Stock images courtesy Pixabay
During my decade-plus as a bloated, overweight alcoholic, one thing I noticed about cannabis is that it soothed my body as well as my mind.
For example, it would cease the profound and profuse sweating that used to afflict me in the height of my alcoholism and obesity. It would relax my body, which I now understand is called a “body high.”
This “body high” usually is brought on by consuming cannabis containing high amounts of CBD.
But I also noticed, and I mentioned this to my dispensary wellness consultant, that marijuana served as a diuretic.
I mentioned this because, as a ballooned-out drunk with a bright red face that looked ready to pop, I often found relief after extremely long urinations.
I knew when my blood pressure was high. I would be coked-up, liquored-up, and I could feel the angry blood trying to course through my veins.
The throbbing in my head (I could feel my temple pulse), the pain behind my eyes (this still happens even in sobriety when my BP is high) and, quite frankly, pain in my chest.
And usually, in those days of drugs, booze, cigarettes and fast food, when a heart attack was just one more Quad-City Times assignment away, after smoking pot out on the patio at the tavern and going inside for a very long pee, I always felt better.
Indeed, we already know cannabis is a diuretic – if only scientifically so in rats.
“These data indicate that cannabinoids have robust diuretic effects in rats that are mediated via CB1 receptor mechanism,” concluded Peronis et al. in 2014 in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. These data indicate that cannabinoids have robust diuretic effects in rats that are mediated via CB1 receptor mechanisms.
“Overall, our data indicate that diuresis is a CB1-mediated effect that may serve as a reliable and objective physiologic measure of cannabinoid action in rats; the circumstances under which these results represent a potential therapeutic benefit or potential liability of cannabinoids remain to be determined.”
Government won’t allow apples-to-apples cannabis research
Before you say “TMI,” I never connected the dots between cannabis as a diuretic – indeed, that’s what many blood pressure medications are, or what they ultimately hope to accomplish – and its impact on hypertension.
I asked the wellness consultant if he ever had heard of marijuana being used to treat hypertension and, if so, which strains might be most appropriate.
Appropriately, he said it was an interesting question but that the research just isn’t there to offer a conclusive answer.
He’s absolutely right, but with the liberty of a writer, I decided to poke around the medical research archives to see what I could find anecdotally.
I found plenty of evidence to support my theory that medical cannabis treats my other chronic condition, hypertension, safely and effectively even — without medication.
And nobody would ever argue against the fact that it does the same for my chronic PTSD-related anxiety.
When there is no credible, peer-reviewed medical research – indeed, because our federal government will not allow it – anecdotal or animal research is often all we have.
I’ll start with recent research from across the pond that suggests THC actually worsens high blood pressure symptoms.
Caution: Great Britain’s uppity resistance to cannabis is even more pronounced on the federal level than it is in the U.S.
Edibles, other consumption methods minimize cardio risks
You can imagine my surprise when, right out of the gate, I found a recent study that says smoking marijuana may actually increase your blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.
Published just last month in the European Journal of Cardiology, the researchers arrived at their findings after studying recreational users who consumed their cannabis via smoking it.
“Recreational marijuana is primarily smoked; we hypothesize that like cigarette smoking, marijuana use will be associated with increased cardiovascular mortalities,” they stated in their abstract.
“From our results, marijuana use may increase the risk for hypertension mortality. Increased duration of marijuana use is associated with increased risk of death from hypertension. Recreational marijuana use potentially has cardiovascular adverse effects which needs further investigation.”
While I am not going to pay for a full copy of the study, the researchers explain the methodology this way:
“We linked participants aged 20 years and above, who responded to questions on marijuana use during the 2005 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to data from the 2011 public-use linked mortality file of the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only participants eligible for mortality follow-up were included. We conducted Cox proportional hazards regression analyses to estimate hazard ratios for hypertension, heart disease, and cerebrovascular mortality due to marijuana use. We controlled for cigarette smoking and other relevant variables.”
Questionable conclusions not applicable to medical cannabis
Who knows where that cannabis came from. It’s not medical cannabis; they studied recreational users.
More importantly, cardiovascular problems often are brought on by nicotine (not cannabis) and combustion (and most medical cannabis consumers use vaporizers or other ways of consumption without combustion these days).
Such as edibles.
Did the grass come out of a ditch? A cornfield? What was it sprayed with? Did these people get grass at all?
Could the subjects ever have received K2? Could they ever have received bad crap from a rogue dealer, someone mad at them, something laced with some other drug?
You may want to roll your eyes at that, but I’ve been around the block and I know.
These researchers arrived at their conclusion from self-report medical data. People will deny use of other harmful substances, particularly when being survey about benefits of the plant.
So, I’m suspicious when the researchers claim they controlled for cigarette use.
Self-report data can work all kinds of different ways depending on who manipulates that data and for what end.
My point is that this study has so many variables how can you even compare it to a medical sample or responsible recreational use.
I don’t blow smoke: The truth about my cannabis use
I will admit that I, too, have had cannabis now and then that seemed to actually raise my blood pressure. However, this happened before long before I was a legal cannabis patient in Illinois, and even before my trip to Denver, where weed seemed much “cleaner” than anything I ever had before.
