High blood pressure has been a real epidemic, taking the Western world by storm over the past decades. Today, around 32% of adults in the U.S suffer from it. When you know that this condition can be responsible for heart attacks, strokes or dementia, it is one of the greatest problems facing an aging population. Some claim that CBD, a natural product extracted from the cannabis plant, could reduce hypertension and prevent these complications. But what does the latest science actually say? Can CBD lower blood pressure? Or have the claims been exaggerated? Let’s delve deeper.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a complicated condition that can have different causes as well as different effects depending on the person. Though it manifests itself in different ways, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is simple. When someone’s blood pressure is above 140/90, a diagnosis of high blood pressure is made.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can result in any number of issues from heart attacks to kidney disease, strokes, vision loss, or erectile dysfunction. While we can’t say with any certainty that high blood pressure will result in these problems, it is a known factor that drastically increases the odds of suffering from them.
What causes high blood pressure?
Although many people believe that developing high blood pressure is a normal result of aging, this is far from the truth. In fact, there are a number of populations that don’t experience high blood pressure at all. This lets us know that while genetics may play a role, high blood pressure is also tightly connected to lifestyle. A couple of the factors that can cause high blood pressure are:
- Poor diet (especially consumption of processed foods and food with a high salt content)
- Lack of exercise
- Drinking alcohol
- Lack of sleep
How is high blood pressure treated?
People who wonder whether CBD can lower blood pressure are often looking for alternatives to traditional ways of treatment for hypertension.
The first and most obvious way to reverse hypertension is to make some lifestyle changes. These will usually include switching to a more whole-foods, plant-based diet, picking up some kind of exercise, and practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation.
If the risk of developing medical issues due to hypertension is particularly big (which happens when blood pressure is very high), you may also be offered medicine. There are a few different types of drugs that can lower blood pressure. Most of them work by relaxing the blood vessels, thinning the blood, or widening blood vessels. Usually, once someone starts taking high blood pressure medicine, they will be taking them for the rest of their lives.
These medicines are well-researched and don’t present many risks. In fact, high blood pressure is so tightly connected with fatal diseases and heart attacks that the benefits of these medicines far outweigh their potential side effects. Nevertheless, these medicines can have detrimental effects in the long term, which is important as they are usually taken for years on end. These include:
The side effects of these medicines are partly why many people wonder whether a natural medicine might be more appropriate to treat such a long-term problem. But is CBD actually useful in treating high blood pressure? And can it ever replace blood pressure drugs? Here’s what we know so far.
What is CBD?
CBD is another name for cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD or cannabidiol belongs to a class of chemicals known as “cannabinoids.” Cannabis contains hundreds of cannabinoids, some of which are known for their medicinal properties. Chief among them are CBD and THC. THC is the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana and is responsible for causing a “high” feeling. Although many people confuse THC for CBD, the two have very different effects on the body and mind. For starters, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it doesn’t create changes in consciousness. But compared to THC, it may be a lot more effective for its medicinal properties. Some of those include:
- Treating epilepsy
- Reducing inflammation
- Fighting pain
- Improving digestion
- Preventing migraines
In recent years, the benefits of CBD have been the subject of a number of studies. These showed that it could be useful as a treatment or complementary treatment for many different medical conditions. This is due in large part to the effects of CBD on the human endocannabinoid system. Our endocannabinoid system regulates things like mood, appetite, inflammation, and pain management. Scientists believe that CBD stimulates that system in ways that help it function better.
As a result, CBD could also help with a couple of the things that cause high blood pressure.
CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%) are now legal on a federal level in the United States. However, they are not FDA-approved, and may still be illegal in certain states. Check your local laws before making a purchase.
Can CBD lower blood pressure?
A 2017 study found that healthy volunteers who were given a 600 mg dose of CBD decreased their blood pressure significantly, compared to the control group. Those who organized the study suggested that the effects of CBD were due to its role as a vasodilator, or a chemical that relaxes blood vessels and arteries.
But CBD doesn’t just fight high blood pressure, it could also help to prevent it by addressing its causes. One of the main factors involved in developing high blood pressure is stress. CBD was found to be effective in lowering levels of anxiety and promoting a feeling of relaxation. In a 2019 study, people who took CBD experienced much lower stress when asked to perform a public speaking exercise. Not only did they feel more peaceful going into the exercise, their level of stress hormones also stayed much lower. Taken regularly, CBD could be a powerful way to counteract the stresses of a fast-paced lifestyle. And of course, this also means it can help to lower blood pressure.
Closely associated with stress and anxiety, lack of sleep is also a risk factor in developing high blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that CBD could help to promote deeper sleep and fight insomnia. In turn, this also works to lower blood pressure in the long term.
Finally, there are also studies pointing to the neuroprotective effects of CBD. In particular, it may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. When we know that high blood pressure is associated with much higher odds of developing dementia or suffering from strokes, it’s easy to see the benefits of a neuroprotective compound that also lowers blood pressure.
Is CBD safe to take to lower blood pressure?
Studies on the effects of CBD on blood pressure are relatively recent, and there aren’t enough of them yet. While they do suggest that CBD really lowers blood pressure, it may not be enough to conclude that CBD can be used as a treatment for high blood pressure. At the very least, it shouldn’t be used as the sole treatment for hypertension, given the potential risks that having high blood pressure creates.
However, with very few side effects, CBD can be used as a complementary treatment to other forms of high blood pressure prevention (including lifestyle changes, and eventually medicine). A 2017 review found that CBD was a very safe drug, with only a few and mild side effects. Those include:
- Changes in appetite
Because CBD can lower blood pressure, it’s important to tell your doctor that you have started taking it. With time, if CBD reduces your blood pressure significantly, your doctor may adjust the quantity of blood pressure medicines that you are taking.
Products and dosage
The market for CBD is rapidly expanding and with it the number of products available. Nowadays, you can find CBD in the form of pure oil, capsules, gummies, edibles, and all sorts of topical creams and ointments.
For the treatment of high blood pressure, taking CBD orally remains the best solution. The most popular way to do that is by placing a couple of drops of CBD under the tongue on a regular basis. If you don’t like the herbal taste of CBD oil, then taking capsules or eating CBD gummies every morning-evening may be a better solution.
Clinical trials on CBD for high blood pressure being at an early stage, we don’t know what dosage might work best. In general, trying 5 to 10 mg of CBD is enough to determine whether your body tolerates it well. If you don’t experience any nausea or appetite changes from that dose, it’s safe to move on to a bigger one. In the most recent study, patients were administered as much as 600 mg of CBD to lower their blood pressure. Such a high dose may not be necessary, but it remains too early to tell.
CBD targets many of the causes of high blood pressure, in particular, stress and lack of sleep. It may also lower blood pressure directly by helping to dilate blood vessels. Finally, it prevents some of the risks associated with high blood pressure due to its neuroprotective abilities. With few side effects and holistic benefits on many of the causes and symptoms of high blood pressure, it is one of the most promising new treatment options when it comes to hypertension. More clinical trials are needed to determine whether it could ever replace blood pressure medicine. For now, it can only be recommended as a complementary treatment for those struggling with high blood pressure or looking to prevent it.
CBD for high blood pressure
2017 study on the effects of CBD on hypertension
CBD for stress and anxiety
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction
2018 review of the effects of CBD on physical and mental health conditions
CBD for sleeping disorders
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
The neuroprotective effects of CBD
2017 study on the therapeutic properties of CBD for Alzheimer’s disease
2014 study on the effects of CBD for preventing memory loss
Safety of CBD
2017 study on the safety and side effects of CBD