CBD FOR Blood Pressure:
CAN it help? September 2021

CBD is often hailed a natural treatment option for a wide range of conditions – including high blood pressure. But how does it really work, and how?

Gleb Oleinik August 10, 2021 Affiliate Disclosure Some links are specifically formatted for which we may receive a commission on resulting sales or clicks from affiliate partners (“Affiliate Links”).

Evidence Based
23 references

Checked for Accuracy

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Strength of
Evidence

There’s some discrepancy in both animal and human studies regarding how effective CBD is in lowering blood pressure for patients with hypertension as well as healthy individuals.
Effect Magnitude icon

Effect
Magnitude

Studies have shown that CBD can lower blood pressure in healthy individuals – particularly after anxiety-inducing or stressful events. However, no clinical data is available yet on whether CBD can also treat high blood pressure in patients with primary or secondary hypertension.
Results Consistency icon

Results
Consistency

Studies have shown that CBD can lower blood pressure in healthy individuals – particularly after anxiety-inducing or stressful events. However, no clinical data is available yet on whether CBD can also treat high blood pressure in patients with primary or secondary hypertension.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is growing in popularity as a natural option for treating a wide range of conditions such as anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, and even high blood pressure.

Also known by the medical term, hypertension, high blood pressure is a fairly common condition and affects around 46% of Americans. ¹

But despite it being common, it’s also a very serious health condition. Hypertension is associated with increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

CBD is often hailed as a great option for treating high blood pressure at home. But what does the science say about CBD and blood pressure? And how well supported is the research?

Blood Pressure Overview

Blood pressure is the force created by the heart as it pumps blood into the blood vessels and is needed to keep blood flowing in a single direction.

During each heartbeat, the heart muscles contract, pushing the blood into the vessels, and then relaxes, allowing blood to fill in before the next beat.

Blood pressure readings are based on measurements done at both steps, this is why you’ll typically see blood pressure readings listed as two numbers (e.g. 120/80; read out loud as 120 over 80).

  • Systolic Pressure is the first or top number. This number represents the pressure when your heart contracts and pushes the blood through your arteries.
  • Diastolic Pressure is the second or bottom number. This one represents the pressure when your heart rests between beats.

 

Because diastolic pressure is measured during the resting period between heartbeats, it is always the lower of the two blood pressure numbers.

According to the American Heart Association:

  • Normal blood pressure is anything below 120/80
  • Elevated blood pressure occurs when systolic pressure ranges between 120-129
  • High blood pressure is considered anything above 130/80

 

It’s important to note that these guidelines are general, and depending on your current health situation, blood pressure can vary without it necessarily being “abnormal” or “dangerous.” It’s always best to consult with a health care provider if you have concerns.

High Blood Pressure vs. Low Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is often one of the first things a health care provider will measure when someone is looking for medical support. This is because blood pressure can be a useful indicator of different health conditions.

An ideal blood pressure allows the body’s circulatory system to transport blood to all the organs.

High Blood Pressure

When blood pressure is high the heart needs to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels. The high pressure can also damage the walls of the blood vessels and add stress to the organs that the blood is being delivered to.

Consistent high blood pressure is often referred to as hypertension and can be subcategorized as either primary or secondary. In primary hypertension, the underlying cause is unknown. Secondary hypertension typically has a known cause.

A 2017 population study found that approximately 46% of Americans have high blood pressure. Globally, high blood pressure contributes to around 7.5 million deaths or ~12.8% of all deaths worldwide. ¹ ²

High blood pressure is often referred to as a “silent killer” and is a major risk factor for chronic heart disease, stroke, and coronary heart disease. It can also contribute to heart failure, kidney damage, and visual impairment. ³

While high blood pressure can only be confirmed through blood pressure measurements, some people often report headaches, dizziness, hot flushes, mood disorders, chest tightness, palpitations, backache, constipation, and reduced vision. ⁴

Some common causes of high blood pressure include: ⁵

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Physical inactivity
  • High sodium diets
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Renovascular disease and thyroid-related disorders

 

Management and treatment of high blood pressure may vary depending on the underlying diseases or causes.

For instance, blood pressure can be raised temporarily during stress events but return to normal quickly after. In serious cases of high blood pressure, this will typically include consistent self-monitoring, changes to diet and exercise, and medication. ⁶

Can CBD Help?

There’s growing interest surrounding the use of CBD for treating high blood pressure.

Many blood pressure medications can have side effects such as headaches, dizziness, constipation, or swelling. Studies have found that these side effects are often a major reason why people have a hard time sticking to their medication schedules. ⁷

Most people think of cannabis as something that can increase heart rate and blood pressure. While most cannabis products that contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) do, the opposite effect is often seen with CBD. ⁸

Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids found in cannabis, but they interact with the body differently. THC is psychoactive and can produce “high sensations,” while CBD is non-psychoactive.

Most human research trials suggest that unlike THC, CBD can be used to lower blood pressure. Part of this is thought to be linked to how CBD can lower stress and anxiety.

CBD has been known to influence the body’s biological systems through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – a neural network that helps regulate a wide variety of physical processes such as pain, inflammation, and heart rate. ⁹ ¹⁰

Cannabinoids receptors such as CB1 and CB2 are found across the body including in the nervous system, blood vessels, and the heart. ¹¹

THC drive its effects by activating the body’s cannabinoid receptors. But CBD is unique, because it doesn’t directly activate the receptors, instead, they alter the way receptors respond to other molecules. ¹¹

Multiple studies have also shown that CBD can interact with receptors and enzymes that affect heart rate apart from CB1 and CB2. ¹¹

For instance, CBD can reduce the breakdown of a natural molecule in the body called anandamide. Anandamide has been shown to encourage vasodialation – a process where blood vessels relax and widen which can help lower blood pressure. ¹²

CBD can also cause vasorelxation by directly activating receptors in the body such as TRPV1 and PPARs. ¹¹

This creates a complex network of cause and effect that allows CBD to create outcomes different than THC and drive physiological processes such as lowering blood pressure.

