Cannabis may be beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
Pal Pacher, a scientist of the National Institute of Health in Maryland, USA, and his team conducted this review of several studies on the current state of scientific evidence regarding the cardiovascular effects of cannabis.
Based on the review of numerous studies, the research team points out that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have an anti-inflammatory effect and can protect the cardiovascular system.
The administration of CBD does not lead to a psychoactive effect and is associated with a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. According to the reviewed studies, taking CBD led to a long-term improvement in heart function, a reduction in the number of strokes and heart attacks, and relief from cardiac inflammation. The scientists further describe a beneficial impact of CBD in terms of improved cell regeneration and reduction of cell death.
THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, also showed an anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective effect in low dosages according to scientific evidence. Numerous studies revealed a positive impact of THC on atherosclerosis, as its administration seemed to decrease plaque development within the blood vessels.
However, other components of the cannabis plant like tetrahydrocannabivarin and terpenes like ß-caryophyllene, also showed a neuro-protective and cardio-protective effect. The studies also indicated an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effect.
Potential adverse effects
Clinical studies showed that the availability of highly potent synthetic cannabinoids for recreational use has been accompanied by the emergence of serious adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. The research team points out that the THC content of synthetic cannabinoid products often exceeded the naturally occurring content by more than 10 times. This increased the stress on the cardiovascular system and also on the metabolism. Adverse effects associated with highly increased THC content include arrhythmias, low blood pressure and obesity. Furthermore, not only the chemical compounds but also the route of administration appeared to have a great influence on potential adverse effects across a variety of studies. Smoking cannabis cigarettes is considered to be just as harmful as smoking conventional tobacco.
This review provides evidence of an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effect of CBD, which is associated with a protective effect on both the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. With regard to THC, there is a dose-dependent effect (the higher the dose, the more likely potential side effects) on the cardiovascular system.
While synthetic cannabinoid use with a highly increased THC content is linked with serious adverse cardiovascular events, the treatment with CBD and THC in low doses show a positive influence on the cardiovascular system.
Pacher, P., Steffens, S., Haskó, G., Schindler, T. H., & Kunos, G. (2018). Cardiovascular effects of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nature Reviews Cardiology, 15(3), 151-166. Link: https://doi.org/10.1038/nrcardio.2017.130