Cannabinoid Receptors in the Heart and Their Role in Heart Health

cannabinoid receptors in the heart

Posted on November 11th, 2020

Cardiovascular disease or CVD is a worldwide epidemic representing the primary cause of death in some western regions. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), over 90 million citizens of the United States have at least one form of CVD. These numbers are expected to grow as large as 44% of the whole population by 2030.  It is also expected to have an economic burden of $1 trillion in the next ten years. Given its economic and pathological burden, there’s a striking need for insights into cardiovascular disease as well as the development of new therapeutic avenues. This read will primarily focus on the potential of cannabinoids and their receptors. Cannabinoids have been seen to have an influence on various disease progression. Looking at cannabinoid receptors in the heart is how to begin to determine whether cannabinoids could be the next big thing for heart health.

The legalization of cannabis both for recreational and medical use is spreading every year. This makes consumption of cannabinoids as conventional as tobacco use in some places. Comprehending the long-term effects of cannabis and its constituents, whether beneficial or harmful, is imperative. 


Scientists have identified many cannabinoids that could play a role in alleviating cardiac issues. However, CBD (cannabidiol) is by far the most widely studied. This is partially because CBD is more abundant than many other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The recent focus on the effects of CBD has revealed promising potential as a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound. 

This read begins by reviewing CBD, followed by a review of the endocannabinoid system and its pathological and psychological roles. In addition, it will cover cannabinoid receptors in the heart and how they may help deal with cardiovascular issues. 

What is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is one of the many cannabinoids or compounds found in industrial hemp and Cannabis Sativa. Unlike THC, the primary psychoactive compound found in marijuana, CBD does not alter the user’s state of mind. However, thanks to numerous studies, it’s known to influence some significant changes within the body. Research on the cannabinoid is still in the infant stages. So far, it has shown promising results as a viable treatment for a wide array of conditions, including heart conditions. After cannabidiol has been extracted, it’s usually infused into carrier oils like hemp oil, coconut oil, or olive oil to make CBD oil. It comes in varying concentrations, thus making it easy to pick a product that matches your needs. 

The Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids produce varying effects by interacting or binding with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a complex network that oversees the creation and breakdown of endocannabinoids in the body. It is referred to as the bridge between the body and mind, handling key physiological and cognitive functions. These include appetite, digestion, mood, motor control, chronic pain, inflammation, and cardiovascular function. 

The ECS is made up of three primary components:

  1. Endocannabinoids, which bind & activate cannabinoid receptors
  2. Enzymes that help the body process endocannabinoids
  3. Receptors which bind cannabinoids and manage their effects. 

cannabinoid receptors in the heartThe ECS and Cannabinoid Receptors in the Heart

Before diving into how cannabinoid receptors in the heart function, it’s best to define the primary receptors:

CB1 Receptors

CB1 receptors can be found throughout the body, but they are primarily found in the brain and spinal cord. Activation depends on cerebral and behavioral effects and they directly impact emotions, mood, motor control, cognition, memory and pain perception. 

According to recent studies, CB1 receptors play a vital role in cardiovascular regulation. This has been shown in myocardium ischemic preconditioning and reperfusion injury. Receptors found in the myocardium mediate negative inotropy, which makes the heart less contractile. CB1 activation in vascular tissues leads to vasodilation. 

In addition, CB1 antagonism reverses the effect, leading to increased blood pressure. With anandamide, it suppresses cardiac contractility, resulting in normalized blood pressure. All this represents a potential approach for therapeutic intervention that may decrease cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension. 

CB2 Receptors

These are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system and are especially associated with the immune system response and inflammation. When activated, they help relax the body, helping relieve pain, and induce muscle repair without affecting cognition.  

There’s experimental evidence showing that CB2 receptors impact atherosclerosis progression. This is a condition resulting from the buildup of cholesterol and fats in artery walls, thus restricting blood flow. THC was orally administered in a murine model of the condition, and results showed substantial inhibition of atherosclerosis progression. 

