Consuming cannabis products doesn't have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking it – but are edibles bad for your heart? Get the essential information related to CBD and heart arrhythmia. Modern studies and anecdotal reports are included.
Are edibles bad for your heart?
Consuming cannabis products doesn’t have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking it – but are edibles bad for your heart?
Cannabis, which is derived from the hemp plant, is widely known for its psychoactive and anti-nausea properties. The active ingredient in cannabis that is associated with these effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids, which are chemicals that mimic the structure of THC, can be prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, and appetite loss. 1
A growing number of governments are legalizing the use of medical and recreational cannabis, and in turn, more research is being done on the potential risks, benefits, and medicinal uses of cannabis.
Smoking cannabis versus consuming cannabis edibles
Cannabis is available in a variety of forms; two of these include inhaling cannabis smoke, and consuming edible products or baked goods containing cannabis. Smoking cannabis may be associated with respiratory side effects because inhaling any smoke can be difficult on the lungs. 2 Some research suggests that smoking cannabis may be associated with some adverse cardiovascular effects, although more research is needed to confirm these findings. 3,4,5
Consuming edible cannabis products does not have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking cannabis; however, there is minimal research on whether edibles can impact the cardiovascular system. This has been indicated as a possibility. For example, one case study of a 70 year old man with coronary artery disease described his myocardial infarction, or heart attack, shortly after consuming a cannabis-infused lollipop. 6
The patient consumed more than three-quarters of a 90-mg marijuana lollipop. The patient described experiencing fearful hallucinations and called a family member to take him to an emergency room. He also reported crushing chest pain, sweating, and shaking. The patient was treated for a heart attack with an anticoagulant, antiplatelet, and aspirin.
Cannabinoids and the cardiovascular system
Cannabinoids, such as THC, cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD), found in the cannabis plant, bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the body. 7 These receptors are found all throughout the body, and as a result, cannabis can have a variety of effects for individuals. More specifically, according to some new case studies and research, cannabinoids including THC may influence the cardiovascular system itself and could potentially be associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, and an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. 7
Can edibles increase heart rate?
Although the exact effects of edible cannabis are not well-studied compared to inhaled cannabis smoke, some research shows that activation of the endocannabinoid receptors may be associated with increased blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. 8 However, other research shows that activation of certain cannabinoid receptors may be associated with decreased blood pressure and heart rate, and the current evidence is fairly inconclusive. 9 More research is needed to determine whether cannabinoids can increase blood pressure and heart rate as well as determine whether these effects are specific to certain methods of cannabis ingestion.
Are edibles bad for your heart?
Although some evidence suggests that smoking cannabis may be associated with adverse side effects and cardiovascular changes, there is currently no consensus on whether or not cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are bad for the cardiovascular system. More research is needed to determine the potential impacts of cannabis and cannabis edibles on the cardiovascular system.
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.