Does cannabis affect cholesterol levels for better or worse? We take a look at the current research on this complex subject matter. How to Use CBD Oil for High Cholesterol Elevated cholesterol is something many people will have to contend with during the course of their life. So what is cholesterol and why is it so bad?
Does Cannabis Affect Your Cholesterol?
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With cannabis use becoming more commonplace, some health-conscious consumers have begun wondering how it may affect cholesterol levels.
As is often the case, there exists sparse clinical research on the subject. However, early studies show that cannabinoids, especially CBD, can indeed impact cholesterol in some circumstances.
So, does cannabis affect cholesterol for better or worse? We explain all you need to know in this in-depth article. But first, let’s look at what cholesterol is and how it influences our health.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipoprotein, meaning it consists of both fat and protein molecules. It is a waxy substance and a key component of cell membranes. It has several crucial functions in the body, including acting as a precursor to sex hormones and vitamin D production.
Cholesterol is a lipoprotein that serves several critical functions in the body – including acting as a precursor to sex hormone and Vitmain D production.
The liver and intestines are major contributors to the endogenous production of cholesterol within the body. However, many foods also contain cholesterol, including meat, eggs, and dairy products. For this reason, people who eat these foods regularly may end up with high cholesterol – a significant risk factor for heart disease.
Cholesterol and Heart Health
Although some cholesterol is essential for good health, too much can be detrimental to an individual’s health. This is because excess cholesterol can combine with other substances and build up in the blood vessels.
These fatty build-ups are known as plaques, which can contribute to atherosclerosis, a narrowing, and hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis causes inflammation in the blood vessels and can lead to coronary artery disease. Furthermore, if a plaque ruptures, blood clots can form and block the coronary artery. This prevents the heart from getting sufficient oxygen and can cause angina and heart attacks.
Atherosclerosis is also associated with other types of cardiovascular disease, including carotid artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, and strokes.
However, not all cholesterol is harmful. There are several different types, including:
- >Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL is sometimes known as ‘bad cholesterol.’ It is the type of cholesterol that can form plaques and raise the risk of heart disease.
- Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): Like LDL, high levels of VLDL cholesterol have been associated with the development of plaque deposits on artery walls. However, VLDL is released into the bloodstream to supply body tissues with triglycerides. Triglycerides are another type of fat that could raise the risk of heart disease.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Sometimes known as ‘good cholesterol,’ HDL transports LDL from the arteries to the liver for elimination.
What Is the Normal Cholesterol Level?
Target cholesterol levels vary depending on a person’s age and gender. The table below is a general guide:
Type of Cholesterol
Anyone Under 19
Males Age 20+
Females Age 20+
Non-HDL (including LDL, VLDL)
How to Lower Cholesterol
Some people have naturally higher cholesterol levels than others. Age, ethnicity, and genetics all play a role. However, many of the factors that influence cholesterol levels relate to lifestyle, and, therefore, individuals can alter them.
Some of the best ways to lower cholesterol include:
- Eating a healthy diet (minimal meat, dairy, chocolate, baked goods, fried, and processed foods)
- Engaging in regular physical exercise to maintain a healthy body weight and increase HDL
- Not smoking (smoking raises LDL levels and decreases HDL)
If an individual cannot control their cholesterol by making these lifestyle adjustments, their doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication. Some of the most common cholesterol drugs are called ‘statins’, including:
Although these medications have demonstrated their efficacy in robust clinical trials, unpleasant side effects can still occur. Therefore, some people are looking for more natural alternatives and may be wondering whether cannabis or CBD could help.
So, how does cannabis affect cholesterol? Let’s take a look.
How Does Cannabis Affect Your Cholesterol?
There is currently little research on cannabis and cholesterol. However, there are a handful of studies that suggest it may have some effect.
A 2013 study for the Diabetes Care journal compared 30 cannabis smokers’ cholesterol levels with 30 control subjects. Cannabis use ranged from 3–30 joints per day (median 6) over 2–38 years (median 9.5).
The researchers found the cannabis smokers had lower HDL levels than the control subjects. However, there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, or free fatty acids. It is unclear whether the decrease in HDL levels was due to cannabis itself or the consumption method of smoking.
Furthermore, these results differ from those of a 2020 study that looked at CBD-containing hemp oil that illustrated significant improvements in HDL level among participants.
More Research on Cannabinoids and Cholesterol
A 2018 review for the Journal of the American Heart Association investigated the role of cannabinoids in cardiovascular disease. The paper primarily focused on delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for producing the typical cannabis high.
The authors found conflicting evidence regarding whether THC promotes or inhibits atherosclerosis.
It appears that by stimulating CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, THC could increase oxidative stress and induce plaque formation. However, by stimulating CB2 receptors, it could reduce inflammation and inhibit LDL activity.
