cbd oil for bp

CBD and Blood Pressure: What Does Science Say?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a significant issue. It increases the risk of heart disease and strokes, two of the leading causes of death in the USA. The condition affects approximately 45% of American adults. Furthermore, only 1 in 4 of these people have their blood pressure under control.

Therefore, some may wonder if natural remedies like cannabidiol (CBD) could help. But, unfortunately, the relationship between CBD and blood pressure is not straightforward. This article explains the current research on CBD oil for hypertension and whether it is worth a try.

What Is Hypertension?

Before we look at CBD’s possible effects, we will briefly overview hypertension, its symptoms, and its causes.

The term “blood pressure” means how much force blood exerts on the vessels as it passes through them. It is measured in units called millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

Blood pressure can be subclassified as systolic or diastolic. Systolic readings measure the force on the blood vessels when the heart muscle contracts. Meanwhile, diastolic blood pressure readings measure the force when the heart muscle relaxes.

In hypertension, the blood’s force on the vessels becomes greater than usual, increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.

In hypertension (high blood pressure), the blood’s force on the vessels becomes greater than usual. This increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. Some people also use the phrase “elevated blood pressure.” This means that blood pressure is increased, but not significantly.

People with elevated blood pressure may be able to control their condition by making healthy lifestyle changes. However, people with stage 1 or stage 2 hypertension will usually require medication.

The table below illustrates what constitutes normal, elevated, and high blood pressure:

Stage 1 Hypertension

Stage 2 Hypertension

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Some refer to hypertension as “the silent killer” because it does not usually cause any symptoms until serious problems arise. This is why regular blood pressure check-ups are essential, especially for those at high risk (see below).

In severe cases, a hypertensive emergency can occur. It involves a sudden and dramatic increase in blood pressure, which is extremely dangerous. The condition can cause various symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Reduced urination
  • Vomiting
  • Visual changes, such as blurring

Anyone experiencing these high blood pressure symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure tends to increase naturally with age as the artery walls become less elastic. However, several other risk factors can contribute to the development of hypertension:

  • Ethnicity (people of African-American or Hispanic descent are at higher risk)
  • Family history
  • Diabetes or metabolic disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Some types of tumor
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Some medications

Some other potential causes of high blood pressure are lifestyle-related, for example:

  • High salt diets
  • Low potassium intake
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • Some illicit substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and “bath salts”

Exploring the facts. …

Does CBD Lower Blood Pressure?

CBD is a cannabinoid, one of the numerous active compounds that cannabis plants produce. Until recently, it lived under the shadow of its psychoactive cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, research is now showing that CBD has great potential for treating various conditions. So, what about CBD for high blood pressure?

Many people know that THC can reduce blood pressure. This is why some cannabis users experience dizziness as a side effect. However, we understand less about CBD and how it influences the body. That said, it seems that both chemicals could work similarly by relaxing the blood vessels.

This reaction is probably due to how cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is an intricate network of cell receptors (CB1 and CB2) and chemicals called endocannabinoids. When they bind together, they regulate a vast range of physiological processes that help maintain a state of balance within the body.

Both THC and CBD can also influence this system. THC binds directly with CB1 receptors to mimic the activity of an endocannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide has many functions, including relaxing the blood vessels to reduce blood pressure.

However, CBD acts differently. Scientists are still trying to understand its precise mechanism, and it seems to work in several ways. It appears that rather than binding directly with CB receptors, it indirectly increases anandamide levels.

This is why CBD produces many of the same benefits as THC but without psychoactive effects. It works gently within the body rather than overstimulating it. Unfortunately, though, the compound is still very much understudied. Therefore, CBD oil blood pressure research is thin on the ground.

Studies on CBD Oil and Blood Pressure

There are a handful of studies on CBD’s effects on blood pressure. However, their results are very mixed. It seems that they depend upon the species, testing methods, and whether the subjects are healthy or hypertensive.

For example, a 2017 study of nine healthy male volunteers had promising results. It investigated the impact of a single 600mg CBD dose under both normal and stressful conditions. The researchers found that the CBD reduced resting systolic blood pressure by an average 6mmHg. It did not affect diastolic pressure.

However, when they subjected the participants to mental, exercise-induced, and cold stress, the effects were more pronounced. In these experiments, CBD seemed to influence both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Under stressful conditions, CBD seemed to influence both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Unfortunately, this study had several flaws. Firstly, the subjects were healthy rather than hypertensive, and they were young, with an average age of 23. Furthermore, the researchers only tested the effects of a single, large CBD dose. Therefore, these results, while interesting, are not representative of real life.

A 2020 study resolved some of these issues, using hypertensive test subjects and administering CBD daily for two weeks. However, the subjects were rats rather than humans. It found that CBD did not reduce blood pressure or heart rate. However, it did provide potentially beneficial antioxidant effects.

Different Species, Different Tissue Types, Different Results?

Another 2020 study suggested that CBD might affect rats and humans differently. Its authors proposed that while the compound interacts with CB1 receptors in rats, this might not happen in humans.

They explained that the mechanism in humans is far more complex and involves several other receptor types. However, they tested different cell types for each species, using lung artery cells from humans and abdominal artery cells from rats.

