CBD Oil and AFib: Can Cannabis Help With Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation — or AFib in short — is a condition characterized by irregular heartbeats also known as arrhythmia. When untreated, it can result in heart failure, stroke, blood clotting, and other cardiovascular problems.
It’s estimated that around 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib. Doctors typically prescribe blood thinners such as warfarin to help prevent strokes in patients with this condition.
There’s a growing body of evidence surrounding the benefits of CBD for the cardiovascular system.
Short for cannabidiol, CBD is one of many substances found in cannabis. It’s the second major cannabinoid next to THC, which is the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana (high-THC cannabis).
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t get you high, but instead, it helps you enjoy the plethora of health benefits associated with this compound.
In this article, we’ll leave no stone unturned exploring the use of CBD for AFib.
Does CBD Oil Help AFib?
A 2010 study posted by the British Journal of Pharmacology discovered that CBD reduced the total number of irregular, ventricular heartbeats (heart arrhythmia) in a rat model after they had a heart attack. This type of arrhythmia that doesn’t come from the atria but rather from the ventricles is different from AFib, but the said findings could be worth further analysis.
In a 2017 study, the research team learned that a single dose of CBD reduced blood pressure in male subjects. They also noted that CBD lowered blood pressure response to stress in the subject, particularly in the event of cold stress.
Elevated blood pressure is believed to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in middle-aged men and women.
Another study investigated the theory that CBD can attenuate responses and consequences of stress in animals with anxiety.
In the meantime, experts in another study concluded that CBD inhibited several processes linked to diabetes, pointing to CBD as a potentially therapeutic substance in treating diabetes and other heart-related diseases.
That being said, there are no studies that would investigate CBD’s efficacy as a treatment for atrial fibrillation. Many studies on CBD were conducted on animal models, with only a few small studies on human subjects —butt none directly tackle the problem of AFib.
How does CBD Oil work for AFib?
CBD interacts with the major regulatory network in our bodies known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS works to promote and maintain homeostasis in the body through its receptors; for that purpose, it releases ligands known as endocannabinoids.
CBD has been found to indirectly engage with cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2), but there’s also a growing body of evidence that it works on multiple pathways beyond the ECS.
One study on lab rats found that CBD’s interaction with the ECS causes it to exert cardioprotective effects in the animals. In another study, the authors reported that CBD binds to and activates the PPARgamma receptor, which has been associated with various cardiovascular illnesses.
They also noted that the activation of the said receptor-induced vascular actions in rats.
Good blood pressure control is beneficial for AFib patients. There are already safe, established medications for this condition, but CBD can add yet another choice for patients that want to treat their AFib with holistic remedies.
Potential Benefits of CBD Oil for AFib
- Some studies highlight CBD’s ability to control blood pressure, which could translate into better AFib control. The studies we’ve mentioned above noted that CBD offers benefits for the cardiovascular system and can help treat another type of arrhythmia but — not AFib specifically.
- There is evidence that CBD can reduce hypertension, a condition that causes atrial fibrillation.
- CBD doesn’t have intoxicating properties, so it won’t get you high, unlike THC.
- CBD is federally legal and you can buy it without a prescription in every state.
- Public health agencies such as NIH and the FDA acknowledge CBD’s potential therapeutic uses.
- The WHO issued a case report where they reviewed several clinical trials investigating the efficacy and safety of CBD. The report concluded that CBD is safe and well-tolerated, even when taken in large amounts.
What Are the Limitations of Using CBD Oil for AFib?
- Most of the studies on CBD were conducted on animal models. There are currently no clinical human trials on the use of CBD for AFib. The effects have not been directly studied with regards to this condition.
- The only FDA-approved use of CBD is for epilepsy — and it’s not even CBD oil but synthetically isolated CBD.
- Taking CBD oil alongside other medications, especially blood thinners, can lead to negative interactions. In the case of CBD and blood-thinners, the cross-interaction could trigger bleeding, so always talk to your doctor before taking CBD.
- The CBD market is unregulated and thus there are many mislabeled products sold online. People choosing to buy CBD for AFib should be particularly cautious of who they’re buying from.
Full-Spectrum CBD vs Isolate: Which Is Better for AFib?
There’s an ongoing debate on the effectiveness of full-spectrum CBD oil vs CBD isolate for different health conditions.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the original phytochemical profile of the source plant, including adjunctive cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of THC (0.3% or less). These compounds work synergistically to enhance the therapeutic effects of your extract, unlike with CBD isolate — which contains nothing but pure CBD.
This means that full-spectrum CBD oil may be more effective for AFib than isolate; for that reason, the full-spectrum option is the desired type of CBD oil among the majority of consumers.
CBD isolate doesn’t have any odor and flavor. It also shouldn’t trigger a false-positive result on a drug test for THC, so if these are the reasons you avoid CBD oil, it may be a good idea to opt for pure CBD.
