How CBD Helps With High Cholesterol
Studies suggest that CBD oil helps reduce cholesterol levels and improves heart health with its anti-inflammatory properties. However, results are inconclusive to determine CBD’s effects on the cardiovascular system(1).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 29 million American adults have high levels of cholesterol(2).
Cholesterol is a waxy type of lipid or fat found in the blood. High cholesterol levels, particularly bad cholesterol, increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases(3).
CBD binds with the cannabinoid receptors located in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is responsible for maintaining a state of balance and promoting wellness.
The two central ECS receptors, CB1 and CB2, are vital for regulating body functions, including pain perception, mood, memory, and appetite(4).
According to studies, CBD has vascular relaxant properties that relax the arterial walls(5). This mechanism is the result of the interaction between CBD and CB1 receptors.
As your arterial walls relax, your heart does not work as hard to pump blood, reducing blood pressure and excess cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are two types of cholesterol.
LDL, referred to as the bad cholesterol, can build up on your blood vessels. This blockage may result in cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
Meanwhile, HDL is known as the good cholesterol that carries lipids or fats from other parts of the body to the liver.
High levels of cholesterol may also be a sign of high triglyceride levels(6). Like cholesterol, triglycerides are also fat-type substances found in the blood.
Unused calories stored in your body are converted into triglycerides. Similar to cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides may cause heart problems(7).
An increase in HDL or good cholesterol lowers your risk of developing cholesterol-related complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes(8).
In an animal study, CBD has been shown to increase good cholesterol in obese mice models(9). The test subjects received CBD for four weeks.
According to the results, there was a 55% increase in test subjects’ HDL cholesterol levels and a 25% decrease in their total cholesterol levels. The researchers also noted reduced triglyceride levels in the mice subjects.
Benefits of Using CBD for High Cholesterol
High cholesterol may increase your risk of developing other complications, such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack(10). Multiple studies have demonstrated CBD’s potential in helping with these medical conditions.
CBD for Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure may be linked to high cholesterol levels(11). When your arteries are blocked with cholesterol, it gets harder for your heart to pump blood, leading to increased blood pressure.
A study on healthy volunteer subjects was conducted to see if CBD compounds could reduce blood pressure(12). The study described blood pressure as the body’s response to stress.
The researchers conducted several tests to induce stress in the test subjects and increase their blood pressure. According to results, a single dose of CBD lowered the volunteers’ blood pressure levels during the pre-stress and post-stress tests.
CBD for Stroke
According to a study conducted on ischemic stroke patients, CBD may increase cerebral blood flow, preventing post-ischemic injury(13).
Ischemic stroke is a common type of stroke due to a blockage in the artery that supplies blood to the brain. This blockage reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, resulting in damage or death of brain cells(14).
CBD, as a neuroprotective agent, may have other therapeutic mechanisms that can help with oxidative disorders(15).
Another study noted that CBD may help reduce inflammatory protein release in cell injury and tissue damage in the early phases of stroke(16).
The researchers tested the effects of CBD compound on ischemic stroke for three days. It was found that CBD had cerebroprotective effects.
CBD for Heart Attack
CBD has demonstrated its cardioprotective function in a test conducted on rat subjects. CBD has been found to reduce the size of the damaged area where arteries are blocked during a heart attack(17).
The experiment on the same condition was also conducted outside of the test subjects’ body (ex vivo). However, the results were the opposite.
The reduced size of the artery’s damaged area inside the test subjects (in vivo) may be related to CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties.
In another study conducted on rabbits, the researchers observed that CBD contributed to the restoration of the heart’s left ventricular function and helped reduce the size of acute myocardial infarction (AMI)(18).
AMI, which means “death of heart muscle,” is referred to as heart attack(19).
A review found in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology stated that CBD has potential cardioprotective properties. CBD’s purported benefits on the heart include the attenuation of cardiovascular response to different types of stress(20).
