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High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to serious health concerns like a heart attack or stroke. But because hypertension doesn’t typically cause symptoms, many people who have it don’t even know. That’s why it’s so important to regularly check your blood pressure.

If you have hypertension, you may have heard that cannabidiol (CBD) can help lower blood pressure. Here’s what the research says, plus tips for finding a few products to explore.

Blood pressure is defined as the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries. While it’s normal for blood pressure rates to rise and fall over the course of a day, consistently high blood pressure levels are an issue.

There are two kinds of hypertension:

  • Primary hypertension is the most common. It develops gradually with no discernible cause, but it may be linked to genetics, physical changes in the body, or high body weight.
  • Secondary hypertension comes on quickly and can be more serious. It has a number of causes, including kidney disease, congenital heart defects, thyroid issues, alcohol consumption, and certain medications and stimulants, like cocaine and amphetamines.

Since hypertension is often a silent condition, you may not experience symptoms until the condition has developed in severity. At that point, symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • nosebleeds
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • flushing
  • changes in vision
  • blood in the urine

If you’re experiencing these kinds of symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

CBD is one of the active compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t have intoxicating properties or produce a “high.” Instead, much focus is on the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. It may be helpful for everything from pain relief and improved sleep to anxiety, and even addiction.

CBD is available in a few different types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

While full-spectrum and broad-spectrum both contain other compounds from the cannabis plant — like flavonoids, terpenes, and other cannabinoids — full-spectrum CBD is the only type that contains some THC (usually less than 0.3 percent).

CBD isolate is pure CBD. But it’s important to know that any type of CBD may contain trace amounts of THC that could show up on a drug test.

These three forms of CBD are made into a variety of products, including:

  • Oils and tinctures. These liquids have been infused with CBD. You can either place them under your tongue or add them to food and drinks.
  • Edibles. Sometimes, CBD is added to foods like gummies or drinks like teas. Edibles are among the most popular methods of consumption because they’re discreet and easy to dose.
  • Capsules. CBD can be taken in pill or capsule form.
  • Topicals. Topical CBD is applied directly to the skin for targeted relief.
  • Vape juices. These products are designed to be inhaled using a vape pen. Effects are very fast, but there have been reports of lung injuries associated with vaping. At this time, we don’t know if vaping CBD poses the same risks.

CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex system that helps regulate a number of processes in the body.

While our understanding of the ECS is still unfolding, we know it’s made of three components:

  • endocannabinoids, which are molecules made in the body
  • endocannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body; the main receptors are called CB1 and CB2 receptors
  • enzymes, which break down endocannabinoids once they’ve completed their function

At this time, researchers believe the primary role of the ECS is maintaining homeostasis in the body. The ECS is linked to a number of processes in the body, including:

  • appetite and digestion
  • metabolism
  • pain
  • mood
  • sleep
  • motor control

Cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, interact with the ECS by binding to the receptors in the same manner as endocannabinoids.

While THC can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, researchers don’t yet understand how CBD interacts with the ECS. One theory is that CBD prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down, giving them a greater effect on the body. Another theory is that CBD binds to a receptor that researchers haven’t identified yet.

There is research from 2011 that suggests taking both THC and CBD, along with the other compounds in the cannabis plant, may be more effective than using a single cannabinoid alone. This theory is called the entourage effect, and it’s why some people say full-spectrum CBD works better than broad-spectrum or isolate.

There is evidence that CBD products could help lower blood pressure, but research is somewhat contradictory.

A 2017 study of nine male participants found that a single dose of CBD in healthy participants lowered blood pressure for those at rest and those who were under stress.

Another 2017 study in mice found that CBD significantly reduced stress-induced increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

But a 2020 study in rats found that CBD wasn’t effective in lowering blood pressure, though it did have an antioxidant effect. Another 2020 study was more promising, with results demonstrating that CBD could reduce blood pressure in patients who were stressed.

Researchers acknowledge the beneficial effects of CBD for cardiovascular disorders, but note that additional studies are needed to fully understand how it might contribute.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledge the potential benefits of CBD.

A 2017 WHO report describes CBD as generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile and no effects that might indicate the potential for misuse or dependence.

The FDA notes that more research is needed, and it points out that there are many unanswered questions about CBD’s safety. Furthermore, it notes that some CBD products are inaccurately labeled and of questionable quality.

If you do decide to try CBD, know that some people experience side effects, including:

  • diarrhea
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • fatigue

Research from 2012 on cannabinoids and anxiety suggests that some cannabinoids may have a biphasic effect, meaning they produce different effects depending on the dose you take.

For high blood pressure specifically, a 2011 study found that THC alone or in combination with CBD sometimes resulted in an increase in blood pressure, and sometimes in a decrease.

Finally, it’s crucial to keep in mind that CBD may interact with some medications, including those used for hypertension. If you’re considering using CBD to help manage high blood pressure, talk with a doctor first.

While CBD comes in many forms, the best option for high blood pressure is likely an oil or tincture rather than a topical or edible. Oils tend to offer higher bioavailability, which means a greater absorption rate for more efficacy. Sublingual products also have a full-body effect.

The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products the same way they do supplements and medications, which means consumers must be careful about the brands they use. To find a quality CBD product, it’s important to check for a few things.

Certificate of analysis

Avoid purchasing CBD products that don’t have a certificate of analysis (COA). A current COA means a product has been tested for safety and purity by a third-party lab. Many brands make these reports available via a QR code on the product packaging or on the website.

When you review the COA, check to see if the amount of CBD and THC that the lab found matches what’s being advertised. Also, look at the contaminant testing results to be sure there aren’t unsafe levels of pesticides, heavy metals, or molds.

FDA warning letters and lawsuits

If a CBD company is making unverified health claims, the FDA will send a warning letter. You can check online to see whether a company has been the recipient of such a letter, as well as whether it’s been involved in any lawsuits. If you see that a company has received one, they may be best to avoid.

Customer feedback

Look for customer feedback on both the company and the product you’re considering to get an idea of efficacy. Keep in mind, though, that some brands may:

  • only publish positive reviews on their sites
  • remove reviews that mention specific health conditions in order to comply with FDA rules

Transparency

Always peruse the website of any brand you’re interested in. Some brands will be very up front about where they get their CBD from, as well as how they make their products. These are the brands you’ll want to buy from.

Don’t rely on CBD alone to lower blood pressure. It’s important to talk with a doctor and follow what they prescribe. This may include medication.

There are also home remedies that can help manage the condition. A nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is important, along with managing weight and exercising regularly. Maintaining a low sodium diet is also advised.

Stress management is also key. Things like meditation, massage, yoga, and even deep breathing are worth exploring to reduce stress.

Finally, smoking can also have an effect on blood pressure. Chemicals in tobacco smoke are damaging to tissues in the body and harden the walls of blood vessels. Alcohol can also raise blood pressure, so limiting your intake can help.

Before trying CBD to help manage high blood pressure, it’s important to speak with a doctor. Regular checkups are also a good idea, as symptoms of high blood pressure don’t often begin until the condition is more severe.

If you’re noticing symptoms, or you can’t remember the last time your blood pressure was taken, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor.

High blood pressure can be dangerous, and it’s a condition that may not be noticeable until it’s serious. Fortunately, there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help, and there is some evidence that CBD is another option worth exploring. Before you do, however, consult a doctor.


Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.