Can CBD oil treat high cholesterol levels?
There are plenty of frequent ailments that will affect practically everyone eventually. From arthritis to aching knees, there are some things that are just a given when it comes to getting older.
Easily one of the most prevalent of this list is cholesterol. This irritating and sometimes severely painful condition affects millions each year, and there are remarkably few options for those looking to try and treat it.
Some people are attempting to combine CBD and cholesterol in an effort to try and diminish their continuous cholesterol plague. But does it work?
Well, first of all, we need to learn what cholesterol is and how we can typically treat it.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is commonly known as an evil, dangerous substance that ruins your life, no matter how much you have.
However, cholesterol is one of the most mischaracterized bodily substances that we know of today. Instead of being wholly terrible and dangerous, cholesterol is actually a vital part of our cells and health; without it, we wouldn’t be able to survive.
Cholesterol is used to help make all kinds of vital molecules in your bodies, such as your hormones and your ability to intake vitamins. It exists in all of your cells and is what enables them to function correctly.
While the precise cholesterol definition feels almost too confusing to understand, the actual function of cholesterol is far simpler.
Essentially, cholesterol is necessary for the production of so many things that your body needs to flourish. Furthermore, it helps to regulate membrane fluidity in different temperatures, something vitally important for healthy cell growth and maintenance.
The confusing aspect of cholesterol is that we treat it as having two different definitions based on its precise source. While cholesterol in the body is one thing, we treat dietary cholesterol as something entirely different.
Dietary cholesterol is the same thing in animals as it is in humans, except it matters to us because of how we digest it when we eat animals. It is necessary to eat a sufficient level of cholesterol to maintain health. But too much of it can put you in danger.
So, what are the exact causes of high cholesterol?
What Causes High Cholesterol?
To understand high cholesterol, we need to fully comprehend the different types of cholesterol.
Cholesterol is continuously flowing through your body by way of your blood cells. In your arteries, cholesterol attaches itself to proteins in the blood and gets transported to where it needs to be. This combination of the two is referred to as a lipoprotein, and they are further broken up into two distinct types of cholesterol.
Low-Density Lipoprotein: The first one, low-density lipoprotein, also known as LDL, is the typically maligned form of cholesterol. This type of cholesterol can build up in your bloodstream, causing blockages and reducing sufficient blood flow.
High-Density Lipoprotein: The other type, high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the generally healthy one. This form of cholesterol can help reduce your levels of LDLs and take them back to your liver.
VLDL: Finally, diabetes increases the production of an even more dangerous form of cholesterol known as VLDL, which can cause even higher risks of developing high cholesterol.
Getting older, being a diabetic, or smoking are also other everyday things that can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol. Smoking damages your blood vessels, and age makes your body less efficient at cutting down the levels of bad cholesterol.
The precise risk factors of having high cholesterol are primarily due to a few things; diet and a lack of exercise.
If you eat a diet that is particularly high in saturated and trans fats, then you are likely to suffer from a higher than acceptable level of cholesterol. Furthermore, being obese or weighing more than you should, in general, will also put you at risk of developing high cholesterol.
Exercise is an incredibly important aspect of keeping down cholesterol, as exercise helps encourage the production and retention of HDL, the generally good cholesterol.
What Is the Primary Source of Cholesterol?
So, this is where a good deal of the confusion regarding cholesterol comes in. All of the cholesterol that you actually need in your body is created in the liver. Any extra cholesterol floating around comes from the food you eat, such as fatty foods.
This latter form of cholesterol is referred to as dietary cholesterol, and it is the main thing you need to watch out for.
So what can kind of exciting things can you do to try and reduce your cholesterol? Can you use CBD to try and reduce it?
Does CBD Lower Cholesterol?
CBD oil is one of those things that has been used to treat all kinds of different and exciting medical conditions. But cholesterol is easily one of the oldest problems considered by cannabinoid users. There is a substantial amount of evidence showing that CBD oil could help reduce cholesterol and overall improve your heart health.
Various studies, such as this one by Stanley et al. for the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, have found that CBD oil and cholesterol go together exceptionally well. That is, CBD is able to help improve your heart health and overall help treats high cholesterol.
