Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the well-known cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is nonpsychoactive, meaning it won’t make you feel “high.”
Cannabinoids affect your endocannabinoid system, which works to keep the body in an even state, or homeostasis. When the body gets out of whack with inflammation or disease, CBD may give your endocannabinoid system a boost to do its job as a body regulator.
CBD has been getting a lot of buzz recently, showing up in products like oils, salves, gummies, and lotions. It’s been touted as a substance that can have a positive effect on conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, and even heart disease.
While some research and anecdotal evidence does show that CBD can have health benefits, the reality is that research on CBD is still in its infancy — there’s a lot we don’t know.
Furthermore, over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products aren’t currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The only condition CBD has been approved to treat is epilepsy, in the form of the drug Epidiolex.
So, given these caveats, should you try CBD if your goal is to treat or prevent heart disease? Read on to find out what the research says.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties may be able to reduce risk factors that can lead to heart disease, like high blood pressure. It may also be able to reduce the risk of related conditions, like stroke.
High blood pressure
In a 2009 study, rats were subjected to a stressful situation that caused their blood pressure and heart rate to increase. A dose of CBD lowered both their blood pressure and heart rate.
In a 2017 study, healthy human volunteers were subjected to stress and then given a dose of CBD. The CBD lowered their blood pressure, as compared to volunteers given a placebo.
So, while more research is needed to say for sure, CBD may be useful in lowering blood pressure and heart rate under stress.
However, a 2017 review of 25 studies found that there’s no evidence that CBD provides similar results under non-stressful conditions. Talk to your doctor before using CBD if you have high blood pressure.
A 2010 review found that CBD may help protect stroke patients from brain damage and even aid recovery by boosting brain function.
A 2017 review also concluded that CBD increased cerebral blood flow during a stroke. However, it’s important to note that these reviews focused on animal studies. More research is needed to determine whether these findings also apply to humans.
CBD comes in many forms, like edibles, oils and tinctures, and skin creams. Taking CBD sublingually, or putting it under your tongue, is an easy way to ingest it.
Sublingual products are safer than some other forms of CBD ingestion, like vaping. They also produce faster and stronger results than topical or edible products.
Since the FDA doesn’t regulate OTC CBD products, it’s extremely important to do your research before purchasing or taking them. You should also talk to your doctor before trying CBD.
Buy your product from a reputable source that sells organic, non-GMO CBD. You may want to check with your local pharmacist to see if they have a vetted product recommendation. If they don’t, look for a product that’s been independently tested by a third party. This information should be available on the product’s website or packaging.
Third-party testing will help you ensure that the product you’re taking is accurately labeled. This is important because, according to a 2017 study, only about 31 percent of products are accurately labeled regarding their CBD concentration. And they may be mislabeled regarding other cannabinoids like THC.
Always start out with a small dose of CBD if you choose to try it. Then, if you choose to increase, add to your dose slowly. A good rule of thumb is to try a very small dose when taking CBD for the first time or when switching to a new CBD product. Increase the dose by no more than 5 to 10 milligrams at a time — as long as you don’t have any negative side effects.
Tip Buy CBD only from a reputable source that offers third-party testing. Start with a small dose and increase slowly until you reach your desired effect.
Researchers report that CBD has few possible side effects, and the
Possible side effects
- changes in appetite
- changes in weight
CBD could interact with other medications. That’s because CBD may interfere with certain liver enzymes. This interference could stop the liver from metabolizing other drugs or substances, leading to higher concentrations of them in your system. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about any potential drug interactions before taking CBD.
CBD could increase your risk of liver toxicity. A recent study has raised concerns about CBD’s potential for liver damage. Researchers suggest that CBD affects the liver in a similar way as alcohol, some medications, and even certain dietary supplements.
If you’re considering trying CBD, talk to your doctor first. Ask them about a dosage that’s right for your specific symptoms and conditions. Be sure to discuss all of your medications, including any supplements or OTC aids.
Although research into CBD and heart disease shows promise, more studies need to be done for scientists to understand the benefits of CBD for various conditions. CBD isn’t a cure for heart disease.
Is CBD Legal?
Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state's laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Jennifer Chesak is a medical journalist for several national publications, a writing instructor, and a freelance book editor. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill. She’s also the managing editor for the literary magazine, Shift. Jennifer lives in Nashville but hails from North Dakota, and when she’s not writing or sticking her nose in a book, she’s usually running trails or futzing with her garden. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.