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Is Cannabis a Viable Treatment for Hypertension (Blood Pressure)?

States across the nation are liberalizing cannabis laws, leading some people to voice their curiosity about how it might benefit them for lowering their blood pressure. The answers to that question vary considerably, depending upon the source of the solution.

Approximately one-third of Americans have high blood pressure, a condition that is also sometimes referred to as hypertension. When left unmanaged, hypertension can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even heart failure. Some other factors contribute to the risk of developing hypertension, including diet, inadequate exercise, and alcohol and tobacco use.

The effects of cannabis on blood pressure are well documented and understood, particularly the acute effects. Research studies that explore long-term active and adverse effects are limited, and those that exist are often plagued with inadequate study parameters or with difficulty transferring the results of animal studies to human subjects.

Many research projects have highly generalized objectives and focus on THC while failing to study numerous other cannabinoids. It is very logical to have different research results while exploring a cannabis strain that is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, then when studying the primarily non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD.

Most frustrating of all are that published studies that investigate the differences between consumption methods, which include smoking, ingesting, and applying it topically, are nearly nonexistent. Bearing these limitations in mind, here is what we do know:

Comparing Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Consumption

How does cannabis impact blood pressure? Studies indicate that for a short time after consumption, occasional users will have a mild to moderate increase in blood pressure and heart rate, followed by a modest decrease in blood pressure. The degree to which the increases and subsequent reduction occur, is dependent upon the size of the cannabis dose. The onset of peak effects occur within 15 minutes of consumption.

After a period of a few days to a few weeks, repeat users can develop a tolerance to these initial effects. Repeated use has been connected to a lowered heart rate and decreased blood pressure immediately after consumption. Anecdotally, cannabis users frequently report that cannabis helps them to maintain their blood pressure levels, an effect that is supported by research.

Something that you can use to impress your friends at your next cannabis-inspired intellectual discourse is that your posture while consuming cannabis may influence your blood pressure. For example, if you’re sitting or relaxing on a couch, you’ll experience a temporary increase in blood pressure immediately after consumption. When you stand up, your blood pressure will drop. In fact, if you stand up abruptly, your blood pressure would experience a significant decline, enough to induce lightheadedness.

On the other hand, if you remain standing while you imbibe, it’s likely that your blood pressure may never experience the initial increase, but you’ll still experience a decrease in blood pressure. There isn’t a lot of published information available to verify this effect, most of it is based on anecdotal evidence.

Is Cannabis a Viable Treatment for Hypertension (Blood Pressure)?

How Cannabis Impacts the Risks of Heart Attack and Stroke

A UC San Francisco study analyzed date from over 3600 Caucasian and African American adults over a period of 15 years. They found that there were no adverse effects of long-term cannabis consumption for the risk of heart attack or stroke.

There have been a limited number of studies conducted on animals, and a similarly small number of human cases, that suggest a link existing between acute intoxication and the risk of heart attack and stroke. These conclusions are brought into questioned by a Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology Journal report published in 2006 that found that cannabis-related myocardial infarction and stroke are exceedingly rare.

Is Cannabis a Treatment for Hypertension?

It’s a long accepted fact that the body’s endocannabinoid system (the naturally occurring chemicals produced by the body that has characteristics very similar to those of cannabis) plays an integral role in regulating the body’s key physiological activities, including cardiovascular functioning.

Anandamide, the body’s version of THC, relaxes blood vessels, a fact supported by a growing body of research. The implication of this is that blood is allowed to flow more freely, helping to lower blood pressure. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concluded that endocannabinoids suppress cardiac contractility in high blood pressure and that utilizing the endocannabinoid system provides a new strategy for treatment of hypertension.

Researchers have long been inspired to explore the impact that the endocannabinoid system plays in regulating blood pressure. Specifically, they’ve studied how hypertension could be treated through manipulation of the endocannabinoid system. The studies are still ongoing, but we’re getting closer to getting some answers.

It is remarkable that as much research as cannabinoids has been subjected to for their anti-hypertensive properties in the past forty years, no cannabinoid-based drugs have received official approval as a treatment for hypertension. Moreover, despite the ever-growing body of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that suggests regular use of cannabis produces lowers blood pressure levels, rigorous human studies are still nonexistent. These are the types of studies that we need so that physicians will be able to confidently proclaim, “Cannabis is a viable treatment for your hypertension!”

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