CBD Dosage for AFib
Since CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, there are no official dosage recommendations from health agencies. This, in turn, makes it difficult for new consumers to know how much CBD oil they should take to relieve their symptoms and improve overall health.
If you want to figure out the optimal dosage for your individual situation, it will require some trial and error. The good news is that you can take a look at the past studies on CBD and cardiovascular health to compare different dosages and try them out on yourself.
It’s best to start low and slowly increase your dose until you find the amount that provides the expected results.
How to Take CBD for AFib?
Taking CBD oil or vaping CBD extracts are the fastest ways to administer CBD to those with AFib.
Sublingual use (under the tongue) provides relatively high bioavailability and a fast onset of effects. Bioavailability refers to the leftover amount of CBD that your body can use after being metabolized in the digestive tract.
Meanwhile, vaping CBD delivers it to your bloodstream through the lung tissue, so by way of inhaling it you can feel the effects almost instantaneously.
That being said, not everyone is comfortable with vaping, especially if they have AFib. Taking CBD by way of gummies or capsules is an easy way for non-vapers to take CBD oil.
Some brands also sell CBD oil as topicals. These formulations can be used for massage therapies to help people unwind and relax.
Dosage-wise, it’s best to purchase CBD oil because they come with droppers that allow for easy and correct application of the right amount of CBD.
Understanding Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is the most prevalent type of erratic heartbeat that people can experience. Some of the risk factors of AFib include high blood pressure, obesity, age, and existing heart disease.
Despite being associated with irregular electrical impulses, the exact cause of AFib remains unknown to scientists.
The symptoms of Afib include:
- Chest pains
- A feeling of fluttering in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid and abnormal heartbeat
Different Types of Atrial Fibrillation
Medical researchers have outlined at least five types of AFib that can be distinguished based on their underlying causes and duration:
- Paroxysmal fibrillation – this condition occurs when a person’s heart returns to normal with or without intervention within a week after its beginning. People with this type of AFib may go through such episodes a few times each year — or even daily.
- Persistent AFib – this type of AFib refers to an abnormal rhythm of the heart that lasts more than one week. It doesn’t return to normal without treatment.
- Long-standing AFib – it happens when the heart is continuously in an erratic rhythm, lasting more than one year.
- Permanent AFib – in this case, the disorder lasts indefinitely, with the patient and doctor deciding to discontinue treatment.
- Nonvalvular AFib – this form of AFib isn’t triggered by a problem with the heart valve.
How Does the Heart Rehabilitate from AFib?
Cardiac rehabilitation is a paramount process for people recovering from heart surgery or heart muscle failure. This program requires medical supervision of your physical activity, education about healthy lifestyle choices, and mental health counseling. Anyone with AFib or any other cardiovascular problem can take part in cardiac rehab.
The program offers many benefits to a person’s health, such as:
- Strengthening the body after a heart attack
- Relieving chest pain and other symptoms of heart problems
- Reducing stress
- Learning healthier habits
- Enhancing moods
- Improving motivation
- Preventing future cardiovascular issues.
You can sign up for cardiac rehabilitation in a health center or your local hospital. Some programs are implemented in the patient’s home.
Summarizing the Use of CBD for AFib
CBD can exert therapeutic effects on arrhythmic hearts and thus help with atrial fibrillation. Although no direct study implicated this, preliminary studies on animal models of heart diseases have shown that CBD can reduce blood pressure and the total number of irregular, ventricular heartbeats in people after heart attacks.
Abnormal heart rhythm and hypertension are the most probable underlying causes of AFib and require medical care.
CBD is said to interact with receptors of the ECS, which is the believed reason for its cardioprotective properties. Scientists have also observed CBD’s interactions with other receptors outside the ECS.
More clinical trials on humans regarding the use of CBD for AFib are needed, but current evidence holds promise for its potential use as a holistic treatment.
Do you believe in CBD’s cardioprotective effects? How do you take CBD oil to improve your heart health?