The review also mentions the CARDIA study, a project that followed cannabis users and non-users over 25 years. It found that cannabis users only had an increased risk of atherosclerosis if they smoked tobacco as well. The remaining studies in the review had inconclusive results, demonstrating the complex nature of cannabis chemistry.
Far more research is necessary before we fully understand the complex relationship between cannabis and cholesterol. However, more clear-cut evidence is emerging regarding the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD and Cholesterol
Recent research into CBD may help us to understand how cannabis affects cholesterol.
A 2011 study for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology found that the compound influences cholesterol homeostasis, the process by which cells regulate cholesterol levels. This study illustrates how the endocannabinoid may play a role in cholesterol homeostasis.
A 2017 review for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research investigated further. It found that CBD increased cholesterol levels in wild-type mice. However, it did not impact transgenic mice that already had high cholesterol. It also found that CBD increased HDL by 55% in obese mice while reducing total cholesterol by 25%.
Therefore, it appears that CBD has the potential to regulate cholesterol levels in the body. However, these are the results of laboratory studies, and it is impossible to say how they translate to humans.
Is It Safe to Take CBD Oil with High Cholesterol?
CBD is non-intoxicating, and most experts consider it to have a good safety profile. Therefore, it should be safe for people with high cholesterol to try.
However, there is a possible complication involving the use of CBD and cholesterol medication. CBD inhibits the activity of several liver enzymes. They include those responsible for metabolizing the cholesterol drugs simvastatin and atorvastatin.
Therefore, taking CBD oil with cholesterol medication could potentially produce adverse effects. Anyone considering doing so should consult a physician for further advice.
Does Cannabis Affect Your Cholesterol? Final Thoughts
There is insufficient evidence to conclusively say whether cannabis is good or bad for cholesterol.
While it appears that CBD could have a regulatory effect on cholesterol levels, human studies are currently lacking. And when it comes to THC, matters are even less clear-cut.
Some research studies suggest cannabis could raise the risk of atherosclerosis, while others state the opposite.
What we do know, though, is that smoking is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid this consumption method, especially with tobacco.
Anyone worried about how cannabis use may be affecting their cholesterol levels should discuss their concerns with a knowledgeable physician.
How to Use CBD Oil for High Cholesterol
Elevated cholesterol is something many people will have to contend with during the course of their life.
So what is cholesterol and why is it so bad?
Cholesterol is a waxy type of substance that is either manufactured by your liver or derived from the food you eat. Not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, cholesterol is essential for survival as it is an important component of cell walls and plays a part in the absorption of certain vitamins. The problem comes in when you have too much cholesterol, especially the ‘bad’ LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol forms a kind of sticky sludge in your arteries that clings to the inside walls of the blood vessels. Just like food residue can clog up your drains and cause a blockage, so too can layers of waxy cholesterol in your arteries. As the cholesterol hardens, a segment of that hardened fat can break off and travel through your bloodstream to lodge in your brain, causing a stroke.
Managing High Cholesterol With CBD Oil
Most people don’t even know they have high cholesterol until told by a doctor that they are at risk. Once that happens, it’s vital to take steps immediately.
CBD has been tried for a wide variety of both common and uncommon conditions. You may be wondering whether CBD might improve your cholesterol profile and how or if it lowers high cholesterol. Read on to find out with our medically reviewed answers…
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for High Cholesterol
CBD has a great deal of therapeutic potential. An extract of the hemp plant, CBD has the ability to activate our body’s endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors are located in the brain, digestive system, muscles, and reproductive system of the body. This means that the effects of CBD are widespread across the body. The benefits that CBD can offer for a specific condition may also simply be supportive, improving the body’s overall health thereby improving the patient’s condition.
Here’s how CBD may benefit you if you suffer from high cholesterol:
Reduces Blood Pressure with Vascular Relaxation
One of the most useful effects of CBD oil in people with raised cholesterol is deep-tissue relaxation. CBD reduces stress, meaning that tight and tense parts of your body release. This release goes all the way down to your vascular system. Believe it or not, CBD helps your arterial walls to relax, reducing hardness and allowing the passages to broaden. Wider arterial passages mean less likelihood of a blockage. CBD has also been shown to reduce inflammation; decreased inflammation means less hardening of cholesterol plaques.
Another benefit of vascular relaxation is improved blood flow and lowered blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is an added risk factor for people with high cholesterol because it also causes arterial wall damage and hardening, so lowering your blood pressure is good news.
