Robert of Mill Valley, CA is looking for alternatives to his prescription medications for high blood pressure. He’s considering using medical marijuana, but wants more information before he pursues this option. Here’s what he writes…
I’ve had high blood pressure for several years now. It was discovered on several visits to my doctor and at each visit my blood pressure was high.
My doctor and I decided that we’d work on implementing some lifestyle changes to start off with because I wasn’t too keen on taking prescription medications.
For a good year, I tried things like lowering my salt intake and avoiding alcohol. I also went for 30 minute walks about 3 times a week. On the other days of the week, I would do some yoga and meditation. But, my blood pressure remained the same after a year.
So, I had no choice, but to start taking prescription medications. It took a bit to settle on the right combination of medications because some of these medications gave me side effects, like a persistent cough, frequent urination, and dizziness. Although, even with my current regimen of medication, I still continue to get leg cramps and feel fatigued.
My preference is to not take any pharmaceutical drugs whatsoever.
So, I started doing some research on Google and came across some articles that say that medical marijuana helps to lower blood pressure.
Before I go out and get my medical marijuana card, I wanted to get some more information from you on using medical marijuana for high blood pressure.
Mill Valley, CA
Hey Robert. I’m glad you wrote in. It’s good to know that you’re making such a tremendous effort to manage your high blood pressure.
I’m sure your doctor informed you that high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a medical condition that needs to be taken very seriously. Generally it doesn’t give patients any symptoms. So, critical situations like a heart attack or a stroke can seem to arise out of the blue, but they’re really a result of damage that the high blood pressure has done over a long period of time. There’s a reason why it’s called the “silent killer.”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: THE RESEARCH
When it comes to medical marijuana and high blood pressure, I’ve come across some really fascinating research.
In research done on rats, marijuana only had an effect on blood pressure in the rats that already had high blood pressure, but it had no effect on rats that had normal blood pressure.
There’s a reason for this phenomenon.
The rats with high blood pressure expressed more CB1 receptors in the heart and the blood vessels than the rats with normal blood pressure.
CB1 receptors are basically these itty, bitty structures on cells that act as the in-between allowing the cell to interact with the marijuana. When a cell expresses more CB1 receptors, it’s now even more sensitive to the effects of marijuana.
In this case, the rats that had high blood pressure produced more CB1 receptors, and so their heart and blood vessels were more sensitive to marijuana compared to the rats with normal blood pressure.
Now, once marijuana starts to interact with these receptors, the effect that it has is that lowers the blood pressure by decreasing the force with which the heart pumps. I would liken this to lowering the tap on a garden hose, which lowers the water pressure. In a very similar way, decreasing the force with which the heart pumps lowers the blood pressure causing the blood vessels to relax. I would liken this to widening the diameter of a garden house, which lowers the water pressure. In a very similar way, relaxing the blood vessels which widens the diameter of the blood vessels also lowers blood pressure.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: THE RESULTS
When you searched on Google, you probably found many different articles saying that medical marijuana helps reduce blood pressure.
But, most of this research is done on rats, which doesn’t necessarily translate to humans.
You’ll find this surprising, but I’ve found in my patients that medical marijuana doesn’t impact their blood pressure levels.
In my patients with high blood pressure, I didn’t observe a change in their blood pressure even after using medical marijuana regularly for a span of about a year.
Patients that were on prescription medications for high blood pressure had to continue to take these to help manage their blood pressure levels.
While I didn’t see an improvement in blood pressure levels in my patients, I also didn’t see their blood pressure levels get worse with the use of medical marijuana.
Basically, it seems like medical marijuana doesn’t impact blood pressure levels in humans, even though the research seems to say otherwise.
But, in general, I’m careful in recommending medical marijuana to patients with certain conditions, like those who have had heart attacks or strokes, patients who have known heart or coronary artery disease, and also patients who have any sort of kidney damage.
Robert I hope that helps. I’m glad you asked me the question because it comes up quite frequently during my patient visits.
- Endocannabinoids acting at cannabinoid-1 receptors regulate cardiovascular function in hypertension.
- More information on Medical Marijuana for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension):
Recent Research on Medical Marijuana and Hypertension – NORML