The relationship between marijuana and high blood pressure is so complex that even the experts cannot agree on whether our favorite herb is safe for people with hypertension.
Some say that cannabis increases the risk of cardiac arrest in people who already suffer from high blood pressure, while others claim that there aren’t enough cases to prove that claim.
Most of the studies I found while writing this article also have opposing conclusions.
The reason being is that they have mostly been conducted on animals and usually without including other factors that often cause hypertension.
However, according to seasoned weed vets and observational studies, cannabis first slightly increases your blood pressure and then lowers it.
But, as you can agree, that explanation is pretty bleak.
To find out the truth behind many claims regarding this topic, I decided to go through every important study dealing with the effects of weed on blood pressure and then present my findings in this guide.
Also, I’ll be looking into experiences of real users, which I believe are of the utmost importance in cases like this one.
Let’s find out how weed affects blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Before we can dive into the effects of marijuana on blood pressure we first need to understand the difference between normal and high blood pressure.
When your heart beats, it pumps the blood through your arteries, forcing them to expand and contract.
The force with which the blood presses on the arteries is known as the blood pressure. Its function is essential, as it helps our body deliver oxygen and other nutrients to our organs.
When our heart pumps, it pushes the blood through our arteries, which results in pressure inside them. This is known as systolic pressure.
Between two heartbeats, at the moment when the heart rests, there is a pressure called diastolic.
In healthy individuals, the heart does not have to work excessively, so the blood flow is smooth.
For most healthy adults, a normal blood pressure is between 100-130 millimeters systolic and 60-80 diastolic.
However, if the arteries are narrower than usual, we get a condition called high blood pressure, or hypertension.
High blood pressure is a cardiovascular condition which occurs when the blood pressure in arteries is constantly elevated.
This usually happens if the arteries are clogged up, so the pressure rises and the heart has to work harder. That’s also how arteries get damaged over time.
Unfortunately, the condition itself usually does not cause any symptoms.
Most of the time, patients discover that they have high blood pressure during a regular checkup.
That said, hypertension is not something that should be ignored. I can cause serious health problems if left untreated.
If you are wondering what causes an increased blood pressure in the first place, you should know that the science still hasn’t fully answered that question.
As with many other conditions, there are certain things that can influence the development of this disorder. Genetics, smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, obesity, bad diet and stress all play a role.
What does science have to say about cannabis and hypertension?
As I’ve said, we barely have a few studies on the influence of cannabis on blood pressure, and they usually don’t count in all the different factors which would make the results conclusive.
But here is what I found.
THC and hypertension do not go hand in hand?
The first study I’m going to reference is a study published in August 2017, conveniently named the “Effect of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality”. (1)
One of the most quoted studies on marijuana and high blood pressure, this paper suggests that regular cannabis users are three times more likely to die from hypertension.
But there is one huge problem with it:
It’s made of participants who used cannabis “at least once in their life”, so we basically have no idea whether the subjects smoked every day or they just smoked once in high school, which leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.
It’s important to point out that the study was observational, meaning that the participants gave their feedback in follow up visits.
So, basically, there is no possible way to know for sure if cannabis itself had any role in causing hypertension.
There are a few studies that suggest that occasional users may experience a mild or moderate increase in heart rate, with a slight increase in blood pressure 10-15 minutes after consuming cannabis. (2)
These studies claim that, after the initial increase, our blood pressure drops, leaving us sleepy and groggy (sounds familiar, right?).
Some cannabis consumers can also develop tolerance to uncomfortable side effects of pot just a few days or weeks after using it.
When it comes to more severe consequences of high blood pressure related to cannabis use, we can only rely on CARDIA’s report, which investigated more than 3.500 Americans over the course of 15 years. (3)
The results might sound surprising at first:
No long-term connection was found between marijuana and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.
However, the study also pointed out this:
“Although marijuana use was not independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors, it was associated with other unhealthy behaviors, such as high caloric diet, tobacco smoking, and other illicit drug use.”
Another study done by Harvard Medical School suggested that:
The risk of having a heart attack is increased five times during the first hour after smoking cannabis but then drops 1.7 times during the next hour. The risk returns to normal after two hours.
At this point, it’s important to note that many other everyday activities bring with them a much higher risk of heart attack, such as sex.
Fortunately, there have only been a few cases of people actually having a heart attack after smoking weed. As you may presume, it’s impossible to conclude if weed and its influence on blood pressure was the main culprit.
Can CBD lower blood pressure?