However, it’s important to remember that because high blood pressure can be caused by so many different health conditions, how helpful CBD may be in different situations can vary.

What Does the Research Say – Healthy Individuals

Most available clinical research completed so far focus on animals and healthy human participants. In both these cases, the vasodialation effect of CBD has been observed. ¹¹

In a 2019, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 12 human participants were given either a placebo or a 90 mg pharmaceutically-formulated CBD capsule. Participants who took the CBD experienced a reduction in blood pressure. ¹³

In a more recent 2020 randomized controlled trial, 26 participants were given an oral dose of 600 mg CBD or a placebo for 7 days. Researchers found that a single dose of CBD was enough to reduce the participants’ blood pressure both at rest and after exercising. ¹⁴

Researchers also found that CBD reduced stiffening of the arteries, a condition that can contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases.

It’s also important to remember that because high blood pressure can be caused by a variety of factors, CBD may help with high blood pressure indirectly through other avenues as well.

For instance, anxiety and stress can lead to higher heart rates and blood pressure. CBD has been shown across multiples studies to help with anxiety, which may in turn help with raised blood pressure caused by the anxiety.

Using animal models, researchers have found that CBD reduced anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure in stressed rats. ¹⁵

In one study 2009 study, rats were given either 0, 1, 10 or 20 mg/kg CBD and then placed in a restraint. For rats that weren’t given any CBD, being in a restraint significantly raised their stress levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. But those given 10 or 20 mg/kg CBD had much lower heart rates and blood pressure. ¹⁶

Similar studies with human participants also found that CBD was useful in alleviating high blood pressure caused by stress and anxiety.

In a 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled, and double-blind study, 9 volunteers were given either a placebo or 600 mg of CBD before being asked to participate in a variety of different stress tests: completing mental arithmetic questions, exercising, and sticking their hands into ice water. ¹⁷

All three tests raised the participants’ blood pressure, but those who took CBD had lower measurements as compared to those who took a placebo.

While these studies all found that CBD was helpful in reducing blood pressure under stressful conditions, other studies have had different results.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 24 patients took either 600 mg CBD or a placebo and were asked to go through a public speaking test. While CBD lowered their reported anxiety levels, it didn’t significantly impact their blood pressure. ¹⁸

Researchers aren’t clear yet how much of CBD’s effects on blood pressure are direct or caused through reducing anxiety.

Furthermore, research into how CBD may help with high blood pressure caused by other triggers has not been thoroughly investigated.

For instance, CBD has also been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain, which for some can also cause stress and high blood pressure.

Likewise, insomnia and lack of quality sleep can also be a contributor to high blood pressure and there’s some evidence that CBD may help with certain sleep problems. ¹⁹

To fully investigate whether CBD can help with high blood pressure caused by these other conditions will require additional research.

What Does the Research Say – Primary and Secondary Hypertension

Outside studies done on healthy individuals, research is still lacking on whether CBD may help those with hypertension.

A big hurdle that’s complicating research in this is space is that different underlying health conditions which cause hypertension, such as heart disease or diabetes, can also change the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Because CBD relies on the endocannabinoid system to influence blood pressure, different underlying health conditions can impact how CBD might work.

For instance, research has shown that not all rats with hypertension respond the same way to CBD. While some rats with hypertension experience the same vasodilatory effect of CBD some do not. ¹¹

In one study on rats with either primary or secondary hypertension, administration of CBD actually increased blood pressure in the first few minutes after injection as compared to healthy rats. ²⁰

Clinical trials will need to be conducted with human participants to fully investigate whether patients with primary or secondary hypertension can benefit from using CBD.

Trying CBD for Lowering Blood Pressure

As with using CBD for any health reasons, it’s best to begin with a low dosage and only move up as needed.

However, while CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated, at higher concentrations, it can also cause a wide range of side effects.

Some of these can include: ²¹

  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Light-headedness
  • Changes in appetite or weight

 

While many reports have shown that CBD can be effective at reducing blood pressure there are also several other considerations to keep in mind.

Firstly, CBD can interfere with how other drugs are metabolized and processed in the body possibly causing adverse drug reactions. For instance, CBD can inhibit the liver’s cytochrome P-450 enzyme system which is used to break down a variety of different drugs. ²²

Many blood pressure medications such as calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers are thought to be processed through the cytochrome 450 enzyme system. ²³

There is also disagreement within scientific research as to what method of CBD administration is the most effective for lowering blood pressure. ¹¹

For those already using other drugs or medication, it’s best to consult a physician before incorporating CBD into your treatment regimen.

Conclusion

Many studies on human participants have shown that CBD can help reduce blood pressure in healthy individuals – particularly after stressful events. But research on whether CBD can help patients with primary and secondary hypertension is still lacking.

Nonetheless, research so far on CBD and cardiovascular health has shown that it has a good safety profile. Along with CBD’s non-intoxicating and anti-inflammatory properties, this makes it a worthwhile option to explore.


Gleb Oleinik

Gleb Oleinik is a freelance CBD & cannabis writer from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies about cannabinoids and other beneficial natural compounds, helping him translate complex science into plain language. He’s also written third-party lab test reports of CBD products and knows the industry inside and out. When he’s not writing, Gleb likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.