- Walsh, S. K., Hepburn, C. Y., Kane, K. A., & Wainwright, C. L. (2010). Acute administration of cannabidiol in vivo suppresses ischaemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias and reduces infarct size when given at reperfusion. British journal of pharmacology, 160(5), 1234–1242. (1)
- Jadoon, K. A., Tan, G. D., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2017). A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study. JCI insight, 2(12), e93760. (2)
- Granjeiro, E. M., Gomes, F. V., Guimarães, F. S., Corrêa, F. M., & Resstel, L. B. (2011). Effects of intracisternal administration of cannabidiol on the cardiovascular and behavioral responses to acute restraint stress. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 99(4), 743–748. (3)
- Horváth, B., Mukhopadhyay, P., Haskó, G., & Pacher, P. (2012). The endocannabinoid system and plant-derived cannabinoids in diabetes and diabetic complications. The American journal of pathology, 180(2), 432–442. (4)
- Fouad, A. A., Albuali, W. H., Al-Mulhim, A. S., & Jresat, I. (2013). Cardioprotective effect of cannabidiol in rats exposed to doxorubicin toxicity. Environmental toxicology and pharmacology, 36(2), 347–357. (5)
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
Leave a comment Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
CBD Users Think Its Real Medicine That Cures Acne, AFib, Anxiety – Where’s the Evidence?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in hemp or marijuana plants that does not make users high. Despite CBD only being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy, CBD has been widely marketed as a cure-all under the auspices of wellness. These claims have coincided with an explosion in CBD’s popularity raising the troubling question: Are patients using CBD to treat medical conditions that could otherwise be improved or cured by established treatments with verifiable efficacy?
A new study lead by the Qualcomm Institute’s Center for Data Driven Health at the University of California San Diego, published in JAMA Network Open, reviewed CBD user testimonials to discover why they take CBD, finding the vast majority used CBD to treat diagnosable medical conditions, including for psychiatric, orthopedic, and sleep conditions while fewer took CBD for wellness.
Mining Public Testimonials to Understand Why Patients Use CBD
“The reasons consumers take CBD had not been previously studied because experts lacked access data where large groups of users discussed in detail why they take CBD,” said Dr. Eric Leas, Co-Founder of the Center for Data Driven Health, Assistant Professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Longevity Science at UC San Diego, and lead author.
To fill this gap the team turned to Reddit, a social media website with 330 million active users. Reddit is organized into communities focused on specific topics, many of which deal exclusively with health. The team monitored all r/CBD posts, where users can find anything and everything CBD related, from its inception in January 2014 through February 2019.
A random sample of posts was drawn and analyzed by the team who labeled them according to if the poster testified to using CBD to treat a diagnosable medical condition or using CBD for non-specific wellness benefits. “On r/CBD users tell us in their own words why they take CBD,” added Dr. John W. Ayers, also with the Center for Data Driven Health and Vice Chief of Innovation in the Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health who co-authored the study. ”
Most CBD Users Take CBD to Treat Medical Conditions
90 percent of testimonials on r/CBD cited using CBD to treat diagnosable medical conditions. For example, many testimonials recounted experiences such as, “after using CBD for 2 months, my autism symptoms have improved. My family has noticed great improvements and I have finally been able to attend important social events.”
Through a process of labeling the posts, the team grouped this subset of testimonials into 11 categories corresponding to medical subspecialties. Psychiatric conditions (e.g., “autism” or “depression”) were the most frequently cited sub-category, mentioned in 64 percent of testimonials, followed by orthopedic (26 percent), sleep (15 percent), and neurological (7 percent) conditions. There were also testimonials that claimed CBD treated addiction, cardiological, dermatological, gastroenterological, ophthalmological, oral health, and sexual health conditions, ranging from 1 to 4 percent of all posts [as detailed in the accompanying study materials].
“The public appears to believe CBD is medicine,” added Dr. Davey Smith, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health and study coauthor. “Who would have predicted that the public might ever think CBD is a cardiology medication?”
By contrast, just 30 percent of testimonies cited using CBD for wellness benefits, the vast majority citing mental wellness, e.g., “quieting my mind”, and about 1 percent citing any physical wellness benefit, e.g., “exercise performance.”
“CBD retailers attempt to evade FDA regulation by framing their product as a wellness aid, rather than a therapeutic,” said Dr. Alicia Nobles, with the Center for Data Driven Health and Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health. “But when users explain why they take CBD in absence of any prompts they will commonly cite they are using it for medicinal purposes like to treat acne.”
The Need for Enhanced Regulation of the CBD Marketplace
“At this time there are no known medical uses for over-the-counter CBD,” said Dr. Leas. “CBD is this generation’s snake oil as millions believing to have discovered a new medical breakthrough are actually taking a product without evidence of a benefit.”
“The obvious harm is that some patients might forgo seeing a physician or taking medications with known, tested and approved therapeutic benefits in favor of CBD and thereby become sicker or succumb to their illness,” added Mr. Rory Todd, study co-author and research associate in the Center for Data Driven Health.
While many think that using CBD poses few risks to consumers trying CBD out, the team notes that taking CBD can harm patients in other ways that warrant cautious use. “There are several documented cases of CBD products leading to mass poisons, because unlike FDA-approved medications there are no uniform safety standards governing the manufacture or distribution of CBD,” said Mr. Erik Hendrickson, study co-author and research associate with the Center for Data Driven Health. “CBD can also interact with patients’ prescribed medications, including resulting in rare but dangerous side effects such as liver damage and male reproductive toxicity,” added Dr. Smith who is also a practicing physician.