Interestingly though, the answer to the question of ‘can CBD oil lower cholesterol?’ is, oddly enough, no. It isn’t that it can lower your cholesterol, but instead that it can help improve your heart health in general. This has the side effect of effectively lowering your cholesterol and improving your overall health.
But first, what kind of treatment options are available before considering CBD oil? How do doctors traditionally treat cholesterol with conventional medicine?
The two options for cholesterol treatment are either to attempt to try and remove excess LDL cholesterol through medication or to try and improve general heart health.
Different drugs perform these effects in different ways; it all depends on the severity of cholesterol and what level of risk your high cholesterol presents.
Considered the mandatory drug for everyone over the age of 50, statins are an effective way of controlling your cholesterol production. They substantially slow down the production of cholesterol in your liver. They also actually help your body to reabsorb any extra cholesterol that is hanging around in your body.
This means that it not only acts as an effective treatment option, but it can also partially reverse any severe heart afflictions you are suffering from.
The issue is that there are some side effects with taking statins, as well as just generally being annoying because you have to take them every single day.
Bile Acid Binding Resins
This treatment option is a bit of a tricky one because it seeks to lower cholesterol production indirectly. One of the primary uses of cholesterol is in making something called bile acids, which are needed to help encourage healthy digestion.
This group of medications, called bile acid-binding resins, bind themselves to bile acids in your body, tricking your liver into thinking you don’t have enough of them. This forces your liver to reroute excess cholesterol into trying to make them, forcing the cholesterol out of your blood and using it up.
This can, of course, induce digestion troubles, but that is far and away preferable compared to suffering from coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
One of the main ways that dietary cholesterol enters your body is through the small intestine, where it absorbs plenty of it from your food. This group of drugs slows down the rate at which your small intestine can absorb cholesterol from your food.
The main benefit of these substances is that they are combined with other drugs, like statins, to attempt to try and create a combined effect. On their own, they don’t reverse anything. But merely act as a stopgap to limit the results for the future.
Injectable medications are a broad category, but fundamentally, they are focused on lowering the amount of cholesterol that is free in your blood.
These are ideally used for genetic conditions, such as those with diseases that create adverse levels of cholesterol. They effectively encourage your liver to absorb and remove more LDL than it would normally.
This requires frequent injections and continuous medical checkups to ensure they are working correctly, which can be a real pain.
But what about CBD oil? How could CBD oil help cholesterol?
CBD Oil and Cholesterol
CBD oil is a particularly interesting medical substance because it has effects throughout the body. This is due to how it impacts the endocannabinoid system.
The critical thing regarding how CBD oil can help cholesterol is the fact that cholesterol is, fundamentally, a fatty cell. CBD has been shown to not only help regulate all manner of different bodily functions but also how much cholesterol is maintained in the body.
You can use CBD oil as a surprisingly effective cholesterol treatment option, just by remembering to take a dose every day.
However, the primary way that CBD and cholesterol work together is due to CBD’s vascular relaxant properties. When you take CBD, it is able to help reduce your blood pressure by relaxing the arterial walls running throughout your body.
This happens because as a result of CBD’s interaction with the CB1 receptor and is a great way to help reduce excess cholesterol. As the arterial walls relax, your blood pressure is reduced, and your heart doesn’t work as hard to pump blood around the body.
Consequently, this helps ease and reduce the level and intensity of cholesterol blockages, as your body has more time to get rid of them.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil and Cholesterol
When trying to answer the question of ‘can CBD oil lower cholesterol?’, the issue is that the answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might have first thought.
CBD and cholesterol clearly have a well-established link to one another, but to outright say that CBD oil reduces cholesterol directly wouldn’t be entirely true. Instead, it is more the case that CBD oil can help to encourage the gradual lowering of your cholesterol levels. At the same time, it can help ease blood pressure and improve your overall health.
Both of these latter qualities are what make it so multipurpose and useful, as it is not only potentially effective as a treatment for cholesterol, but also for many other things.
The key thing to take away is that, while CBD can indeed help with excess cholesterol, it is not an emergency, completely fool proof curative. If you are suffering from serious cholesterol issues, the best thing you can do is go to your doctor and get it seen to.
CBD for Cholesterol – March 2022
Why People Are Using CBD for Cholesterol Management
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost 29 million American adults have high cholesterol levels (6) . Having excessive cholesterol levels, bad cholesterol in particular, increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Cholesterol can be classified into two types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is known as bad cholesterol that blocks the arteries. The blockage may lead to cardiovascular diseases, like heart attack and stroke.
