Marijuana is legal for medical use in more than half of the U.S. states. Although the cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years, reliable scientific research on its medical benefits and potential risks has lagged behind. Early experiments conducted on the effect CBD oil has on the cardiovascular system are promising. Do they have enough basis? Let's find out!
Marijuana and heart health: What you need to know
Access to marijuana is growing, but marijuana benefits and its risks have not been carefully studied.
In many states in this country, you can legally use marijuana. Smoking is the fastest way to feel the effects of marijuana, which is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Yet marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke — a known contributor to heart disease as well as cancer.
Marijuana cultivation and use dates back some 6,000 years. However, the cardiovascular and other health effects of cannabis aren’t well studied. That’s partly because under federal law, cannabis is a Schedule I substance, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That designation places numerous restrictions on researchers, making it difficult to carry out rigorous research on marijuana.
As a result, everything we’re told about what marijuana does or doesn’t do should be viewed with a certain amount of caution. This holds equally true for the risks as well as the benefits.
Pot and pain
Some of the evidence supporting the medical use of marijuana is marijuana’s benefits for managing chronic pain. Cannabinoid compounds (see “Cannabis 101”) interact with receptors in nerve cells to slow down pain impulses and ease discomfort. Cannabinoids also have been shown to be effective in quelling nausea and vomiting. In addition, marijuana is a powerful appetite inducer. The combination of these attributes makes marijuana a therapeutic option for people coping with the side effects of chemotherapy and others who have unintended weight loss. However, in conditions where gaining extra weight might exacerbate existing health problems, such as diabetes, appetite stimulation would be counterproductive.
One of the few things scientists know for sure about marijuana and cardiovascular health is that people with established heart disease who are under stress develop chest pain more quickly if they have been smoking marijuana than they would have otherwise. This is because of complex effects cannabinoids have on the cardiovascular system, including raising resting heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and making the heart pump harder. Research suggests that the risk of heart attack is several times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana than it would be normally.
While this does not pose a significant threat to people who have minimal cardiovascular risk, it should be a red flag for anyone with a history of heart disease. Although the evidence is weaker, there are also links to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation or ischemic stroke immediately following marijuana use. Consistent with these links, studies also suggest that marijuana smoking may increase the long-term death rate among heart attack survivors.
Questions remain on marijuana’s benefits and risks
Most of the evidence linking marijuana to heart attack and stroke is based on reports from people who smoked it. So, it’s hard to separate the effects of cannabinoid compounds on the cardiovascular system from the hazards posed by the irritants and carcinogens contained in the smoke. Because cannabis smoke is known to cause airway inflammation, wheezing, and chest tightness, people with lung diseases should not smoke it. People with mental health disorders or at risk of addiction should carefully consider the potential harms prior to using marijuana.
The cannabis plant contains more than 100 unique chemical components classified as cannabinoids. These are the active ingredients that bind to specific receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. The two most prevalent types are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is primarily responsible for the mind-altering properties sought out by recreational users, and cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effect.
The magnitude of marijuana’s psychoactive effect depends on the THC level in the particular strain of plant, which parts of the plant are used, and the route through which the drug enters the body. Legalization in many states has led to the breeding of strains that are three to seven times more potent than those available three decades ago.
The impact of smoked or inhaled marijuana is generally felt within a few minutes and lasts two to four hours. Marijuana ingested in food or beverages kicks in more slowly and lasts longer.
Does CBD Lower Blood Pressure? How Does CBD Affect Our Heart?
Claims regarding CBD oil’s effectiveness in treating anything and everything have been in the news a lot over the past few years. Separating fact from hype is a daunting task, and unfounded claims make people hesitant.
Many find it easier to write CBD off as 21st-century snake oil, but doing so risks missing out on a potentially powerful resource we are just beginning to understand.
Chronic, low-level stress is an issue for many people, and chronic stress often results in high blood pressure and heart disease. Listed as the top killer for both men and women in the US, heart disease is a condition where all potential treatments need investigating.
While additional studies are needed, early experiments conducted on the effect CBD oil has on the cardiovascular system are promising.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Few, if any, high blood pressure patients can point to a singular cause of their condition. Our bodies are a complex series of interconnected systems, so a change in one often becomes a change to all.
The causes of high blood pressure are equally complex, and different combinations of risk factors exist in most high blood pressure patients. However, you can classify these risk factors into two groups: lifestyle-related risks and those caused by underlying conditions.
Lifestyle Related Risk Factors
Modern conveniences have made our lives easier. Yet, the cultural shifts caused by these conveniences led to a rise in the controllable risk factors for high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- High Salt Diet
- Stress – Especially Chronic Stress
- Excessive Alcohol Use
Each of the factors listed above contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease in some way. Obesity increases the distance blood must travel, stress puts your system into overdrive, and others constrict blood vessels. All these different reactions increase the load placed on the heart and damage to arteries and veins.
