How Does Cannabis Affect Blood Pressure?

High Blood Pressure affects 1 in 3 Americans and contributes to an increased rate of stroke and heart disease. Can a bit of cannabis ease the disease?

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, contributed to almost 500,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2017. It's a common condition that is becoming more prevalent now more than ever. Amid a pandemic, stress levels are high and the issue of one's health is now a primary concern. So how can weed help with high blood pressure? 

Cannabis has emerged from a 'Pineapple Express' stereotype to a medical marvel and wellness product. Medical marijuana is now federally legal in Australia and Canada, and in 33 U.S. states. Its effects on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) have driven researchers into investigating its medical implications with impressive results. As such, there are now cannabis-derived medications for epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and cachexia. Cannabinoid compounds like CBD and THC can help dilate blood vessels, help glaucoma patients with eye pain, and reduce muscle spasticity and tension.

It's safe to say that weed is a good match for combating blood pressure, but is it as simple as it sounds? 

What Does it Mean to Have High Blood Pressure? 

Hypertension refers to the pressure of blood that pushes against the arteries. Now, it is normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day. However, if the pressure remains high for too long, then it can cause damage to the heart. This can escalate into other conditions like heart disease or an increased chance of suffering from a stroke.

Many things cause our blood pressure to spike: caffeine, drug intake, certain medications, stress, and poor diet. Hypertension is common in older age, while people who have a family history of the condition are also susceptible. Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet can reduce hypertension, however, roughly half of patients are not even aware that their blood pressure levels are higher than normal.

When your physician takes your blood pressure, the reading will present in two numbers representing two kinds of pressure: systolic and diastolic. These are measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). the first number, systolic pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries each time your heartbeats. The second number, diastolic pressure, is the measurement of pressure in your arteries in-between heartbeats. 

A normal range of blood pressure, for example, is below 120/80 mm Hg. This means that your systolic pressure is below 120 mm Hg and your diastolic pressure is below 80 mm Hg. 

A systolic pressure ranging from 130-139 mm Hg and diastolic pressures ranging between 80-89 mm Hg indicates the first stage of hypertension. A severe case, or Stage 2, occurs if the systolic pressure is 140 mm Hg or higher, while diastolic pressure will be at 90 mm Hg or higher.

There are two types of hypertension: Primary and secondary. Primary hypertension results from a genetic predisposition, poor lifestyle, and obesity. This means that it can likely be reduced with changes in lifestyle. A small percentage develop secondary hypertension, which is a subsequent effect from another condition, like kidney disease. 

We know that cannabis can help dilate blood vessels, but some research suggests that the plant can do more harm than good. So, which is it? 

Does Weed Reduce or Raise Blood Pressure? 

Research into the effects of weed on blood pressure is mixed. Studies have linked cannabis to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and even an increased risk blood pressure related death. These, however, have faced their own limitations. 

Firstly, let get one thing clear: cannabis does increase your blood pressure. But then how can it possibly help? 

Studies show that as soon as you inhale cannabis, it will increase blood pressure within around 15 minutes of consumption. How much you smoke will dictate how much your blood pressure will increase. 

Now, this effect is only short-term. If repeated use occurs, then users will develop a tolerance for short-term side-effects. Once this happens, then the immediate effects of the plant begin to lower blood pressure levels. Anecdotally, patients report that regular consumption of cannabis contributes to stable blood pressure levels. This has also been clinically confirmed

How Can Weed Help? 

When the cannabinoids release into the body, the receptors in the ECS bind with the cannabinoids to lower blood pressure. One study reveals that when the CB1 receptor binds with THC, it can slow down the heart rate. When CBD releases into the body, it can even administer cardio-protectant properties to work to reduce the likelihood of future heart attacks. 

Furthermore, studies have also found that one of our body's endocannabinoids, anandamide, works with THC to help lower blood pressure. Anandamide holds a similar chemical structure to the compound THC so the two can work hand-in-hand. Anandamide can relax blood vessels, this allows for blood to flow more easily resulting in our blood pressure dropping.

The role in which the ECS plays in regulation and manipulation of blood flow has been known for decades. According to the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, the ECS has a bank of "therapeutic strategies in the treatment of hypertension". However, the research is still needed and remains ongoing for the foreseeable future. 

Popular Strains

Both THC and CBD have great effects on reducing blood pressure. THC dominant strains are great for advanced glaucoma patients, the research concludes that THC can actively lower one's blood pressure. In some cases, this effect can be immediate. CBD, on the other hand, has vasodilating properties, meaning that it opens up blood vessels. When your blood vessels dilate, it makes it easier for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. Here are some popular strains to help reduce blood pressure: 

  • Blue Dream: A hybrid strain with a high THC concentrate to help relax the blood vessels. One of the most popular strains, Blue Dream is great for alleviating stress while giving a subtle yet satisfying high. 
  • Northern Lights: This Indica dominant strain is a godsend for muscle tension. It can ease bodily pain and muscle tension by assisting with blood flow. 
  • Sour Diesel: This Sativa dominant strain has an average of 19% THC concentration and is recommended for stress for high blood pressure. It will help relax the muscles while helping combat depressive symptoms with a cerebral, dream-like high. 

While weed can work wonders into reducing your blood pressure, it's important to speak to your healthcare professional about your options. The effects of weed are unique to every person. Weed may be a viable treatment option, however, it's not for everyone. Hypertension is a serious condition, abusing or self-medicating is not the right course of treatment.

While we know that weed can help regulate blood pressure, more research is needed. Over time, we can only hope that we have a better understanding of the plant's effects. In the meantime, weed and our ECS will likely continue to shock researchers. who knows what else it can help with?

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Taylor Ridewood
Taylor Ridewood

Taylor is a Sydney-based writer with a background in psychology and professional writing. She has a keen interest in the benefits of medicinal cannabis and enjoys researching the multi-faceted effects of cannabis on the body and mind.

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