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.
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.
Does CBD work?
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.
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.
“It’s clear that CBD has potential,” says Professor Sumnall, “but we’re at a very early stage of that research.”
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.
CBD has anti-inflammatory, antioxidative properties that may help reduce risk factors that can lead to heart disease. It may also be helpful in reducing the risk of related conditions, such as stroke.
Heart health is one of the areas being explored to determine the therapeutic health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD). Nearly 655,000 Americans die from heart disease every year, accounting for one in every four deaths.
The availability of these products varies from state to state, particularly for products that contain THC.
High cholesterol levels—particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL), aka “bad” cholesterol—increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. LDL can build up in the lining of blood vessels, causing a blockage that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Tinnakorn Jorruang / Getty Images
ClinicalTrials.gov: “Cannabidiol in Patients With Heart Failure in AHA/ACC Stages A-C (CAPITAL-AC).” NCT03634189.
But there isn’t really any evidence to prove that it will relieve heart failure symptoms or be safe to use if you have heart failure, he adds.
When you use CBD oil, your liver breaks it down. During this process, it could interfere with your medications for heart failure or other heart conditions. “CBD has known interactions with warfarin, certain statins, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and nitrates. Just because a supplement is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it is safe,” Lundgren says.
CBD May Have Health Risks
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.”
JCI Insight: “A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study.”
Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Therapeutic Applications of Cannabinoids in Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure.”
“CBD oil may not have the same properties, and it can actually cause gastrointestinal distress like diarrhea or cause decreased appetite. CBD products can include unknown ingredients and may not be accurately labeled,” he says.