In recent years, CBD oil has been called the 'miracle of the modern age'. But what is CBD, and can CBD products help the heart? Studies showed that CBD’s purported antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects may help alleviate symptoms of cardiovascular conditions.
CBD: What is it, and can it help the heart?
CBD is the latest health craze to sweep the high street, with claims it can help everything from chronic pain and inflammation to anxiety. But what is CBD, and can it really help the heart? Emily Ray finds out.
What is CBD, and is it legal in the UK?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical that’s extracted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis itself is an illegal class B drug, as is the compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which it contains. But pure CBD isn’t illegal, as it doesn’t cause the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
What CBD products are available?
The choice of CBD products has exploded recently: you can buy oils, capsules, muscle gels, sprays and oral drops, as well as beer, tea, sweets, hummus and even CBD-infused clothing.
Many of these can be easily picked up from reputable high street stores, such as Holland & Barrett or Boots.
Prices can be high: a 500mg bottle of CBD oil oral drops could set you back as much as £45. Not that this has put people off: over the past two years, sales of CBD have almost doubled in the UK, putting regular users at an estimated quarter of a million.
What is CBD used for?
A 2018 report by the World Health Organization suggested that CBD may help treat symptoms relating to conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), anxiety, depression, insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, it also notes that this research is still in the early stages, and that more studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn on whether CBD is effective.
CBD’s popularity has been given a boost by the fact that two CBD-containing medicines have been approved for prescription use by the NHS in England: Epidyolex, which has been found to reduce the number of seizures in children with severe epilepsy, and Sativex, which contains a mixture of CBD and THC, and is licensed for treatment of muscle stiffness and spasms in people with MS.
Does CBD work?
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University, says: “In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them. There’s a lot of marketing that says CBD is a ‘miracle of the modern age’; however, the marketing has actually overtaken the evidence of what it’s effective for.”
“In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them.”
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Sumnall argues that while it could be effective for some people, in some of these cases the results could be caused by the placebo effect (where the patient’s belief in a treatment makes them feel better). The placebo effect can be powerful, but Professor Sumnall warns that if people try CBD oil instead of speaking to their doctor, it could cause a problem.
The biggest difference between CBD used in clinical trials and in stores is the dose. Research has shown that some products contain very little CBD (or even none at all). Others contain THC or other illegal drugs, or even alcohol instead of CBD. By contrast, in clinical trials the CBD is purified, manufactured to a very high standard and given at a much higher dose. It is also taken regularly and under medical supervision.
Since 2016, any CBD product that is presented as having medicinal value must be licensed and regulated as a medicine, regardless of whether it is actually effective. Manufacturers must follow very specific and robust rules around production, packaging and the information provided.
But so far, Professor Sumnall points out, CBD products in shops are marketed as food supplements, not medicines, so none of them have gone through this process.
Can CBD help the heart?
Inflammation is part of the process that leads to many diseases, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and there is some evidence that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. Other studies have suggested that CBD can have a protective effect on the heart: this has been proven in rats after a heart attack and in mice with some of the heart damage associated with diabetes. But because these studies are often based on findings in a lab or in animals, not in humans, we cannot yet be confident that CBD will benefit the human heart.
There is ongoing research into the use of purer forms of CBD for a variety of conditions, including heart and circulatory diseases and, in particular, diseases of the heart muscle, including myocarditis and some types of cardiomyopathy.
Some of this work is still in animals, and much more research is needed before we can definitively say that CBD can help in this area.
“It’s clear that CBD has potential,” says Professor Sumnall, “but we’re at a very early stage of that research.”
- Always talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about taking a CBD product to supplement your existing treatment.
Meet the expert
Harry Sumnall is a Professor in Substance Use at the Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. He was a member of the UK Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs between 2011 and 2019.
CBD and Heart Rate – August 2022
Studies show that CBD may help improve heart health by regulating heart rate. Heart rate is managed by suppressing heart arrhythmia caused by insufficient blood supply to the heart (5) .
Heart arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems) involves irregular heartbeats resulting from malfunctioning electrical signals (6) . In this case, the heart may be beating irregularly, too fast, or too slow.
Studies demonstrated how CBD may help improve heart health through its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties (7) .
