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CBD and Heart Arrhythmia: What We Know So Far
The relationship between CBD and arrhythmia is somewhat complicated.
Contemporary scientific research shows that CBD has a potentially beneficial effect on arrhythmia, and on the cardiovascular system as a whole.
On the other hand, a small percentage of people experience an increased heart rate and heart palpitations when they use CBD, which are known symptoms of arrhythmia.
Before we get into more details of the research, let’s briefly explain arrhythmia.
Cardiac arrhythmia is a group of conditions characterized by an irregular heartbeat, where the heart either beats too rapidly or too slowly.
One of the main symptoms of arrhythmia are heart palpitations, which are characterized by increased awareness of the contraction of the heart, often accompanied by the hard and irregular beating of the heart.
Unlike CBD, which is non-psychoactive, THC (the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant) is known to cause rapid heartbeat and heart palpitations.
This especially happens to novice users, but also if the user consumes too much THC at once.
Smoking Too Much Cannabis? Here’s How to Overcome It
This occurs because THC significantly lowers blood pressure, which causes the heart to pick up the pace and beat faster.
For a very large percentage of users, CBD doesn’t produce this effect but some people do experience irregular heartbeats and heart palpitations from consuming cannabidiol.
A good example of how rarely this happens is this 2019 study, which analyzed the effects of CBD on people suffering from chronic pain.
This research had 97 patients (30 to 65 years old), and only one of them experienced an increased heartbeat from using CBD.
Patients were using two soft gels per day for 8 weeks, and each soft gel contained 15.7mg of CBD, and 0.5mg of THC.
The woman who experienced a rapid heartbeat reported that the treatment “made her heart race”.
The reasons behind this occurrence are still unknown, but if it happens to you, it’s important to understand the difference between CBD products.
Full-spectrum CBD products have a significant amount of THC, and other minor cannabinoids and terpenes are also present in these products.
If you’re especially sensitive to THC, these types of products can definitely induce a rapid heartbeat and palpitations.
Compared to full-spectrum products, broad-spectrum CBD products have a lesser amount of THC in them, and they also contain minor cannabinoids and terpenes.
Broad-spectrum products are far less likely to induce palpitations, although it’s still possible.
Finally, CBD isolates are the third type of CBD products. They only contain CBD, and nothing else. These products are least likely to cause a racing heart or palpitations.
Full Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate: Which Should You Choose?
It’s important to mention that CBD isolates are considered the least beneficial type of CBD products because cannabinoids work synergically in the body.
This synergistic cooperation of different cannabinoids is known as the entourage effect, because the presence of THC and other cannabinoids increases the health benefits of CBD.
Even though some users experience arrhythmia-like symptoms from CBD, an animal study from 2010 found that an acute administration of CBD suppressed ischaemia-induced arrhythmia.
Ischaemia is a restriction of blood to tissues, which causes a shortage of oxygen that is necessary for keeping tissues alive.
The researchers also stated that CBD reduced the size of infarction (tissue death), when it was given at reperfusion injury.
A 2013 review mentioned that current evidence suggests CBD has positive effects on the cardiovascular system, but that clinical research on human participants is required to determine if these positive effects will translate to the human cardiovascular system.
Finally, a 2018 review stated that cannabinoids appear as promising therapeutic agents for cardiovascular diseases.
Since the research on the effects of CBD on arrhythmia (and the cardiovascular system in general) is still in its starting phases, it probably isn’t wise to consume it for these purposes until more is known on the subject.
On the other hand, if you’re experiencing heart palpitations from CBD products, make sure to follow our guidelines regarding different types of CBD products.
If these heart-related symptoms persist, you can also consider lowering the dose or perhaps even discontinuing your CBD regimen.
CBD Gummies And Heart Palpitations
A racing heart is a scary but common side effect of consuming cannabis. This is due to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabis compound responsible for the plant’s euphoric high. But people who consume cannabidiol (CBD) products such as tinctures have also reported heart palpitations, even though these products contain very little or no THC.
Can CBD cause the heart to pound like THC does? Research reveals that this cannabis compound doesn’t negatively affect your heart rate or blood pressure, but scientists are still working to unravel the complex relationship between cannabis and the heart.
