How does cannabis affect blood pressure?
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- Does marijuana lower or raise blood pressure?
- What are the cardiovascular effects of cannabis?
- Weed and blood pressure medication
- Other effects of weed on blood pressure
Since smoking a joint can lead to a relaxing high, you might wonder about cannabis use and its effect on blood pressure. We know that weed can make your eyes red , but does it also raise or lower blood pressure, or does it not have any effect at all? If you have high blood pressure, is marijuana safe to consume?
Here we’ll address how smoking weed, including medical marijuana, could factor into your blood pressure levels.
Does marijuana lower or raise blood pressure?
To answer this question, we should focus on two of the primary cannabinoids present in cannabis : cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both may exert an influence on blood pressure levels.
Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a medical adviser to Weedmaps and the director of Canna-Centers in Lawndale, California, outlined the potential effects of THC on blood pressure:
“THC can affect blood pressure depending on the dose, the route of administration, a person’s experience with THC, and a person’s underlying health. Healthy volunteers that took THC had an increase in heart rate and decrease in blood pressure. In studies where people used THC while lying down, they had elevated blood pressure. When they stood up, their blood pressure dropped and they experienced low blood pressure.”
These sudden drops in blood pressure, also known as white outs or green outs, may indeed be linked to cannabis use. Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, told Weedmaps that “cannabis may cause a drop in blood pressure on standing — known as postural hypotension.” This type of drop in blood pressure is not desirable, as it can cause vertigo and even fainting. So, when we talk about “lowering blood pressure,” we do not necessarily consider that effect beneficial to health.
Both THC and CBD may lower blood pressure in different ways. However, neither CBD nor THC should be considered a medical treatment for high blood pressure. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
And how does CBD affect blood pressure? The consensus is that CBD tends to relax the blood vessels and decrease anxiety, which ultimately leads to a lowering of blood pressure. This type of blood pressure reduction is more favorable, as it is associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Both THC and CBD may lower blood pressure in different ways. However, based on available research, neither CBD nor THC should be considered a medical treatment for high blood pressure.
What are the cardiovascular effects of cannabis?
Another frequently asked question about cannabis and cardiovascular health is: can weed cause a heart attack?
First, let’s again distinguish between the cannabinoids THC and CBD. For example, CBD oils containing trace levels of THC may have very different effects than smoking a high-THC strain of marijuana. Various studies have indicated that THC may have detrimental effects on cardiovascular health, whereas CBD could be helpful to the heart.
Goldstein added, “CBD does not appear to have the same risks for the heart as THC and in fact, appears to be somewhat cardioprotective.” To support this assertion, Goldstein cited a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in which researchers concluded that CBD has therapeutic potential in treating complications of diabetes, as well as some cardiovascular disorders. Most notably, CBD could reduce inflammation, a condition that can ultimately damage the blood vessels, arteries, and vital organs. So, if you apply CBD oil to your skin or swallow a few tablespoons, the impact could differ greatly than if you smoked a blunt.
To this point, there is some research that suggests smoking THC could directly or indirectly lead to a heart attack. One 2019 study titled “The Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana: Are the Potential Adverse Effects Worth the High?” and published in the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association showed that some people experienced a heart attack within an hour of smoking cannabis.
Bone, however, argued, “On careful study, many of the patients also smoked cigarettes and were obese, making it hard to draw absolute conclusions. Also, the observations were made on cannabis of unknown origin, not cannabis from a dispensary.” The fact that the cannabis did not come from a registered dispensary is significant, as there is no available lab testing to determine what other compounds may have been present.
The bottom line is that there have been studies demonstrating a questionable association between smoking weed and having a heart attack, and more research is necessary.
Weed and blood pressure medication
You might also be wondering, what if you’re smoking weed while taking blood pressure medication? Will there be an adverse reaction? If you are smoking THC-rich cannabis and taking medication for high blood pressure, the answer is that there could be.