Weed occasionally seemed to raise my blood pressure when I was a hardcore alcoholic and drug addict using multiple substances, including cigarettes, which I gave up almost five years ago.
Indeed, cigarettes were the third substance to go, after cocaine and crystal meth long before that.
In the height of my alcoholism and addiction, when I was a “recreational user,” I never would have been honest about my other drug use for a cannabis study such as this. Especially as a vehement cannabis advocate, as I always have been, except during a year-plus period of abstinence which nearly cost me my life.
I’m not convinced of the integrity of this research based on the abstract. Unlike medical cannabis patients, recreational users are not offered a selection of cannabis specially grown to manage symptoms like depression, anger, pain and anxiety…all of which raise blood pressure.
As an aside, and anecdotally, there are lots and lots of former alcoholics and drug addicts who are medical cannabis patients.
Just like the vaper who got off six stinky packs of cigarettes per day with what some may call a “harm reduction” method, the recovering addict with a medical cannabis card should look past the nasties and celebrate his victories.
On to the next study.
Study: CBD lowers blood pressure
In a study just published this summer in the Journal of Clinical Insight, albeit a study with a very small sample size of nine healthy men, researchers showed that a 600-mg single dose of CBD reduced blood pressure.
This was particularly true before and after a trigger event.
I began to harp on the benefits of CBD from the moment I received my medical cannabis card. Unlike Colorado cannabis (medical or not) and most other states, Illinois actually has a program where high CBD-THC strains are available.
For example, I repeatedly have spoken about the benefits of Pre-98 Bubba Kush. This strain is extremely well known as a go-to strain for people with PTSD.
Trichome trio of tranquility: Pre-98, Lavender, 707 Headband
I was thrilled to see my dispensary had Pre-98 Bubba Kush on sale this week. I got a gram for $15, and I’ve been mixing it with some very premium, high-THC flower.
I only get to indulge in the really good stuff this weekend because I also hit my bonus points threshold and received a $50 credit.
So, for $65 instead of $115, I got a gram of the GTI Rythm Pre-98 Bubba Kush, an eighth of the Cresco 707 Headband, and an eighth of Revolution Lavender Kush.
Different strains of cannabis have differing medicinal effects. Yet they may at times have identical levels of THC or even THC-CBD ratios.
So, what makes them different?
Terpenes, tiny compounds on the flower that convey odor and medicinal quality. Obviously, in an extremely high-strung person like myself, anything that modulates stress is likely to greatly reduce my blood pressure.
For me, piney scents do wonders mentally and physically.
707 Headband, Lavender Kush, Pre-98 Bubba Kush
How long will that expensive weed last? A few days.
But, given the triggers I have been managing (very well, I might add) this weekend related to the deaths of my parents and other issues, and the bonus points, and the Pre-98 being on sale, I’d say it’s money well spent.
Pre-98, per Leafly, used medically to treat: Pain, insomnia, stress, inflammation, loss of appetite.
Headband 707, per Leafly, used medically to treat: Stress, pain, depression, inflammation, nausea
Lavender Kush, per Leafly, used medically to treat: Stress, pain, depression, insomnia, nausea.
So, has medicating inflammation and stress in my body and mind with cannabis actually lowered my blood pressure?
I say yes. Keep reading to find out why. I’ll even cite some medical research for you.
Lowering your BP by reducing inflammation in the body (with CBD)
I am feeling very healthy of mind and body the past couple of days. Relaxed, alert, not foggy, not angry, blood pressure 143/91. I have not taken any blood pressure medication in a good long time.
I feel great.
I take no medication for anything.
Well, I smoke medical cannabis. And the strains I use are known for reducing inflammation and stress.
An early 2000s groundbreaking study showed that if you are hypertensive and have a large amount of inflammation in the body, your cardiac risk increases eight-fold.
In a 2014 study published in BioMed Research International, the authors concluded that anti-inflammatory drugs may be a better, non-lethal way to treat high blood pressure than Pharma.
Coincidence that I’m feeling better?
Me. Pharma free!
A good night’s sleep lowers blood pressure, too
Here’s something health providers know, of course, but I sure never did before writing about health.
Lack of sleep raises your blood pressure. Not getting enough sleep at night often is framed in terms of its mental impacts. However, there are biophysical impacts, too, a big one being elevated blood pressure.
And if we want to give in to one stereotype about marijuana smokers, I say it should the one about it putting us to sleep.
Because sleep is good. Some people can’t sleep no matter what sleep aids they try.
Until they try medical cannabis.
In my case, I can obtain in Illinois extremely high THC strains specifically bred for insomnia. My go-to for insomnia that I refer to frequently, Bio Jesus, comes in oil cartridges. When vaped, the oil contains levels of THC exceeding 80 percent.
THC is the psychoactive “drug” in cannabis that makes a person “high” (and then puts them directly to sleep).
I could write an entire series of blog posts on how medical cannabis can be used to treat insomnia.
Until next time.