High blood pressure, or hypertension, afflicts an estimated 1 in 4 American adults. This condition puts a strain on the heart and blood vessels and greatly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Emerging research indicates that the endogenous cannabinoid system plays a role in regulating blood pressure, though its mechanism of action is not well understood. Animal studies demonstrate that anandamide and other endocannabinoids profoundly suppress cardiac contractility in hypertension and can normalize blood pressure, leading some experts to speculate that the manipulation of the endocannabinoid system “may offer novel therapeutic approaches in a variety of cardiovascular disorders.”
The administration of natural cannabinoids has yielded conflicting cardiovascular effects on humans and laboratory animals. The vascular response in humans administered cannabis in experimental conditions is typically characterized by a mild increase in heart rate and blood pressure. However, complete tolerance to these effects develops quickly and potential health risks appear minimal.
In animals, cannabinoid administration in animals is typically associated with vasodilation, transient bradycardia and hypotension, as well as an inhibition of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) progression. The administration of synthetic cannabinoids have also been shown to lower blood pressure in animals and have not been associated with cardiotoxicity in humans.
At this time, research assessing the clinical use of cannabinoids for hypertension is in its infancy though further investigation appears warranted.