According to the researchers, CBD may also have a protective role in reducing damages related to stroke(21).
CBD Dosage and Delivery Methods for High Cholesterol
There is no standard dose of CBD for specific health issues, like high cholesterol(22). Dosage is also dependent on several factors, including the severity of the condition, body weight, body chemistry, and CBD concentration of the product.
If you are taking CBD for the first time, you may start with low amounts to observe how your body reacts to the compound.
You may gradually increase the dosage if no adverse effects are experienced or your desired results are not achieved.
According to a study, a CBD dose of up to 1,500mg per day is well-tolerated(23). Still, it is best to consult a healthcare professional on the appropriate CBD dosage or other treatment options for cholesterol management.
CBD Delivery Methods
Due to limited human studies, there are no official recommendations on taking CBD for high cholesterol(24). You may take CBD oil via tinctures, gummies, vape products, or topicals.
CBD tincture may be consumed sublingually by putting a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue. The effects of CBD can be felt within 10 to 15 minutes after swallowing, while the effects may last up to several hours(25).
You may ingest CBD oil via gummies or edibles. It takes 30 to 60 minutes for CBD to start working in your system, with the effects lasting up to six hours(26).
Vaping provides a faster way of delivering CBD into your system. As you inhale CBD, it is directly sent to your lungs and absorbed into your bloodstream(27).
Vaped CBD takes effect within minutes and may last for one to four hours(28). However, vape use has been shown to cause various lung problems(29).
You may also apply CBD-infused topical products on your skin for targeted pain relief(30). However, CBD absorption via the topical method is limited(31).
CBD and Other Treatments for High Cholesterol
CBD oil has been widely explored as a substance that may improve cholesterol levels and relieve high cholesterol-related complications. CBD has been found to contain nutrients that potentially lower lipid levels in the body(32).
For instance, CBD oil products that use hempseed oil as the carrier oil contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients often found in foods or dietary supplements that may lower triglyceride levels(33).
Lifestyle changes, like daily physical activity and a healthy diet, may also help increase good cholesterol levels and reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases(34).
However, doctors may prescribe cholesterol medications for cholesterol levels that remain high.
Cholesterol treatments can remove excess LDL cholesterol or improve general cardiovascular health. Cholesterol medications perform these effects in different ways.
Your treatment choice depends on the possible side effects, risk factors, age, current health condition, the severity of cholesterol, and risk level.
Aside from commonly prescribed medications, some people also consider cholesterol-lowering supplements. Some natural products that may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol include the following(35):
- Artichoke extract
- Blond psyllium (found in seed husk)
- Oat bran (found in whole oats and oatmeal)
- Plant stanols, lecithin-emulsified (found in some fortified orange juices)
- Plant sterols (found in some oral supplements and some margarines)
Statins substantially slow down the cholesterol production in your liver. This prescribed treatment helps the body reabsorb any extra cholesterol from built-up deposits on your artery walls(36).
Some statins boost HDL levels to aid in transporting bad cholesterol from the arteries to your liver(37). This medication may also potentially reverse severe heart diseases.
Although statins act as a conventional treatment option for cholesterol, their use may have side effects, like rhabdomyolysis and liver damage(38).
Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition where the muscle fibers break down rapidly due to muscle injury. This condition may lead to severe complications, such as renal failure or the kidneys’ inability to filter urine and waste(39).
Examples of statins include atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Altoprev), fluvastatin (Lescol XL), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor)(40).
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
One of the primary ways dietary cholesterol enters the body is through your small intestine, where it absorbs the cholesterol and releases it into the bloodstream.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors slow down the rate at which the small intestine absorbs cholesterol from food. An example of this drug is ezetimibe (Zetia), which limits the absorption of dietary cholesterol to help reduce blood cholesterol(41).
Ezetimibe and other cholesterol absorption inhibitors may be combined with other drugs, like statins(42).
