CBD for Arrhythmia – May 2022
An arrhythmia (also called irregular heartbeat) is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heart. In an arrhythmia, the heart could either beat too fast, too slowly, or with an irregular pattern (1) .
In healthy adults, the heart regularly beats at a rate of 60 to 100 times per minute (2) . However, the sudden surge of stress, problems in the heart’s electrical signals, blood imbalance, and medicines may cause changes in the heart tissue, leading to arrhythmia (3) .
Cardiac arrhythmias can be classified according to their effect on the heart rate, with bradycardia indicating a heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute and tachycardia indicating a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (4) .
Tachycardia or fast heart rate is further subdivided into supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias (5) .
Supraventricular arrhythmia begins in the atrium (the heart’s upper chambers) or at the gateway of the lower chambers. In this case, the lower and upper chambers sometimes have uneven rhythms (6) .
Atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (extra heartbeats caused by electrical signals in the upper and lower chambers) are the types of supraventricular arrhythmia (7) .
On the other hand, the ventricular type of tachycardia is a regular but fast beating of the ventricles that may last for a few seconds (8) . This type of tachycardia does not generally cause severe heart problems (9) .
However, if ventricular arrhythmia lasts for longer than a few seconds, it may lead to a more dangerous condition, like ventricular fibrillation (10) .
Ventricular fibrillation happens when an erratic electrical impulse makes the ventricles quiver instead of beating naturally. This type of arrhythmia may cause cardiac arrest or heart failure (11) .
- Fast or slow heartbeat
- Skipping beats or heart palpitations
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Arrhythmias are often treated with a lifestyle change, like managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active (13) .
Some doctors advise people to take anti-arrhythmic medications, like beta-blockers (to treat hypertension or high blood pressure), adenosine (to slow down heart rate), blood thinners (to avoid blood clots), and more (14) .
CBD and Its Benefits
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the phytocannabinoids or naturally occurring components in a hemp plant (15) . Hemp is a cannabis plant strain that has low THC but abundant CBD conten t (16) .
CBD is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which gives the euphoric effect (17) . CBD oil is the typical form of CBD extract.
Phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has an important role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS), endogenous and environmental insults, and synaptic plasticity (18) .
Although CBD and the ECS receptors, CB1 and CB2, do not significantly bind together, a study noted that CBD’s actions may be attributed to the inhibition of anandamide degradation or CBD’s antioxidant activity (19) .
Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger molecule. It plays a role in pain, depression, memory, appetite, and fertility (20) .
Research also suggests that CBD can induce protective effects that may help counteract the adverse effects of THC (21) .
CBD is believed to have potential therapeutic benefits in treating various diseases and conditions (22) .
An animal study that examined CBD’s neuroprotective properties has noted that CBD may reduce both the number of viable neurons and degenerating neurons by 50% in newborn piglets that have hypoxia (a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply) and blockage of carotid arteries (hypoxia-ischemia) (24) .
The same study also suggested that CBD administration may be linked to hemodynamic, cardiac, and ventilatory beneficial effects (25) .
Another study on diabetic mice models showed that CBD treatment may reduce neurotoxicity, inflammation, and blood-retinal barrier breakdown (26) .
CBD’s anti-inflammatory characteristics were highlighted in a study on human sebocytes (sebum-producing cells) . Results suggested that CBD has potential benefits in the treatment of acne vulgaris (27) .
Moreover, a study suggested that CBD may help with cardiovascular disorders by reducing oxidative stress, fibrosis, and cell death (28) .
CBD and Arrhythmia: What Research Says
According to a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology , drastic cannabidiol or CBD administration suppressed irregular heartbeat caused by ischemia-induced heart arrhythmias (inadequate blood supply in the heart) in an animal model (29) . This result suggests that CBD may provide the heart with protection.
The study also noted that CBD reduced tissue death due to inadequate blood supply (infarction) before reperfusion (30) .
The American Heart Association describes ischemia as a condition characterized by a restricted or reduced blood flow (which also restricts the flow of oxygen) (31) .
In the same study, irregular heartbeats were monitored during ischemia before CBD perfusion periods (passage of fluid through the circulatory system).
The size of the infarct (a localized area of dead tissue) or obstructed blood supply and cell damage in the heart were also examined through the drawing of blood from the arteries (32) .
- Cannabidiol reduced the incidence of irregular heartbeats caused by reduced blood flow or ischemia.
- CBD minimized the infarct or damaged tissue size when the cannabinoid was administered before ischemia.
- The effect of CBD was dose-dependent.
- CBD may help prevent ventricular arrhythmias, characterized by irregular heartbeat occurring in the heart ventricles or heart chambers.
