The arteries within our body are designed to manage fluctuating pressure; this is necessary for blood to be pumped by the heart around the whole body. This pressure can rise and fall depending on our activities throughout the day. However, when blood pressure is consistently elevated, significant physical problems can occur.
According to the British Heart Foundation, there are approximately four million people in the UK under the age of 65 living with untreated high blood pressure. Many people who have elevated blood pressure aren’t even aware, as symptoms don’t always show. This is the reason it is necessary to have your blood pressure regularly checked.
If you have high blood pressure, you may have heard that cannabidiol (CBD) can help manage it. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at hypertension, its causes and symptoms, and the potential effects of CBD on blood pressure.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension refers to blood pressure that is higher than normal. It is typical for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day based on activity levels, but blood pressure that is consistently elevated may result in a diagnosis of hypertension.
High blood pressure is an issue because it carries a significant risk of additional health problems, such as heart attack, heart disease, stroke, brain and kidney issues.
There are two types of hypertension.
- Primary hypertension – Also known as essential hypertension, this is the most common form of high blood pressure. This kind of hypertension develops gradually over time with no apparent cause, although genetics, age, lifestyle and diet may play a role.
- Secondary hypertension – This type of hypertension can be more severe than primary hypertension. It develops rapidly and can be caused by a number of factors including thyroid problems, kidney disease, alcohol consumption, drug use and side effects of some medication.
Hypertension is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’ due to a lack of warning signs or symptoms in its earlier stages. Symptoms of hypertension, when they do occur, include:
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches in the morning
- Chest pain
- Changes in vision
Treating High Blood Pressure
There are several medicines available to lower blood pressure that your GP can prescribe if you are diagnosed with hypertension. Prevention is the best strategy for reducing high blood pressure cases but where management of symptoms is required, several lifestyle strategies are recommended. These include:
- Not smoking
- Managing stress levels
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting sodium intake
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Keeping active – at least 150 minutes of exercise per week
Research is in the early stages but CBD oil has been highlighted as a potentially effective treatment for high blood pressure also.
What is CBD?
CBD, aka cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring chemical compound (cannabinoid) of the hemp plant. It is extracted and mixed with a carrier oil for safe human consumption. This is due to its broad range of potential wellness benefits, including lowered anxiety levels, reduced inflammation, pain relief, better sleep and increased concentration.
Although the hemp plant is part of the cannabis family, CBD is legal in the UK as it is a non-intoxicating substance. THC, an additional cannabinoid that is prevalent in the marijuana plant, is the famous compound that can cause a high. This compound remains illegal, and current UK legislation states that CBD-infused products must contain less than 0.2% THC.
Potential Effects of CBD on Hypertension
CBD may have an overall positive impact on cardiovascular health. One 2017 study showed that acute administration of CBD can reduce resting blood pressure, alongside the blood pressure increase to stress in humans. Studies so far demonstrate promising results, but further research is necessary to establish whether CBD could be an effective treatment for cardiovascular disorders.
How Does CBD Work?
The human body utilises an intricate system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which regulates our vital physiological functions such as sleep, appetite, mood, immunity and metabolism. CBD is capable of interacting with two endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) within the ECS and influencing our biological processes as a result. It is not yet fully understood how CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid receptors exactly; one theory is that CBD stops enzymes from breaking down the body’s natural endocannabinoids, resulting in the compounds having a greater impact on homeostasis.
Is it Safe to Use CBD for High Blood Pressure?
CBD is safe to use and generally very well-tolerated. However, it is a good idea to begin with a small dose and increase the dosage gradually if you are new to cannabidiol. Side effects can be experienced, such as drowsiness, fatigue and dry mouth. CBD can also interact with certain medicines, so consult your GP before using CBD oil if you are using prescription medication.
Which Type of CBD Product Should I Use?
There are several forms of CBD available to buy in the UK: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and pure isolate. Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD contain additional cannabis plant compounds such as CBG (a sister cannabinoid) and terpenes. Full-spectrum CBD is the form that contains small amounts of THC (less than the 0.2% UK legal limit). CBD isolate is the pure form of CBD.
CBD is used in a variety of products:
- Oils and tinctures
- Topicals including balms and creams
- Bath bombs
CBD oils are most commonly used; just a few drops are required under the tongue for CBD to be absorbed. However, CBD gummies and capsules are also becoming increasingly popular, while CBD topicals are typically chosen for their localised benefits for the skin and/or muscles and joints.
Research into the potential for CBD to be used in treating hypertension is in the very early stages, but results so far are encouraging and some show that CBD can positively influence high blood pressure. CBD also works with the endocannabinoid system to potentially promote relaxation, improve inflammation, alleviate pain, increase concentration and encourage better sleep quality.
If you are experiencing high blood pressure, always consult with your doctor to find the most suitable course of action.