Bile Acid-Binding Resins
This treatment option seeks to lower the production of cholesterol indirectly. One of the primary uses of cholesterol is to make bile acids, a substance needed to encourage healthy digestion(43).
Bile acid-binding resin is a group of medications that binds themselves to the body’s bile acids and tricks the liver into thinking you do not have enough bile acids.
Thus, your liver is forced to use up the excess cholesterol out of your blood and reroute it to make more bile acids. Note that this mechanism may induce some digestion troubles.
Examples of bile acid-binding resins include colesevelam (Welchol), cholestyramine (Prevalite), and colestipol (Colestid). These medications lower cholesterol levels in the blood by binding to bile acids(44).
Injectable medications are a newer class of drugs, also known as PCSK9 inhibitors. They are focused on lowering the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood(45).
These medications encourage the liver to absorb and remove more LDL cholesterol than it usually does. Continuous medical checkups and frequent injections are required to ensure that the treatment is working correctly.
Alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha) are ideally used by people with a genetic condition that often creates high levels of LDL(46).
These injectable medications may also be used by people with a history of coronary disease and intolerant to statins or other cholesterol drugs.
Risks and Side Effects of CBD for High Cholesterol
CBD is generally well-tolerated with a favorable safety profile(47). However, CBD’s possible side effects may include diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, changes in weight or appetite, gastrointestinal problems, and liver damage(48).
According to a study, CBD has a complex pharmacokinetic profile. This compound may interact with certain drugs or dietary supplements and raise their levels in your bloodstream(49).
It is advisable to avoid taking CBD with medications or supplements with a grapefruit warning. Some examples include statin drugs that lower cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor)(50).
These statin drugs are broken down by enzymes. The grapefruit may block the action of these enzymes and result in high concentrations of the substance in the body(51).
The interaction between grapefruit and certain cholesterol medications may cause adverse side effects and increase your risk for muscle or liver damage, eventually leading to kidney failure(52).
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also advises consumers to be wary of CBD products being marketed with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims and sold as supplements(53).
The FDA does not consider CBD as an ingredient under the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drug Review(54). Therefore, most CBD products available on the market are not approved by the FDA.
Epidiolex is currently the only FDA-approved drug derived from a purified form of CBD. It is used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome(55).
How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for High Cholesterol
When choosing the best CBD product to use for cholesterol, it helps to know the components of each type of CBD oil. You may select from full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolates.
Full-spectrum CBD oil has all the compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and fatty acids.
These compounds produce a synergy, called the entourage effect, to provide maximum health benefits.
Broad-spectrum is a type of CBD oil that uses most phytocompounds from the cannabis plant. However, the psychoactive compound THC is removed from the extract.
CBD isolate is pure CBD that does not have all the components of the cannabis plant. This type of CBD oil is made from isolated cannabidiol.
Other things to consider before buying any CBD product include the following.
- Find out the CBD product’s hemp source, like Colorado, Oregon, or Kentucky.
- Opt for CBD oil products derived from non-GMO, organic hemp.
- Know which extraction method is used in the CBD product. Some of the most common methods include carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol extraction.
- Look for the CBD product’s third-party lab reports. They must be easily accessible on the CBD brand’s website.
- When purchasing online, check brand or product reviews from other customers.
- When purchasing from a dispensary or retailer, make sure that CBD is legal in your state.
Legality of CBD
The Farm Bill of 2018 made CBD readily accessible in many parts of the United States. CBD products are legal as long as they are derived from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC(56).
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the growth, production, and manufacturing of hemp plants are also legal on the federal level. Thus, industrial hemp was removed as a Schedule I drug from the federal Controlled Substance List.
Controlled substances are drugs or prescription medications regulated by the government, as they may cause addiction(57).
State laws may have varying levels of restriction regarding CBD. Many states allow CBD-rich oils with high concentrations of THC(58).
Medical marijuana may also be legally accessible to patients with a qualifying condition. Before purchasing medical cannabis, patients may need to provide a prescription from their physician(59).