However, it is unclear whether CBD consistently increases or decreases heart rates in particular situations. Further research is needed for the results to be conclusive.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a term generally used for conditions affecting the heart or the blood vessels. Heart diseases include heart infection, coronary artery disease (CAD), irregular function, congenital heart defects, and arrhythmias (8) .
Arrhythmias can cause tachycardia, in which the heart rate goes over 100 beats per minute (9) . The standard range for an adult’s resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats pe r minute (10) .
The following can lead to a fast heart rate:
- High or low blood pressure
- Excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeinated beverages
- High cholesterol levels
- Stimulant drugs (cocaine or methamphetamine)
- Imbalance of electrolytes
- Medication side effects
Studies show that CBD may help suppress ischemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias (11) .
Ischemia occurs when the blood flow is restricted in the body (12) . Cardiac ischemia is the decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle.
CBD’s anti-apoptotic (preventing cell death), anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties may help with myocardial ischemia and reperfusion (13) .
Myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury caused by tissue damage is the leading cause of death in patients with cardiovascular disease (14) .
The British Journal of Pharmacology published a study suggesting CBD may help suppress irregular heartbeat caused by ischemia-induced heart arrhythmias (15) .
Another study on rats found that CBD may help stabilize irregular heartbeats (16) . This result among animal studies was due to the effects of CBD in the bloodstream.
Results of studies conducted on animals may be useful in further human studies on CBD use for heart rate.
How CBD Works to Help With Heart Disease Symptoms
After entering the body, CBD interacts with its endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps maintain balance in the body’s functions, including ones in the immune, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems (17) .
Endocannabinoids bind with cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body and send signals for particular actions to occur.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid (plant-based cannabinoid) that binds with receptors after the body receives the chemical compound.
Studies suggest CBD has antioxidant, inflammatory, and analgesic properties (18) that may help reduce the symptoms of heart conditions (19) .
The Effects of CBD on Heart Rate
A 2017 study led by Hermant Goval noted the presence of endocannabinoids in heart tissues (20) . The ECS may also be connected to heart rate regulation (21) .
CBD may thus help normalize the heart rate through its interaction with the ECS.
CBD vs. Stressful and Non-Stressful Conditions
A 2009 study showed that CBD may help lower the blood pressure of rats under stress (21) .
The study’s animal subjects underwent stressful conditions, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Both factors decreased after the animals received a single dose of CBD (22) .
Another study included a clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that showed CBD may help reduce blood pressure in healthy men (23) . However, the subjects’ heart rates increased compared to the placebo group.
A 2011 study provided participants a large dose of CBD or a placebo before a public-speaking event (24) . The researchers reported that the CBD group experienced lower heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels.
The mixed results from CBD used in stressful and non-stressful situations may be related to the autonomic arousal or “fight or flight” response. Research shows that CBD may function as an anxiety reliever (25) .
However, researchers disagree on whether the beneficial effects of cannabidiol include lower heart rates during non-stressful conditions. More research is necessitated to determine whether CBD use in humans can lead to similar results.
CBD and THC: Different Cannabinoids with Different Effects
CBD and THC are both derivatives of cannabis plants. However, the two cannabinoids may produce opposite effects in terms of acute cardiovascular function.
CBD is a non-psychoactive component abundant in hemp and thus does not produce mind-altering effects like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (26) .
Studies indicate CBD can lower heart rate (27) . Meanwhile, studies like a randomized crossover study show that THC may increase heart rate and blood pressure (28) .
The differing effects of THC and CBD on the central nervous system (CNS) are connected to their differing properties.
High-THC cannabis use may be connected to psychosis, according to a 2014 study on the effects of cannabis published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (29) .
While the psychosis symptoms of marijuana use include anxiety, researchers have examined CBD’s possible method of reducing the symptoms of anxiety disorders (30) .
CBD may also provide therapeutic benefits when combined with THC. A 2019 study in the Journal of Neuroscience noted that CBD seemed to block THC’s psychiatric side effects (31) .
The CBD Heart Rate Experiment
When experimenting on CBD’s effects on subjects’ heart rates, various types of heart rates are measured. The following informal experiments examine the effects of CBD products in different conditions.