The lack of regulation governing the CBD marketplace may drive misperceptions of CBD the team notes. “The public isn’t spontaneously coming to the conclusion that CBD is medicine. Instead, this is a natural response to the largely unchecked marketing claims of CBD retailers,” added Dr. Ayers. “A lack of regulation puts the onus on physicians who must raise concerns about CBD with patients one-on-one instead of focussing on evidence-based treatments. For instance, since the COVID-19 outbreak claims that CBD prevents or treats COVID-19 are now commonplace.”
“Now is the time to act,” concluded Dr. Leas. “Government regulators must step up to the plate and give CBD the same level of scrutiny as other proven medications. Moreover, anyone considering taking CBD should instead consult a physician to identify a proven medication.”
Reference: “Self-reported Cannabidiol (CBD) Use for Conditions With Proven Therapies” by Eric C. Leas, PhD, MPH; Erik M. Hendrickson, MPH, MA; Alicia L. Nobles, PhD, MS; Rory Todd, BA; Davey M. Smith, MD, MAS; Mark Dredze, PhD and John W. Ayers, PhD, MA, October 2020, JAMA Network Open.
CBD: What is it, and can it help the heart?
CBD is the latest health craze to sweep the high street, with claims it can help everything from chronic pain and inflammation to anxiety. But what is CBD, and can it really help the heart? Emily Ray finds out.
What is CBD, and is it legal in the UK?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical that’s extracted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis itself is an illegal class B drug, as is the compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which it contains. But pure CBD isn’t illegal, as it doesn’t cause the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
What CBD products are available?
The choice of CBD products has exploded recently: you can buy oils, capsules, muscle gels, sprays and oral drops, as well as beer, tea, sweets, hummus and even CBD-infused clothing.
Many of these can be easily picked up from reputable high street stores, such as Holland & Barrett or Boots.
Prices can be high: a 500mg bottle of CBD oil oral drops could set you back as much as £45. Not that this has put people off: over the past two years, sales of CBD have almost doubled in the UK, putting regular users at an estimated quarter of a million.
What is CBD used for?
A 2018 report by the World Health Organization suggested that CBD may help treat symptoms relating to conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), anxiety, depression, insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, it also notes that this research is still in the early stages, and that more studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn on whether CBD is effective.
CBD’s popularity has been given a boost by the fact that two CBD-containing medicines have been approved for prescription use by the NHS in England: Epidyolex, which has been found to reduce the number of seizures in children with severe epilepsy, and Sativex, which contains a mixture of CBD and THC, and is licensed for treatment of muscle stiffness and spasms in people with MS.
Does CBD work?
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University, says: “In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them. There’s a lot of marketing that says CBD is a ‘miracle of the modern age’; however, the marketing has actually overtaken the evidence of what it’s effective for.”
“In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them.”
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Sumnall argues that while it could be effective for some people, in some of these cases the results could be caused by the placebo effect (where the patient’s belief in a treatment makes them feel better). The placebo effect can be powerful, but Professor Sumnall warns that if people try CBD oil instead of speaking to their doctor, it could cause a problem.
The biggest difference between CBD used in clinical trials and in stores is the dose. Research has shown that some products contain very little CBD (or even none at all). Others contain THC or other illegal drugs, or even alcohol instead of CBD. By contrast, in clinical trials the CBD is purified, manufactured to a very high standard and given at a much higher dose. It is also taken regularly and under medical supervision.
Since 2016, any CBD product that is presented as having medicinal value must be licensed and regulated as a medicine, regardless of whether it is actually effective. Manufacturers must follow very specific and robust rules around production, packaging and the information provided.
But so far, Professor Sumnall points out, CBD products in shops are marketed as food supplements, not medicines, so none of them have gone through this process.
Can CBD help the heart?
Inflammation is part of the process that leads to many diseases, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and there is some evidence that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. Other studies have suggested that CBD can have a protective effect on the heart: this has been proven in rats after a heart attack and in mice with some of the heart damage associated with diabetes. But because these studies are often based on findings in a lab or in animals, not in humans, we cannot yet be confident that CBD will benefit the human heart.
There is ongoing research into the use of purer forms of CBD for a variety of conditions, including heart and circulatory diseases and, in particular, diseases of the heart muscle, including myocarditis and some types of cardiomyopathy.
Some of this work is still in animals, and much more research is needed before we can definitively say that CBD can help in this area.
“It’s clear that CBD has potential,” says Professor Sumnall, “but we’re at a very early stage of that research.”
- Always talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about taking a CBD product to supplement your existing treatment.
Meet the expert
Harry Sumnall is a Professor in Substance Use at the Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. He was a member of the UK Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs between 2011 and 2019.