they’ll help to soothe your airways and dislodge some of that mucus. Fortunately, it doesn’t require much hard work. In fact, most of these steps involve some serious self-pampering. The downside? You need to give up smoking your favourite herb. Yet, you get to enjoy the delicious flavours of vaping (in moderation) and cannabinoid-infused edibles!

External Resources:
  1. Vaping cannabis associated with cough, bronchitis and wheezing, study finds - CNN
  2. No smoke, no fire: What the initial literature suggests regarding vapourized cannabis and respiratory risk
  3. Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation
  4. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents - PubMed
  5. Guided Wim Hof Method Breathing - YouTube
  6. Box Breathing: Techniques, Benefits, GIF, and More
  7. Reference intakes explained - NHS
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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