Interestingly, an earlier 2015 study had tested CBD on the same type of abdominal artery cells from humans. It found that, in this case, the cannabinoid did influence CB1 receptors as well as other types.

Is it possible that CBD could affect various species and tissue types differently? Only further research will tell. It is clear that far more studies are necessary to understand the link between blood pressure and CBD fully.

Does cannabis lower high blood pressure?

Given the increasing prevalence of hypertension at a time when states are liberalizing cannabis laws, people want to know: what are the effects of cannabis on blood pressure? Does it lower blood pressure? The answers largely depend on who you ask or what study you read.

One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, a condition known as hypertension. Left unmanaged, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, which is characterized by an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and even heart failure. A number of factors, including poor diet, stress, physical inactivity, alcohol, and tobacco use increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Some of the effects of cannabis on blood pressure, particularly the acute effects, are well understood and documented. However, research studies describing other effects, especially long-term adverse or positive effects, are limited, and often plagued by poor study design or the fact that findings from animal studies don’t always neatly transfer to human subjects.

Further, many research findings are highly generalized, focusing on THC while neglecting consideration of the numerous other cannabinoids. Logically, a cannabis strain high in the psychoactive cannabinoid THC would yield different results from a strain high in the largely non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD.

Perhaps most frustrating, published studies investigating differences between consumption methods – such as the effects of smoking cannabis versus ingested edibles – are essentially nonexistent.

With these limitations in mind, here is what we do know.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Consumption

Does cannabis raise blood pressure? Studies suggest shortly after consumption, occasional users will experience a mild to moderate dose-dependent increase in blood pressure and heart rate, followed by a modest hypotensive effect (a decrease in blood pressure). The onset of peak effects like elevated heart rate and blood pressure occur within 10 to 15 minutes after consumption.

Users can develop a tolerance to the initial effects over a period of a few days to weeks, and repeated use has been associated with lowered heart rate and blood pressure immediately following consumption. Anecdotally, many people report that cannabis helps them maintain healthy blood pressure levels, an effect supported by research studies.

Here’s an interesting piece of “non-trivial trivia” you can use to impress friends at your next cannabis-inspired intellectual discussion: posture during consumption may influence blood pressure. Suppose you’re sitting or lying on your couch – your blood pressure will temporarily increase immediately following consumption. Once you stand up, blood pressure will drop. In fact, if you stand up suddenly, blood pressure could drop significantly enough to induce enough lightheadedness to make you feel like you’re about to faint (don’t worry, it’s unlikely you’d actually pass out).

On the other hand, if you’re standing up when you imbibe, blood pressure may decrease without ever initially increasing. However, there isn’t a lot of published data verifying this effect. (If you’ve done your own comparative measurements, feel free to share in the comments section below!)

Cannabis and Stroke or Heart Attack

As far as serious adverse risks, a UC San Francisco longitudinal Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study analyzing data from 3,617 African American and Caucasian adults over a 15 year period found there was no long-term causal link between cannabis consumption and the risk of heart attack or stroke.

However, there are a limited number of animal studies and human case reports that suggest a link between acute intoxication and stroke or heart attack. But, these findings have been called into question by a 2006 report published in the Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology Journal: “Despite the drug’s extreme popularity, reports of cannabis-related stroke and myocardial infarction are so rare as to still be reportable.”

Further, human case reports often don’t take into account that in these rare events, people may have consumed cannabis in conjunction with alcohol, tobacco, or stimulants contemporaneously or shortly before the incident.

Nonetheless, a Harvard Medical School study concluded that for an hour after consuming cannabis (especially in at-risk populations; e.g. seniors), the odds of suffering a heart attack increases by five times. Risk returns to normal within two hours. Notably, sex carries a comparable risk increase. This begs the question: does combining cannabis and sex exponentially increase one’s chances of a heart attack? We’re eagerly awaiting a follow-up study from Harvard to answer this question.

Is There a Link Between Cannabis and Hypertension Treatment?

It’s long been established that the body’s endocannabinoid system (whose naturally occurring chemicals behave similarly to cannabinoids found in cannabis) play an important role in regulating many of the body’s key physiological functions, including cardiovascular function.

A growing body of research shows that anandamide – the body’s naturally occurring version of THC – relaxes blood vessels, the implication being that by allowing blood to flow more freely, anandamide helps lower blood pressure.

Notably, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism published a report concluding “endocannabinoids tonically suppress cardiac contractility in hypertension,” and that “targeting the endocannabinoid system offers novel therapeutic strategies in the treatment of hypertension.”

The degree to which the endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating blood pressure has long inspired researchers to examine if we could treat hypertension by manipulating the endocannabinoid system.

However, we’re not there yet. Remarkably, despite the fact that cannabinoids have been studied for their potential as antihypertensive agents since the 1970s, no cannabinoid-based medications have been officially approved to treat hypertension. Moreover, despite an ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence and numerous studies suggesting the regular use of cannabis does appear to produce long-term lower blood pressure levels, we lack the sort of rigorous human studies that would allow physicians to confidently say, “Use cannabis to treat your hypertension!”

As we continue to develop a better understanding of the cannabinoid receptor system’s role in cardiovascular regulation, we’ll soon be able to more confidently identify the therapeutic role for cannabinoids in blood pressure control.