CB2 agonism leads to macrophage chemotaxis inhibition, lymphoid cell’s less proliferation, and reduced interferon-gamma secretion. The reverse can be achieved by CB2 antagonism. 

Cannabinoid Receptors in the Heart: Cardiovascular Benefits

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Oxidative stress and inflammation are responsible for indirectly causing and amplifying numerous cardiovascular conditions. Inflammation is common in heart stroke victims and arterial inflammation is a primary cause of heart attack.

Chronic inflammation is usually a response to toxins such as smoke, bad cholesterol, pollutants, etc., which can damage the heart and the cardiovascular system. When it occurs in arteries, it leads to atherosclerosis, which can ultimately cause heart strokes and attacks.

As such, reducing inflammation can help reduce the risk of heart attack as well as prevent more complications in heart patients. CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and studies show that it can effectively alleviate both acute and chronic inflammation. This is due to the fact that CBD inhibits pro-inflammatory mediators production. 

Also, research shows that CBD exerts anti-inflammatory activity through its effect on adenosine signaling. Inhibiting adenosine transporter in order to promote adenosine receptor signaling plays a vital role in the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD.

In addition, studies have shown that CBD suppresses the NF-KB signaling pathway and thus prevents inflammation. As a result, it has been found useful in addressing inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

cannabinoid receptors in the heartAlleviates Stress & Anxiety

Chronic anxiety and stress expose the body to increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Also, stress has an effect on blood clotting which could lead to a heart attack. 

According to research, social isolation, depression and stress could lead to coronary heart diseases. Psychological factors that affect the heart’s condition can be compared to the effect of smoking and hypertension. The risk of coronary heart disease is also related to the severity of depression. 

Cannabidiol has been seen to have an anxiolytic effect on the body. It alleviates stress and essentially works as an antidepressant. In addition, the compound helps maintain quality sleep, which is essential for the well-being of all organs, including the heart. 

CBD is also helpful in social anxiety situations, which could mitigate the psychological risk for cardiovascular issues. Some people find that long-term stress resulting from PTSD can be reduced with CBD consumption. When cannabidiol triggers cannabinoid receptors in the heart, it influences neuron activity in a manner that may reduce hyperactivity and anxiety.

In a randomized controlled trial, subjects who consumed CBD experienced lower heart rates during the post-stress stage. The participants also experienced reduced blood flow in forearms in the post-mental stress period. 

Antioxidant Properties

As mentioned earlier, oxidative stress leads to an array of conditions. Oxidative stress can cause substantial damage to heart cells, leading to vascular and cardiac abnormalities. 

Studies have found that antioxidant therapy has a positive impact on congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathies, ischemic heart disease, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. CBD exhibits significant antioxidant properties. This property lends it potential for addressing symptoms associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis. 

The compound can eliminate the dangerous species of free radicals from the human body and thus protect you from oxidative stress. Not only that, but CBD can neutralize numerous other oxidizing substances like reactive oxygen species (ROS). 

One study showed that cannabidiol could prevent the intracellular growth of ROS. It’s also capable of inhibiting lipid peroxidation during oxygen-glucose deprivation and reperfusion. Also, it was shown to reverse antioxidant biomarkers’ abnormal changes. 

According to research, cannabidiol reduces nitrate levels that lead to oxidative damage. CBD even does this better than Vitamin C and E. 

The Bottomline on Cannabinoid Receptors in the Heart

Given the positive interaction of cannabinoids with cannabinoid receptors in the heart, herbal therapy regimes like CBD consumption have grown in popularity. CBD has been found to be helpful in addressing symptoms of various chronic conditions. It has also been shown to have potent properties that may mitigate or prevent heart issues.

In addition, it may help alleviate stress and anxiety, which in turn can lower the risk of heart problems. To enjoy these benefits, however, it’s important to get high-quality CBD oil obtained from reputable sources such as Tanasi. Our uniquely effective formula was crafted by 2.5 million dollars of scientific research and is of the highest possible purity and quality.

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