Meanwhile, HDL is the good cholesterol that carries lipids (fats) from other parts of the body to the liver.
High cholesterol levels may also be a sign of high levels of triglycerides (7) . These substances are a type of lipid found in the blood, like cholesterol. Unused calories stored in the body are converted into this lipid.
Similar to cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides can cause heart problems (8) .
Managing cholesterol-related complications goes beyond trying to lower cholesterol levels.
An increase in good cholesterol or HDL lowers the risk of individuals developing conditions, such as stroke (9) .
Some statins, the conventional prescription medications for cholesterol, boost HDL levels to aid in transporting the bad cholesterol from the arteries to the liver (10) .
However, the use of statins may have side effects, like liver damage and rhabdomyolysis (11) .
Rhabdomyolysis, a condition where the muscles break down rapidly, could lead to kidney failure.
An animal study showed that cannabidiol (CBD) increased good cholesterol in the test subjects (12) .
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound abundant in hemp plants, a variety of cannabis plants.
In the study, which was conducted on obese mice models, the animals were treated with CBD for four weeks. Results showed a 55% increase in HDL cholesterol levels and a 25% decrease in total cholesterol levels.
The authors also observed reduced triglyceride levels in the test subjects.
Thus, CBD’s effects on cholesterol may be similar to medications under the statins drug class. However, compared with statins, CBD’s safety profile may be more favorable.
CBD’s common side effects are minimal, including diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in appetite or weight (13) .
High blood pressure or hypertension can also be linked to high cholesterol levels (14) . When arteries are blocked with cholesterol, it gets harder for the heart to pump, which leads to an increase in blood pressure.
People with diabetes and high cholesterol are at higher risk for cardiovascular complications and need proven cholesterol medications like statins. CBD may be a helpful adjunctive, but should never replace established medications prescribed by your doctor.
In a study, healthy volunteers were administered CBD to see if it could reduce blood pressure (15) . Blood pressure is defined in this study as the body’s response to stress.
Several tests were conducted to induce stress in the volunteers and to increase blood pressure. Results showed that a single dose of CBD reduced blood pressure during the pre-stress and post-stress tests.
Cholesterol is a fat-like and waxy substance essential in hormone and vitamin D production and food digestion.
It can be found in food, like animal meat, dairy products, fried and processed foods. Too much of these fatty and oily foods can increase cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol build-up may come with age. Its development depends on one’s lifestyle and dietary choices.
How CBD Oil Works to Help Cholesterol Management
Having high cholesterol has no symptoms. However, it can lead to several complications, such as stroke and heart attack (16) .
CBD for Stroke
In a study conducted in patients with ischemic stroke, CBD has shown potential as a protective agent in preventing post-ischemic injury by increasing cerebral blood flow. This action also has a therapeutic mechanism in oxidative disorders (17) .
Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when the artery that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked.
In another study, CBD decreased tissue damage and inflammatory protein release in cell injury in the early phases of stroke (18) .
The researchers also tested the compound’s effects three days after the ischemic stroke and found that CBD still had cerebroprotective effects.
CBD for Heart Attack
In an experiment conducted on rats, CBD demonstrated its cardioprotective function by reducing the size of the damaged area where arteries are blocked during a heart attack (19) .
Consequently, the same test was given to the same condition ex vivo (outside the test subject). However, the results were the opposite.
The size reduction of the artery’s damaged area in vivo (inside the test subjects) may be related to the compound’s anti-inflammatory properties.
In another study with rabbits as test subjects, the researchers found that CBD helped reduce the size of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and contributed to the restoration of the heart’s left ventricular function (20) .
AMI, which literally means “death of heart muscle,” is also referred to as heart attack (21) .
A review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology outlined CBD’s potential cardioprotective properties. These positive effects on the heart include CBD’s purported attenuation of cardiovascular response to several types of stress (22) .
The researchers also stated that CBD might have a protective role in reducing the damages in models of stroke.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cholesterol
- Compared to most cholesterol prescription drugs that can cause severe side effects, CBD may be safer to use (23) .
- Studies previously mentioned showed CBD’s potential therapeutic effects on complications related to bad cholesterol build-up.