How Cannabis Affects the Cardiovascular System
The heart is the most visible member of the cardiovascular system—a sprawling network of veins and arteries that carry nutrient-rich blood to all parts of the body.
The cardiovascular system is also intertwined with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a rich network of cell receptors that natural cannabinoids produced by the body, called endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids from outside sources, mainly the cannabis plant, can activate. The ECS works with many other subsystems and processes to support homeostasis, or balance, which is necessary for good health.
Lipid molecules in the cell membranes of the heart and other cardiovascular tissues create these endocannabinoids.
Learning About CB1 and CB2
Endocannabinoids bind to ECS receptors, called CB1 and CB2, throughout the body and brain to support the immune system and regulate many other essential functions—and so do cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. This is why cannabis can have such a wide range of effects.
But the action of the CB1 and CB2 receptors isn’t always positive. And these receptors can behave in different ways in the presence of various cannabis compounds and terpenes. This can make it difficult to determine whether compounds like CBD and THC are actually helpful or harmful in certain situations.
For example, some studies suggest that people who consume whole-plant cannabis have a higher risk of heart disease than the rest of the population. And for all consumers, the risk of a heart attack increases fivefold within an hour of taking cannabis; the risk of a stroke quadruples in that same time period.
On the other hand, taking cannabis can increase the survival rate after a stroke or heart attack and reduce the risk of a potentially serious condition called atrial fibrillation in people who already have heart failure.
How Can Cannabis Cause Heart Palpitations?
When cannabis causes negative effects on the heart and cardiovascular system, THC is the reason.
After consuming a cannabis product that contains THC, some people experience a sudden, rapid heartbeat—an increase of up to 50 beats per minute. This is because THC causes blood vessels to relax and open, which can make blood pressure drop. This forces the heart to beat faster just to keep the usual amount of blood flowing.
A speeding heartbeat after taking marijuana isn’t generally a cause for concern in healthy people, but it can be risky for people who already have some kind of heart or cardiovascular condition.
CBD doesn’t affect the heart and cardiovascular system in the same way, though. It’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that works not only with ECS receptors, but also with other systems and processes to support healing and relieve pain.
CBD can also soften the effects of THC by blocking its action on the CB1 receptor. And this provides some protection from THC’s negative effects such as:
- Rapid heartbeat
A number of studies over the past decade or so have investigated the effects of CBD on various physiological processes. Researchers have concluded that although individual responses to CBD can vary, CBD-only products don’t cause changes in the cardiovascular system, including blood pressure and heart rate.
Is There A Connection Between CBD & Heart Palpitations?
So, why would someone have heart flutters after taking CBD? One widely disputed study
hypothesized that the reason people taking CBD can have THC-like symptoms is that gastric fluids found in the stomach could actually convert CBD into THC. When this happens, researchers said, THC could enter the bloodstream and affect the body in the same way as THC from cannabis could.
But the 2016 study didn’t use real gastric juices, only an analog—a substance that resembles gastric juices—that scientists use in labs to determine how fast medications could dissolve in the stomach. And the study’s researchers found that under those circumstances, the molecules in CBD did in fact break down into THC.
But later research contradicts their claim that CBD can convert to THC in the stomach. Numerous studies have shown that in natural digestive juices—such as when a person consumes a CBD-infused edible—CBD remains CBD and no traces of THC can be found.
These studies conclude that there’s no evidence that CBD can change into THC in either humans or animals, so there’s no need to worry that taking CBD may cause THC-like effects.
But solving the mystery of having heart palpitations after taking CBD products may take some detective work. Consuming other products that affect heart rate, such as caffeine, at the same time may play a role—so could certain medications.
The Answer Isn’t One Size Fits All
It’s also important to remember that CBD can affect people in different ways, and different products can have their own distinct effects. For example, tinctures enter the body quickly through the mucus membranes in the mouth, while edibles take much longer to work their way through the digestive system and into the bloodstream.
The relationship between CBD and the cardiovascular system is complicated, and scientists are still working to understand it. But the expanding body of research we have tells us that CBD in all its forms has powers to help, not harm, the heart.
Photo credit: eggeegg/Shutterstock.com
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