Cannabis & the Cardiovascular System
The human cardiovascular system is a transport system for our blood, the carrier of oxygen, nutrients, and waste to and from our cells.
The human cardiovascular system is a transport system for our blood, the carrier of oxygen, nutrients, and waste to and from our cells. It’s also used like a network for communication between organs, allowing hormones to travel to the body’s organs through its pathways. Without it, our bodies wouldn’t get the fuel needed to function, the respiratory and digestive systems wouldn’t function, and homeostasis of the body would fail. For these reasons, it’s vital to understand how cannabis, just like medicine, can impact such a system, on the human body requires for survival.
The cardiovascular system can be observed from two perspectives by looking at what is transported from the heart and lungs to the cells of our body, versus what is taken from our cells and transported back to the heart and lungs.
In pulmonary circulation, deoxygenated blood from organs and tissues carries waste created by our cells and is transported from the heart to the lungs where it rids of carbon dioxide before gathering oxygen again before returning to the heart. It is then pumped back into systematic circulation where this oxygenated blood can then reach our cells and give them the oxygen they need while again gathering their waste.
While we’ve begun studying a few of the impacts cannabis has on circulation, more human studies are needed to gather more detailed information. Current studies have gathered opposing results in regard to the plant’s effects on the heart in dogs and mice versus humans. This makes it harder for us to study how cannabis affects our heart and circulation, now that we understand animal trials may prove to be irrelevant when it comes to understanding the effects on the human system.
The impact of cannabis on the cardiovascular system is dependent on what cannabinoid percentages are present in the strain being consumed. High THC strains have been found to accelerate heart rate, while those high in CBD may reduce it. CBD seemingly acts as the balancer of THC, the reverse may also be true, and it appears that many effects driven by the two in tandem.
Because THC can increase heart rate, it’s believed by a handful of physicians, including one that secured a patent for a cannabis-derived compound, that it can help with heart disease. By activating specific receptors that signal the heart to pump quicker, blood is circulated faster and more efficiently for the patient. This of course must be studied further, but the right combination of THC and CBD has an avid following regarding heart health – especially among athletes who consume it to help increase energy and focus before a workout or competition.
THC has been found to relax the muscles surrounding the walls of arteries resulting in lower blood pressure and an increase in blood flow to tissues. So while it may encourage a faster beating heart, it also relaxes the pathways it pumps to, potentially allowing for increased blood perfusion into the tissues. This is leading scientists to conduct more studies with cannabis on how it may reduce hypertension. Current findings show that results are highly dependent on dose levels and cannabinoid ratios.
If you’re considering the use of cannabis and have any medical issues related to the cardiovascular system, we encourage you talk with your doctor before using any cannabis products. While the plant has been shown to have therapeutic qualities for some heart and circulation disorders, it may not be beneficial for everyone, especially since our knowledge of its effects is very limited at this point. For some, simply using a little more than a general tolerance level can increase heart rate and may induce paranoia in some cases, two effects that never make a good pair.