According to an article published by the University of Rochester Medical Center, as a result of long-term stress, high cortisol blood levels can raise blood cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugar (33) . These are the common risk factors for arrhythmia and other heart diseases.
Meanwhile, CBD has been shown to possess anti-anxiety properties that may help combat stress.
Published in Neurotherapeutics Journal, a 2015 review of 49 studies suggested CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors linked to multiple disorders (34) .
In some cases that contribute to the development of ventricular tachycardia, open-heart surgery may be needed. An example of such a case is when there are blockages in the blood vessels (35) .
After surgery or a heart attack, an individual may experience loss of appetite due to surgical pain, which can eventually lead to low levels of calcium and potassium, slowing down long-term recovery (36) . Electrolyte imbalances can also make an individual susceptible to arrhythmia (37) .
Fortunately, when it comes to pain relief, CBD may be useful. A study published in Chemistry and Biodiversity showed that a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC helped with pain and sleep problems (38) .
Meanwhile, results from a study, which examined the interaction between cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, showed evidence of how the endocannabinoid system can regulate appetite (39) .
CBD’s potent anti-inflammatory properties were also demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (40) .
Working directly with the cannabinoid receptors of the body to help suppress inflammation, CBD may help people with myocarditis experience pain relief and reduced signs and symptoms.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, which can cause arrhythmias (41) .
Side effects of CBD
Even though CBD has exhibited potential benefits for cardiovascular diseases, there are still risks to keep in mind when taking CBD.
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
Other side effects of CBD may also include nausea, stomach pain, or discomfort (43) .
There are possible drug-to-drug interactions between CBD and other medications. CBD may increase or decrease the liver breakdown of some medications, leading to either an overdose or a lack of the desired medicinal effects (44) .
First time CBD users are advised to start slow at a low dose of CBD. More importantly, a physician’s advice is recommended before using any CBD products.
Legality of CBD
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one CBD infused drug, Epidiolex, used to treat severe forms of childhood epilepsy (45) .
Epidiolex is an oral solution formulated to help with seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome (46) .
According to the USFDA, the administration of this CBD-infused drug, along with other medications, has shown effectiveness in reducing seizure frequency (47) .
Note that under the 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp derivatives with 0.3% or less THC content are federally legal in the United States (48) .
However, different states in the US have specific regulations and stipulations regarding CBD products. It is advisable to research these laws to avoid unfortunate legal consequences.
Studies have begun to show some potential health benefits of CBD. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid from the cannabis plant may help prevent arrhythmia by providing its potential therapeutic properties.
However, side effects come with CBD use, such as possible interactions with drugs used to promote the health of the cardiovascular system.
According to Mayo Clinic , other possible side effects of CBD use include drowsiness, dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, and reduced appetite (49) .
Expert cautions people with heart problems about using cannabis
Cannabis can have troublesome effects on people with unstable heart conditions, says physician
Dr. Danial Schecter said marijuana can have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular system. (Submitted)
A medical cannabis expert is cautioning people with heart problems about using marijuana.
Dr. Danial Schecter is one of the keynote speakers at a cardiology symposium today in Sydney, N.S.
Schecter is the co-founder of the Cannabinoid Medical Clinic, which has 20 Canabo Medical Clinic locations across Canada, including one in Halifax.
He said although cannabis is generally safe, it does have side-effects, which have been largely overlooked as Canada moves to legalize its recreational use.
“Cannabis activists have almost taken over the conversation around cannabis, and their message is that cannabis is a harmless drug, it’s never killed anyone in the 5,000 years people have been using it.”
Schecter, who also holds a fellowship in hospital medicine and is an active hospitalist at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Ont., suggests cannabis can have troublesome effects on people with unstable heart conditions.
“It can cause what we call tachycardia, which is an increase in your heart rate. It can also cause peripheral vasodilation, which means your veins and your arteries can dilate and drop your blood pressure,” said Schecter.
“And that means that people who are using cannabis with unstable heart diseases, such as unstable angina or at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, should really use cannabis with caution.”
Schecter said people with unstable heart diseases or who are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke should be careful about using cannabis. (Evan Mitsui/CBCNews)
Schecter said like all drugs, cannabis also can produce unwanted side-effects when combined with other medications or alcohol. His presentation is intended to flag potential risks for cardiologists and other medical professionals attending the Sydney event.
Schecter noted that it’s the THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, in cannabis that produces both the high associated with marijuana and the negative side-effects.
“So if people consume CBD [cannabidiol]-only products, or oils, then they don’t get the same cardiovascular effects, or the other unwanted side-effects.”