When you have high cholesterol, it can help to cut excess stress from your life. This is because stress often leads to raised blood pressure and, as you learnt above, raised blood pressure and raised cholesterol together is like a double whammy to your system. Your doctor may tell you to take it easy, but the reality is that most of us are constantly stressing about something. CBD may help you let go of today’s worries and relax. With the right dosage, you may find it easier not to get worked up or upset when you face setbacks. If your doctor has prescribed some stress relief, CBD might be just what you’re looking for.
Reduces Unhealthy Appetite
CBD doesn’t increase your appetite. In fact, it may do the opposite. CBD alleviates internal pain and helps your stomach to relax so you can digest more comfortably. Because CBD improves your relationship with your stomach, you may find yourself eating less as you learn to understand your appetite more accurately.
Reduces Pain of Exercise
Getting healthy usually means getting fit, but exercise can hurt, especially for those not accustomed to the process. CBD has been called a miracle worker when it comes to removing muscle pain for athletic pursuits. From long walks to intensive weight lifting, CBD may help ease the pain in-the-moment and help prevent soreness in the future, allowing you to work on your cardio for that cardiac muscle.
The Effectiveness of CBD Oil for High Cholesterol
Now let’s talk about the direct effectiveness of using CBD for cholesterol. It’s important to remember here that because CBD is a natural compound, it can affect each person differently.
Who Should Use CBD Oil
Should you try CBD oil? CBD oil is safe and beneficial for most people, but there are some who should avoid CBD for medical reasons. This usually relates to pre-existing illnesses and medical conditions. If you are an otherwise healthy person with high cholesterol, CBD is a great treatment option to try. If you are in any doubt about the safety of CBD, discuss it with your family doctor before trying it out..
How CBD Interacts with Cholesterol Medication
CBD is known to interact with only a few medications, mostly involving how enzymes are broken up in the body.
Certain cholesterol medications in the statin class are metabolised via the cytochrome P-450 pathway in the liver. CBD can act as an inhibitor of this pathway, so if you are on a statin, it’s important to discuss going onto CBD with your healthcare provider. There are two statins which do not depend on the cytochrome P-450 pathway for metabolism, so if you do want to try out the benefits of CBD, your healthcare provider may suggest that you change to one of these medications.
Side Effects of CBD
Common side effects of CBD include low blood pressure (good for you, in the case of high cholesterol), lightheadedness, dry mouth, and drowsiness. These side effects are not specific to the use of CBD in the management of high cholesterol. It’s important to note that CBD does not give you the “munchies” (because it doesn’t contain THC) so your meal plan is safe!
Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil for Cholesterol
For the sake of clarification, hemp seed oil and CBD oil are not the same thing, despite them both being beneficial in the management of high cholesterol. CBD is good for your cholesterol because it relaxes the arterial walls and reduces stress and pain. Hemp seed oil, pressed from seeds, does not have pain relief or relaxing qualities, but it is full of Omega 3 and 6 fats that will help clear any clogged arteries.
How to Use CBD Oil for High Cholesterol
Finally, let’s touch briefly on what CBD oil products to try and how to use CBD carefully as part of your cholesterol treatment plan. We advise that you keep track of your blood pressure daily with a simple home blood pressure monitor to discover if your CBD use is having any clear beneficial effect. It may also be worth taking a cholesterol level reading (lipogram) prior to starting CBD and then again after three months of sustained CBD use to see if your cholesterol levels are dropping.
Dosage of CBD for Cholesterol
Always approach dosage carefully. The key is to start low and slow. Give your initial starting dose adequate time to have an effect before methodically increasing your dosage and rate of administration over time until satisfactory results emerge.
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD taken twice daily. If this does not produce the results you are after, increase your dose by 25mg every 3-4 weeks until you find the relief you are looking for. For more information on CBD oil dosing, read our guide here.
Ways to Take CBD Oil for Cholesterol
CBD Tinctures- CBD tinctures are oil drops placed under the tongue. In this delivery method, CBD oil is absorbed through your mucous membranes and takes effect quickly.
CBD Capsules- CBD capsules consist of a pocket of CBD oil wrapped in a gel cover. They are very much like gel-type vitamins and are ingested, taking somewhat longer to kick in as they move through the digestive system.
CBD Edibles- CBD edibles are made when CBD oil is mixed or cooked into food, like gummies or chocolate (sugar-free of course!). You can buy pre-made edibles or buy kitchen-ready CBD oil to make your own. Onset of action is longer as they need to pass through your digestive system before being absorbed into the bloodstream.
CBD Topicals- Topicals are creams, balms, and roll-on ointments made with CBD. This method is more useful for topical conditions, but is still a valid way to get CBD into your system.
High cholesterol is a lifelong battle for some people, but you don’t have to fight it alone. With the help of CBD and the support of your doctor, you can start to knock down that stress and relax your arteries for long-term cardiovascular health.