The insidious thing is, many of these risk factors can set off a chain reaction that causes other problems. For example, a sedentary lifestyle with a high salt diet and frequent or heavy alcohol consumption can cause obesity. Chronic stress can increase cravings for salty, fatty, or sugary foods, lower your motivation to work out, and increase the temptation to turn to tobacco or alcohol for relief.
Ultimately, one bad factor can result in someone completing the entire list!
Anecdotal evidence claims CBD oil benefits cardiovascular health by helping individuals get their stress response under control. By reducing stress hormones and the body’s physical reaction to stress, the chain reaction is stopped before it gets going, thus reducing the controllable risk factors.
Studies are still in the early stages, but several are finding evidence backing up these user experiences.
Risk Factors Due to Underlying Conditions
As stated above, a problem in one system produces a ripple effect in others. Several health conditions eventually cause increased strain on the cardiovascular system resulting in heart disease or high blood pressure.
- Adrenal Diseases or Tumors
- Kidney Disease
- Genetic Factors
- Sleep Apnea
- Thyroid Disorders
Someone with these risk factors needs to address them early to prevent complications. Likewise, they should not embrace lifestyles that could worsen the condition.
How Does High Blood Pressure Affect the Heart?
We all understand high blood pressure is a cause for worry. Doctors talk about high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and the damage it can do to your heart often enough.
However, what exactly does high blood pressure do to the heart?
Damage Starts with Arteries
Because the heart is a pump, it seems logical high blood pressure must start there, but it does not. High blood pressure starts in the blood vessels, where excess fat and cholesterol slowly collects on the walls. As the vessels become narrower, the heart must pump harder to push blood through them.
Our blood vessels are supposed to be flexible, but these plaque build-ups harden them. Vessels become stiff and less stretchy, and it takes more pressure for blood to move through them. Between their loss of elasticity and the increased pressure, blood vessels become far more prone to injury.
Damage can come in many ways. Part of a plaque can break off and cause a complete blockage, or the pressure can become too much for a vessel. Worse, the artery wall can buckle and bulge into an aneurysm.
Impact on the Heart Itself
As the vessels narrow, the heart must pump harder and faster to continue moving blood throughout the body. Over time, this increased demand takes a toll on the muscle.
Like any muscle, the heart needs a steady blood supply to provide it with the fuel and oxygen necessary to keep working. Arterial damage can lower blood flow to the heart, effectively starving parts of it.
What happens to any muscle group when you work it harder? It grows. Unfortunately, in the case of high blood pressure, these gains are unbalanced.
The left side of the heart overcompensates, resulting in the left ventricle becoming thickened. The combination of restricted blood flow to the heart itself, increased demand, and uneven function increases the strain on your heart and raises the risk of heart attacks.
All of this damage to the muscle compounds over time, setting up an awful chain of events.
What Is CBD Exactly?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid found in hemp or marijuana. Although in the same chemical family as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD does not have intoxicating effects. Yet, it still works with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Most CBD oil available is extracted from hemp and later diluted in a carrier oil. While these extracts may contain trace amounts of THC, federal regulations require them to possess less than 0.3%. These levels are not high enough to produce psychoactive reactions.
THC vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?
THC and CBD are both molecules found in marijuana and hemp plants to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the species. While these molecules are similar enough to both be classified as cannabinoids, they are structurally different. This difference in their molecular structure results in the body reacting to them in different ways.
Our bodies all have CB1 and CB2 receptors within our endocannabinoid system. CB1 receptors communicate with the brain structures responsible for our time perception, memory, and coordination. CB2 receptors coordinate inflammatory responses and connect to our pain centers.
THC attaches to CB1 receptors and affects them directly. In doing so, THC disrupts the endocannabinoid system’s typical function and results in the intoxicating effects of THC.
CBD acts more as a catalyst. Instead of binding to either receptor, CBD triggers a chain of events that stimulate receptors within the brain and body to trigger a reduction in inflammation and pain.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD’s impact on the body centers around our stress response. Anxiety and depression are immediate and chronic reactions to the stress response. Pain and inflammation exist as both triggers for the stress response and results from its activation.
Studies on CBD oil show reductions in inflammation, physiological reactions to anxiety, pain, and improvement in depression symptoms.
The exact mechanisms behind CBD’s observed effects are still uncertain. Evidence suggests it works with receptors to shift the balance of serotonin and cortisol. Impacts on other hormones and neurotransmitters may also exist, but more research is needed.
What Effect Does CBD Have on Blood Pressure?
Remember how stress sets off a chain of reactions? CBD helps control blood pressure by lowering the body’s stress response and the physiological effects it produces.
