CBD as a treatment for the cardiovascular system

In this article, we would like to discuss the different benefits that the CBD, an acronym for cannabidiol, can offer to the cardiovascular system. When referring to CBD we are talking about the main cannabis cannabinoid, a component that can be found in up to 40% of its extracts.

The function of the cardiovascular system

In simple terms, the cardiovascular system is composed of the heart and a network of blood vessels and is responsible for the circulation of blood in every corner of the body. Therefore, the cardiovascular system, together with the lymphatic vascular system, is part of the circulatory system.

Looking in a little deeper, we find that the cardiovascular system also supports other important functions, such as hormonal control, reproduction, in terms of maintaining an erection, regulation of body temperature, vital expulsion of salts and substances by filtering the kidney or defense, transporting antibodies and immune cells to shield against pathogens.

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Most common heart diseases

Taking into account the absolutely vital role of our heart, it is not surprising that the complications associated with it are currently the main cause of death by disease. In Spain, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of mortality – with 26.66% of cases – as reflected in the report of the National Institute of Statistics (INE) in 2014. This cause is above cancer (27.86%) and those related to the respiratory system (11.08%).

Bad habits are tightly linked with the rapid increase in heart problems. It is clear that sedentary lifestyle, stress, smoking or an inappropriate diet, among other factors, are the most common causes of health problems and must be actively fought.

Here is an overview of the  five cardiac diseases that have a greater relevance nowadays:

The blood flow to any part of the heart is decreased or fully blocked. This part ends up deteriorating and dying. Difficulty breathing, dizziness, and pressure in the chest are its main symptoms.
Heart failure: occurs when the heart does not have the capacity to pump enough blood and, maintain sufficient blood flow in the body. To avoid this, it will be essential to monitor, among other causes, hypertension, diabetes or coronary heart disease.
Angina or chest pain: this condition occurs when there is not enough blood to the heart muscle due to some obstruction in the coronary arteries. Strong pressure in the chest is the main symptom.
This is the result of the weakening and inflammation of the arterial walls of a specific part of the body. Keep in mind that, in many cases, this inflammation is asymptomatic, so it is essential to carry out routine checkups.
This condition is associated with an irregular heartbeat. When this heartbeat is slowed we speak of bradycardia; when it is an accelerated heartbeat we refer to it as tachycardia. Also, intermittent arrhythmias may occur, causing symptoms such as paleness, dizziness or asphyxia, among others.

Impact of CBD on the cardiovascular system: benefits and possible risks

After gaining a better understanding of the cardiovascular system, we can now focus on our main subject – namely CBD.

Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD has no psychotropic effect (ie, does not cause vertigo or euphoria, known as “high”), having a wider positive impact in medical applications, for example, in cases of schizophrenia, epilepsy, anxiety disorders or multiple sclerosis. Its effect is sedative in most of the casuistry, inhibiting the flow of nerve signals of pain. Likewise, in a study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics in 2007, concluded that CBD can induce programmed cell death, independent of the CB1, CB2, or vanilloid receptors, hence slowing down the development of breast cancer significantly1.

The list of medical applications of the CBD has been increasing over time and scientists have started examining the association between the compound and its benefits in our cardiovascular system. Thus, in 2012, in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, an article by three members of the University of Nottingham was published, which suggests evidence that CBD is beneficial to the cardiovascular system2. This is due to its direct actions on the isolated arteries since these actions cause acute vasorelaxation. In this way, for example, CBD acts as a protective agent against vascular damage caused by the presence of high glucose. In effect, the studies carried out by these specialists converge on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.

The joint assessment of the preclinical data obtained by the above-mentioned studies supports the beneficial role of CBD in the treatment of heart diseases, and even in the peripheral and cerebral vasculature. However, they point out that “more work is required to strengthen this hypothesis”. Nowadays, the hypothesis is quite strong.

Quick Fact

Given the fact that, in most cases, cardiovascular problems are caused by some kind of inflammation, different studies in the field in recent years have been able to demonstrate how CBD has anti-inflammatory effects that entail the protection of tissues of the cardiovascular system.

This is the case, for example, of the study carried out in 2016 by an international team of researchers3. The tests carried out on mice demonstrated the reduction of inflammation of the cardiovascular tissues through the persistent treatment of CBD. In this way, the risk of exacerbation of heart failure was reduced and, in turn, the recovery of the original state was easier. In summary, this transnational research confirmed that CBD can help improve myocarditis –  inflammation of the heart muscle.

In fact, a year earlier, in 2015, Chinese researchers had already demonstrated, after several tests on rabbits, how cannabidiol had a positive effect on the recovery of cardiac infarction4. The rabbits that had been given CBD after suffering a heart attack returned to normal much faster than those who were simply given placebo.

If we go to the extreme opposite of the effects of the CBD, that is to say, to its risks, we hardly have anything to review. As long as it is taken with caution, CBD is generally well tolerated by everyone, as reported by the World Health Organization itself5 however it could interact with cetrain medications.

Warning

If you alreday taking heart medication, please be aware that CBD could interract or  reduce the medication’s efficacy. Please consult with a doctor before taking CBD.

Related article: CBD and Drug Interactions

How to consume CBD

There are three main ways to take cannabidiol:

  •  Through inhalation: in this case, the use of a vaporizer is required. It has the advantage that the effect is faster, although it tends to disappear soon. On the other hand, being much less dangerous than tobacco, there are voices that doubt its lung safety.
  • By simple intake: in this case, the cannabidiol will be added to some food, such as cookies, guacamole or drinks. The effect, then, will be slower, but a longer duration will be achieved.
  • Sublingually: simply place the drops of CBD oil under the tongue. We will achieve, thus, a rapid absorption.

To learn how to correctly dose your CBD, read our post on dosing.

Finally, let us also bear in mind that the optimal variety to protect our cardiovascular system will be found in products with a high content of CBD and low in THC. In this regard, there are many experts who recommend capsules or cannabidiol oils .

References

  1. Caffarel MM, Andradas C, Mira E, Pérez-Gómez E, Cerutti C, Moreno-Bueno G, Flores JM, García-Real I, Palacios J, Mañes S, Guzmán M und Sánchez C. „Cannabinoids reduce ErbB2-driven breast cancer progression through Akt inhibition.“ PubMed Mol Cancer. (2010) []
  2. Stanley CP, Hind WH und O’Sullivan SE. „Is the cardiovascular system a therapeutic target for cannabidiol?“ PubMed Br J Clin Pharmacol. (2013) []
  3. Caffarel MM, Andradas C, Mira E, Pérez-Gómez E, Cerutti C, Moreno-Bueno G, Flores JM, García-Real I, Palacios J, Mañes S, Guzmán M und Sánchez C. „Cannabinoids reduce ErbB2-driven breast cancer progression through Akt inhibition.“ PubMed Mol Cancer. (2010) []
  4. Feng, Yuanbo MD, PhD*,†; Chen, Feng MD, PhD*,‡; Yin, Ting MSc*; Xia, Qian MD, PhD*,§; Liu, Yewei MSc*,§; Huang, Gang MD, PhD§; Zhang, Jian PhD; Oyen, Raymond MD, PhD*; Ni, Yicheng MD, PhD*,† „Pharmacologic Effects of Cannabidiol on Acute Reperfused Myocardial Infarction in Rabbits: Evaluated With 3.0T Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Histopathology“ Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology (2015) []
  5. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (2017). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Pre-Review Report. [online] World Health Organization. []
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