Goldstein explained, “Smoking cannabis can be harmful for those with heart disease or hypertension since the smoke contains carbon monoxide. This gas binds to the hemoglobin in red blood cells, displacing oxygen off of the red blood cells which results in less oxygen going to the body’s tissues, including the heart. People with heart disease or high blood pressure should avoid smoking.”
Instead, Goldstein recommends other methods of cannabis use, such as sublingual tinctures or edibles, which she says are safe to use if someone is on blood pressure medication. Further, Bone stressed that people who use cannabis and are on blood pressure medications need to be mindful of the possibility of an interaction with other prescription medications. This means monitoring blood pressure and reporting any dizziness to your doctor, who can adjust your dosages accordingly.
People who use cannabis and are on blood pressure medications need to be mindful of the possibility of an interaction with other prescription medications. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In particular, the blood thinner warfarin was shown in a 2017 study published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports to interact with cannabidiol (CBD) in certain epileptic individuals . In line with Bone’s advice, researchers concluded that patient lab work should be monitored closely.
While it is possible for warfarin and other medications to interact with cannabis, there are no guarantees, and the 2017 study focused on patients with epilepsy rather than on the general population. As Dr. Bone reported, “In my private practice, I have not encountered a significant negative interaction between blood pressure medication and cannabis.”
Other effects of weed on blood pressure
There may be other effects of marijuana on blood pressure that health practitioners have yet to discover. All potential effects depend on the individual’s existing health problems, especially co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
Can people without these conditions safely indulge in marijuana? A healthy individual’s body may appear as a well-oiled machine, but Bone disputes that analogy, pointing out that, “Unlike a car, where we replace the brakes or tires, the heart never gets a vacation and the blood vessels need to keep working forever. And the nervous system, which directs the show like a conductor, is on duty 24/7.”
Moderation, then, may be key in integrating a cannabis regimen into your healthcare plan. Consult with your physician before you begin using cannabis or CBD products and discuss any medications you are currently taking.
Learn how cannabis affects blood pressure and what questions you should ask your doctor before starting a regimen.
Indica or Sativa for high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. In addition to increasing your chances of a heart attack, it elevates your stroke and aneurysm risk. With that in mind, it makes sense that those who suffer from hypertension are often trying to find ways to tackle it. Those who prefer to take a natural approach to their health may wonder “Does cannabis lower blood pressure?”
Unlike other areas of medical cannabis research, the answer to this question isn’t so straight forward. The links between cannabis and blood pressure can vary according to the type you’re using. Additionally, the immediate effects of using cannabis can vary when compared with the long-term effects. To develop a better understanding, it’s worth learning more about the different strains. Additionally, you need to know more about how to use Indica or Sativa for high blood pressure.
First, what is high blood pressure?
Ideally, your blood pressure will be between 90 to 120 systolic and 60 to 80 diastolic. When it moves into the 120 to 140 systolic camp, it’s classed as pre-hypertension. At 140+, you’re hypertensive. If you present to a physician with high blood pressure, they’ll probably want to read yours on more than one occasion to make sure what they’re seeing is accurate.
The causes of high blood pressure aren’t always clear. Most people have primary hypertension, for which there’s no real traceable cause but plenty of lifestyle factors might contribute. A small number suffer from secondary hypertension, which can arise following kidney disease and other contributory conditions.
If you do develop high blood pressure, you may find that you’re asked to take diuretics, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or a combination of the three. The type you’ll need to take will vary according to your age and race, as variations between the two may mean you don’t respond well to certain treatments.
Do cannabis and blood pressure mix?
Cannabis and blood pressure can have a positive relationship, but that might not be your first experience when you use it. According to one study , using cannabis initially results in a small but noticeable rise in heart rate and blood pressure. This rise depends on how much you’re using. The more you use, the higher that rise will be.
It’s possibly worth recognizing that your mode of using cannabis will also influence this. For example, if you choose to smoke it alongside a nicotine-based product you’re introducing your body to other substances that increase blood pressure. Therefore, if you’re serious about using marijuana for this purpose, you’ll stay away from additives that could render your efforts pointless.