- CBD products may be purchased over-the-counter without a doctor’s prescription in states and areas where they are legally available.
- There is a lack of studies that can provide evidence that CBD helps lower cholesterol levels.
- The use of CBD for treating medical conditions other than epilepsy has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (24) .
- Some CBD products have unverified claims that can harm users. FDA has posted a warning about these false claims (25) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for High Cholesterol
Daily physical activity can help increase HDL levels and reduce the risks of cardiovascular complications (26) .
Dietary supplements and food rich in omega-3 can also lower triglyceride levels (27) .
Like these treatments, CBD oil may be explored as a substance that could help improve cholesterol levels and relieve high cholesterol-related complications.
Similar to food that can lower triglyceride levels, CBD products that use hemp oil as their carrier oil contain nutrients that may lower lipid levels in the body.
Hempseed oil, extracted from pressing hemp seeds, contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (28) .
How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Cholesterol
In choosing which type of CBD oil to use, it is best to know what components each type has.
From its name, CBD isolate is made from isolated cannabidiol.
The CBD type that uses almost all phytocompounds from the cannabis plant is called broad-spectrum CBD. It does not contain the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds present in the hemp plant. These compounds include phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Among the three, the full-spectrum CBD type is preferred. It is believed to create an entourage effect, the maximum synergistic effect of all the compounds present in the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD Dosage for Cholesterol
There is no standard CBD dosage, as it is dependent on several factors, including body weight, body chemistry, medical condition, and CBD concentration of the product.
First-time users may start with low dosages, about 20 to 40mg of CBD per day. After a week, dosages may be increased by 5mg if desired results are not achieved.
A study showed that up to 1,500mg of CBD per day is well-tolerated (29) . Still, it is best to consult a doctor on the right CBD dosage or other medication choice for cholesterol management.
How to Take CBD Oil for Cholesterol
Conventional ways of taking CBD products include oral ingestion or inhalation.
CBD oil and tinctures are common ways to ingest CBD. Both forms can be taken sublingually or mixed with food or beverages.
Individuals who want to help manage their cholesterol levels may also take CBD through vape pens. The effects are instantaneous since the compound goes directly through the bloodstream when inhaled.
However, it is essential to note that vaping may cause lung problems (30) .
The Legality of CBD
The use of CBD for medical purposes is allowed in 18 out of 50 states and territories in the United States (31) .
Virginia, Wisconsin, and Kansas have legalized the use of CBD for any medical condition diagnosed by a physician.
Iowa and Georgia have also permitted the use of the compound for chronic and intractable pain relief.
CBD products for medicinal purposes should contain 10% to 15% of CBD and no more than 0.3% to 0.5% of THC, with both figures based on the product volume.
Not all cholesterol is harmful to the body. Good cholesterol is essential to overall health. Meanwhile, bad cholesterol may result in complications in different regions of the body, like the cardiovascular system.
CBD oil may be used to manage cholesterol levels. It has suggested health benefits, like regulating heart health and preventing stroke.
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- Hayakawa, K., Mishima, K., & Fujiwara, M. (2010). Therapeutic Potential of Non-Psychotropic Cannabidiol in Ischemic Stroke. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) , 3 (7), 2197–2212. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3072197
- High Cholesterol. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Prevent-Stroke/High%20cholesterol
- Stanley, C. P., Hind, W. H., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2013). Is the cardiovascular system a therapeutic target for cannabidiol?. British journal of clinical pharmacology , 75 (2), 313–322. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04351.x
- Gidding, S. S., & Allen, N. B. (2019, May 29). Cholesterol and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: A Lifelong Problem. Retrieved from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.119.012924
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 2). High Cholesterol Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm
- Bitzur, R., Cohen, H., Kamari, Y., Shaish, A., & Harats, D. (2009). Triglycerides and HDL cholesterol: stars or second leads in diabetes?. Diabetes care, 32 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), S373–S377. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc09-S343
- High Cholesterol. op. cit.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, October 24). HDL cholesterol: How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388
- Golomb, B. A., & Evans, M. A. (2008). Statin adverse effects : a review of the literature and evidence for a mitochondrial mechanism. American journal of cardiovascular drugs : drugs, devices, and other interventions, 8(6), 373–418. https://doi.org/10.2165/0129784-200808060-00004
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