Comprehensive stress reduction seems to be the mechanism behind most, if not all, of CBD’s benefits for both physical and mental health. It reduces pain, a typical stress trigger, and it lowers the defensive responses brought on by our autonomic nervous system.
Effects of Lowered Stress
The way we discuss stress today can muddle our understanding of why our body reacts the way it does to stressful situations. Humans rapidly developed control over their environments, but our bodies are still adjusting to these new lifestyle changes. In certain situations, our system overreacts because it does not know how to respond.sss
Fear, worry, pain, and other triggers send our bodies into defensive mode. Our stress response developed to help us escape natural disasters and predators or to enable us to fight off similar threats.
We might not face those kinds of dangers today, but our nervous system cannot tell the difference between anxiety brought on by needing to give a speech and that caused by seeing a mountain lion preparing to pounce.
There was once a clear end to stressors in past centuries, but the problems we face today rarely seem to end. For example, our ancestors knew when they escaped a bear. But for us, stress from work is ever-present.
While our natural reactions can keep us safe in short-lived emergencies, they produce significant damage under prolonged exposure. Feeling stressed due to work and bills is like fighting a bear every day.
Studies done on CBD oil show a significant reduction in cortisol, one of our main stress hormones. CBD also helps even out adrenal function. In other words, it reduces stress on a chemical level and stops the snowball from growing into a mountain of problems.
Another benefit of CBD oil on cardiovascular health is its anti-inflammatory nature.
The benefits of inflammation reduction go way beyond arthritis and injuries. Inflammation is our immune system’s reaction to most troubles, anywhere in the body. Like other aspects of our stress response, inflammation is helpful when used in short, localized bursts, but it becomes harmful when it is widespread or chronic.
Unfortunately, systemic inflammation is a problem most experience today without even knowing it. This is often caused by reactions to substances in our food or environment, continual low-level stress, sleep deprivation, and poor sleep.
Blood pressure begins to rise as plaques build-up, narrowing the blood vessels. This increase in pressure causes inflammation as the body attempts to protect itself, and blood pressure increases even more.
CBD oil may help lower blood pressure by reducing this inflammation and allowing the blood vessels to relax.
How Does CBD Impact Heart Health?
The risk factors for heart disease within our control stem mostly from stress and how we react to it. Think about this for a moment — when are you most likely to overindulge in junk food or alcohol, smoke, or skip the gym?
Often, people deal with stress by adopting unhealthy behaviors that only complicate the issue.
Stress spikes our heart rate and breathing, and it makes us worry and sweaty. It can also drive us to make decisions that are not in our health’s best interest over the long run. Will power alone only lasts so long, after all.
While further testing is needed, evidence hints CBD oil reduces the psychological and physiological effects of stress. That not only makes the individual feel better now, but it increases the chances they will make healthier decisions.
How Do You Use CBD?
There are a variety of ways to take CBD oil. You can use edibles, topical solutions, and capsules, but tinctures and water-soluble solutions are also popular.
CBD works best when used consistently in a regular regimen. A typical example would be a dropper of our Full Spectrum CBD Oil under the tongue in the morning and applying a little CBD Body Butter after your bath in the evening.
With regular use, CBD affects your body’s endocannabinoid system to regulate your stress response and mellow you out.
Find Your CBD Dosage
The ideal therapeutic dosage varies due to metabolic factors, weight, and more. Studies have yet to determine a definitive amount since the optimum dosage has a wide range. Each person will need to go through some trial and error to find what amount works for them.
Those of us here at SUPA Naturals find it best to start with a low dose and work your way up until you find relief.
Work with Your Doctor
As with any change in regimen, make sure to speak with your doctor before adding CBD oil. This conversation is of particular importance if you take medications for hypertension or heart disease since negative interactions can occur.
How We Can Help
Helping individuals find the CBD products that work for them is our specialty. We have worked with countless people who needed natural solutions to stress and other ailments.
Browse our store for non-GMO, organic CBD products, or contact us with any questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
CBD can reduce the symptoms of high blood pressure, which with poor cardiovascular health is usually associated with inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can result from anything from stress to something in our food. CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation overall, which can help reduce symptoms of high blood pressure.
CBD may help to reduce blood pressure. One of the best benefits of CBD is that it lowers stress. This not only helps with conditions like anxiety but can help to combat high blood pressure actively. Stress is one of the most significant contributors to high blood pressure. Both of these conditions can wreak havoc on the rest of the body as well. CBD can help.
While CBD does not affect your resting heart rate, it can help bring down your heart rate when it increases. When you experience stress, your heart rate and blood pressure typically go up. CBD can help by reducing stress and therefore reducing your heart rate and blood pressure back to a normal range.