Does cannabis lower blood pressure at all?
If you’re wondering “Does cannabis lower blood pressure?” the simplest answer is: yes. However, as we’ve already discussed above, the effects aren’t immediate.
As this study details , cannabis contains multiple compounds and has numerous mechanisms of action that allow it to lower blood pressure. First, there may be some localized cannabinoid receptors on the myocardium (the heart’s muscle) that respond to cannabinoids by slowing your heart rate down. At the same time, the CBD element of your cannabis may execute some cardioprotective factors. So, as you slow your heart rate down, you’ll also protect it against future heart attacks.
The same study also suggests that cannabinoids can influence your blood pressure via the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that automatically responds to changes in your environment, causing your blood pressure to rise and fall. By moderating it with CBD, you could change your blood pressure for the better.
Can you use Indica or Sativa for high blood pressure?
With all this in mind, you’ll now want to know whether to use Indica or Sativa for high blood pressure. As with many elements of medical cannabis, this is an area that’s largely under-studied. However, there are some studies we can turn to that offer useful advice.
This study focused on the use of THC-dominant marijuana in patients with glaucoma who were at risk of losing their eyesight due to rising intra-ocular pressure. Initially, the study participants saw a marked increase in their blood pressure. After a short while, their systolic and diastolic pressure fell, suggesting that the THC present in cannabis can lower blood pressure. As Sativa strains of cannabis have a higher THC content that Indica strains, this suggests it could lower blood pressure within moments of using it.
Another study that takes a different approach looks at the rises in blood pressure among those who abruptly stop using cannabis. Those who chose to stop their daily cannabis habit found that their blood pressure rose by more than 20mmHg at the systolic value, which is the value that carries the most risk. The study’s conclusion was that those who want to stop using cannabis should be monitored to ensure there’s no dangerous rise in blood pressure, suggestions that using it does come with some cardio-protective benefits.
Not-so-surprisingly, there’s more research examining the effects of CBD on hypertension. This study identified how CBD-dominant strains of marijuana, which often means Indica-dominant strains, resulted in vasodilation in rats. As you’re likely aware, narrow and stiffening arteries make a significant contribution to hypertension. If CBD produces a vasodilating effect, this also means your heart isn’t having to pump as hard against your blood vessel walls to send blood around your body. As a result, your blood pressure lowers.
A further study has identified how CBD can cause bradycardia in animals that are conscious. Bradycardia is a state in which your heart rate slows below the average range for an adult. Unless you’re in a hypotensive state, your blood pressure usually lowers too. However, it’s worth noting that while this can mean lower blood pressure, using CBD to the point you become too bradycardic may also lead to your body trying to compensate by raising your blood pressure again.
Overall, it appears Indica is the better choice
Because there is more research confirming the benefits of Indica versus Sativa for high blood pressure, it does appear that it’s the better choice here. Indica often has a higher CBD value than Sativa, and this appears to have the greatest therapeutic benefit in treating conditions such as high blood pressure.
With evidence suggesting that cannabis can lower blood pressure, it’s worth considering among those who are struggling to lower theirs. In addition to acting directly on the heart’s muscle, it also provides it with a small degree of protection. Its vasodilatory effects may result in blood pressure lowering further. If you’re willing to focus on lifestyle factors, it’s worth considering whether the stress-reduction element of using medical cannabis can make your blood pressure less pronounced.
Although research into this area is relatively scant, most of the material that does exist focuses on CBD rather than THC. As such, it may be the case that Indica is the better choice, especially if you want to avoid moderate rises in your blood pressure upon using it. As with any element of your health, avoid stopping your current regime without advice from your doctor. If you do experience high blood pressure, discuss it with a physician before self-medicating.
Indica or Sativa for high blood pressure? High blood pressure is a health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. In addition to increasing your chances of a heart attack, it elevates