The problem with the studies I found is that most of them are focused only on one cannabinoid in the whole cannabis plant — the psychoactive, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Besides THC, cannabis contains more than 100 other cannabinoids and over 200 different terpenes.
Today, we have hundreds of different strains on the market, each with a different ratio of THC to CBD. Each with different medical effects.
Not to mention that there isn’t even one single research on how edibles might affect blood pressure.
That same THC has been linked to making some people anxious, sometimes even paranoid (but these are usually just short-term effects, which go away as soon as the high wears off).
Elevated heart rate always goes hand in hand with anxiety, therefore it’s almost expected for some users to get an increased blood pressure.
On the other hand, the second most abundant cannabinoid, the one that’s been stealing the spotlight lately, seems to have a completely opposite effect on blood pressure than THC.
So, as it turns out, according to a small study published in JCI Insight, a single dose of CBD lowers the systolic blood pressure. (4)
To be precise, CBD relaxes smooth muscle cells in the arteries, widens the blood vessels, thus providing a smoother blood flow and a lower blood pressure.
Best strains for people who suffer from high blood pressure
Smoking is one of the main causes of high blood pressure.
If you are suffering from hypertension you should probably avoid smoking altogether, as it will most likely cause your blood pressure to increase further.
While I was doing research for this article, I glanced over some comments and threads on Reddit, and I found different opinions on the cannabis-hypertension relationship.
Some patients smoke regularly and they say weed keeps their BP in check.
Some patients, who used to smoke often, got their blood pressure back into normal after quitting weed. But they also said that, during the period when their blood pressure was high, they were usually under a lot of stress and their diet wasn’t that good.
Thankfully, smoking is not the only cannabis consumption method.
Vaping and edibles (including oils) are all healthier alternatives to burning up a flower.
So, if you like weed and have been diagnosed with hypertension, my advice would be to:
- Avoid smoking and rather go for one of the healthier ways of consuming weed
- Try exploring cannabis strains that are high in CBD
- Take smaller doses and don’t overdo it (baby steps are the best)
Feel free to start with the 5 strains I listed below, little by little, and monitor your blood pressure after using pot.
If you don’t get satisfying effects with one particular strain, try a few more.
If your pressure rises after using weed, quit smoking altogether.
You can live without cannabis (trust me) and your well-being should be your biggest priority at all times.
One of the most popular strains in the medical world, this thoroughbred indica is usually recommended for a variety of conditions.
Purple Wreck will give you a full body relaxation, helping the blood pressure drop down while eliminating stress at the same time. This strain won’t make you sleepy as most indicas but it’s best used at night, as you close off your day.
Also a very popular medical strain, Blue Dream will provide you with relaxation and a holistic balance of your entire system.
While it will calm you down, it’ll also relieve the tension in your blood vessels, which makes it a great tool for those suffering from hypertension.
Although this strain has a very high THC content, hypertension patients have had a very good experience with it, as a natural way to lower the blood pressure.
Northern Lights will help your muscles relax, and you will likely experience a relaxation of all tissues, nurturing the blood flow through your arteries more smoothly.
Super Sour Diesel
Super Sour Diesel is a very potent strain, so take it easy with this one, as you would with any other strain rich in THC.
Provided you get the dosage right, it will help you leave the stress behind, which is also one of the main causes of hypertension.
Formerly known as “Cush”, Green Crack got its new name from Snoop Dogg — after he tried this potent sativa, he joyously renamed it because of the energetic kick it brings.
Because of its sativa dominance, Green Crack is much better suited for daytime use, and with its moderate-to-high THC levels (between 15% and 20%) it is beneficial for a wide array of medical issues.
That includes high blood pressure, vein wellness, chronic pain, arthritis, and depression.
Even though the ominous name may suggest otherwise, do not fret, this is a 100% quality cannabis flower.
- Yankey BA, Rothenberg R, Strasser S, Ramsey-White K, Okosun IS; Effect of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality: A study using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey linked mortality file; European Journal of Preventive Cardiology; November 2017; 24(17):1833-1840
- Pacher P, Bátkai S, Kunos G; Cardiovascular pharmacology of cannabinoids; Handbooks on Experimental Pharmacology; 2005; (168):599-625
- Rodondi N, Pletcher MJ, Liu K, Hulley SB, Sidney S; Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study; Marijuana use, diet, body mass index, and cardiovascular risk factors (from the CARDIA study); The American Journal of Cardiology; August 2006; 98(4):478-84
- Jadoon KA, Tan GD, O’Sullivan SE; A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study; JCI Insight; Jun 2017; 2(12)