Heart rates increase or decrease in particular situations, such as after exercise, and decrease in other situations, such as resting (32) .
Due to heart rate fluctuations, it is advisable to conduct the tests over multiple days and calculate the average.
Test 1: Resting Heart Rate
This test is the simplest one conducted. It involves measuring a subject’s resting heart rate. After the subject takes a dose of CBD oil, their heart rate is compared with the original measurements.
Test 2: Heart Rate While Exercising
This type of heart rate measurement requires a subject to measure heart rates after physical exercises, such as walking on a treadmill.
The heart rate is measured after a workout session. It is measured again after taking CBD and repeating the exercise session.
Test 3: Heart Rate After Sauna
Sauna baths may cause high blood pressure and increase heart rate (33) . This test examines whether CBD causes the heart rate to return to normal more expediently following a sauna session.
Does CBD Interact with Heart Medications?
CBD is generally safe. However, the compound may cause side effects, such as nausea, drowsiness, diarrhea, and dry mouth (34) .
Combining CBD with medications having similar side effects may increase the risk of unwanted symptoms or toxicity.
Potential drug interactions with CBD include warfarin, a blood thinner, and amiodarone, a heart rhythm medication (35) .
Meanwhile, taking CBD with certain heartburn drugs (such as Prilosec) may increase the risk of diarrhea.
Individuals taking prescription medication for a heart condition should consult their doctor before taking CBD.
Heart disease risks include heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, cardiac arrest, and aneurysm (36) . Treatments include prescription medicines and surgery.
Pharmaceuticals available for treating heart disease include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics (water pills), and channel blockers (37) .
A 2013 study examined the use of prescription medicines for the long-term treatment of CAD (38) .
The pharmaceuticals demonstrated positive effects, lowering the risk of complications and r elieving cardiomyopathy symptoms (39) . Cardiomyopathy results when the heart cannot efficiently pump blood to the body.
The same study also showed that various CAD medications may have risk factors and produce side effects, including easy bruising, dizziness, and exhaustion (40) .
Individuals should consult with their physicians before using CBD products for heart conditions.
How to Use CBD Oil for Heart Rate
CBD forms include oils, tinctures, capsules, creams, and gummies. Taking CBD under the tongue sublingually makes it easy to ingest it (41) .
Vaping offers faster bioavailability than other CBD forms such as topicals and edibles (42) . Bioavailability involves the rate and extent to which an active drug ingredient is absorbed and becomes available ( 43) .
A single dose of cannabidiol through vaping may pose risks comparable to smoking (44) .
Categories of the best CBD products include:
CBD Isolates : A form of pure CBD
Full-Spectrum CBD : Multiple cannabis plant extracts and up to 0.3% of THC.
Broad-Spectrum CBD : A wide range of natural chemical compounds from the cannabis plant but usually no THC.
Features to consider when selecting CBD products consider locally-grown hemp, non-genetically modified organisms (GMO), and third-party lab testing.
The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate over-the-counter (OTC) CBD.
Generally, for heart rate issues, oral CBD products are generally practical to use. Topical products including creams, and balms, and salves focus more on skin conditions.
Meanwhile, CBD consumers are advised to use CBD vapes with caution. Vaping may pose risks to cardiovascular health ( 45) .
1. Does CBD increase heart rate?
A 2013 study review showed mixed results regarding CBD’s impact on humans’ and animals’ heart rates (46) .
2. Which CBD products has the FDA approved?
The FDA has officially approved the drug Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of CBD for treating seizures among people with tuberous sclerosis complex (47) . Seizures can result from health conditions such as epilepsy.
The heart is among the vital organs of the cardiovascular system. Impaired cardiovascular health may affect the entire body.
Other medical conditions associated with heart diseases include:
- Hypertension (48)
- Isolated systolic blood pressure (49)
- Drastically lower blood pressure (50)
- Heart palpitations (51)
- Blocked blood vessels (52)
Heart disease is the United State’s leading cause of death (53) and may lead to heart attacks or strokes.
The health benefits of CBD are noted in several studies. Links to the studies are identified using a digital object identifier (DOI), making them accessible to readers on the internet.
Still, it is ideal to consult with a cardiologist before using any CBD product.