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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: What is it, and can it help the heart?
CBD is the latest health craze to sweep the high street, with claims it can help everything from chronic pain and inflammation to anxiety. But what is CBD, and can it really help the heart? Emily Ray finds out.
What is CBD, and is it legal in the UK?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical that’s extracted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis itself is an illegal class B drug, as is the compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which it contains. But pure CBD isn’t illegal, as it doesn’t cause the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
What CBD products are available?
The choice of CBD products has exploded recently: you can buy oils, capsules, muscle gels, sprays and oral drops, as well as beer, tea, sweets, hummus and even CBD-infused clothing.
Many of these can be easily picked up from reputable high street stores, such as Holland & Barrett or Boots.
Prices can be high: a 500mg bottle of CBD oil oral drops could set you back as much as £45. Not that this has put people off: over the past two years, sales of CBD have almost doubled in the UK, putting regular users at an estimated quarter of a million.
What is CBD used for?
A 2018 report by the World Health Organization suggested that CBD may help treat symptoms relating to conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), anxiety, depression, insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, it also notes that this research is still in the early stages, and that more studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn on whether CBD is effective.
CBD’s popularity has been given a boost by the fact that two CBD-containing medicines have been approved for prescription use by the NHS in England: Epidyolex, which has been found to reduce the number of seizures in children with severe epilepsy, and Sativex, which contains a mixture of CBD and THC, and is licensed for treatment of muscle stiffness and spasms in people with MS.
Does CBD work?
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University, says: “In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them. There’s a lot of marketing that says CBD is a ‘miracle of the modern age’; however, the marketing has actually overtaken the evidence of what it’s effective for.”
“In terms of the products found in shops, there’s virtually no evidence to support the claims made for a lot of them.”
Harry Sumnall, Professor in Substance Use at Liverpool John Moores University
Professor Sumnall argues that while it could be effective for some people, in some of these cases the results could be caused by the placebo effect (where the patient’s belief in a treatment makes them feel better). The placebo effect can be powerful, but Professor Sumnall warns that if people try CBD oil instead of speaking to their doctor, it could cause a problem.
The biggest difference between CBD used in clinical trials and in stores is the dose. Research has shown that some products contain very little CBD (or even none at all). Others contain THC or other illegal drugs, or even alcohol instead of CBD. By contrast, in clinical trials the CBD is purified, manufactured to a very high standard and given at a much higher dose. It is also taken regularly and under medical supervision.
Since 2016, any CBD product that is presented as having medicinal value must be licensed and regulated as a medicine, regardless of whether it is actually effective. Manufacturers must follow very specific and robust rules around production, packaging and the information provided.
But so far, Professor Sumnall points out, CBD products in shops are marketed as food supplements, not medicines, so none of them have gone through this process.
Can CBD help the heart?
Inflammation is part of the process that leads to many diseases, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, and there is some evidence that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. Other studies have suggested that CBD can have a protective effect on the heart: this has been proven in rats after a heart attack and in mice with some of the heart damage associated with diabetes. But because these studies are often based on findings in a lab or in animals, not in humans, we cannot yet be confident that CBD will benefit the human heart.
There is ongoing research into the use of purer forms of CBD for a variety of conditions, including heart and circulatory diseases and, in particular, diseases of the heart muscle, including myocarditis and some types of cardiomyopathy.
Some of this work is still in animals, and much more research is needed before we can definitively say that CBD can help in this area.
“It’s clear that CBD has potential,” says Professor Sumnall, “but we’re at a very early stage of that research.”
- Always talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about taking a CBD product to supplement your existing treatment.
Meet the expert
Harry Sumnall is a Professor in Substance Use at the Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. He was a member of the UK Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs between 2011 and 2019.