CBD For High Cholesterol: Can Hemp Oil Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

Illustration of a girl with a heart and heart monitoring
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: September 28, 2021

High cholesterol levels (also called hypercholesterolemia) increase your risk of developing chronic medical diseases. Fatty deposits accumulate in your blood vessels, causing problems such as hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerosis, etc. If left untreated, these may result in stroke and heart attack.

Studies suggest that CBD may help control high cholesterol levels. It also has properties that reduce health risks associated with this medical problem.

This article talks about CBD and cholesterol, how CBD affects hypercholesterolemia, and how to use CBD for this health concern.

What is Cholesterol?

The liver naturally produces cholesterol, and we can also get these fat-like compounds from the foods we eat like dairy products and meat.

We need cholesterol to function properly. Our cells use them to make other substances like vitamins and hormones. Cholesterol also helps maintain the integrity of the cell’s membrane.

For a healthy cholesterol level though, there should be a good balance between the good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

The good cholesterol removes excess cholesterol from the body, while the bad cholesterol transports excess cholesterol to other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, factors like lifestyle choices, health problems, medications, or even stress can easily disrupt their balance, resulting in an increased bad cholesterol level. The bad cholesterol accumulates inside the blood vessels and causes them to harden and become narrower.

What are the Effects of High Bad Cholesterol Levels?

Illustration of a Vein with Cholesterol

Hypercholesterolemia is a condition where there’s an unhealthy level of serum total cholesterol (more than 200 mg/dl). The causes may either be genetics or acquired (eating high-cholesterol food and a sedentary lifestyle, for example). High cholesterol levels may also be worsened by medications and chronic medical illnesses like chronic kidney disease and diabetic diseases.

Symptoms of hypercholesterolemia include chest pain, shortness of breath, feeling tired all the time, etc., but the diagnosis will only be confirmed by doing a blood test.

If left untreated, your high cholesterol levels can not only worsen your medical problems but cause them as well. People with hypercholesterolemia have a higher risk of developing stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and other chronic diseases

How Is Hypercholesterolemia Treated?

A conservative approach may help reduce cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Better diet choices (less fat, salt, and sugar content and more fruits and leafy vegetables)
  • Smoking cessation
  • Going on a regular exercise program (at least 30 minutes per day for five days)
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight
  • Getting a good, restful sleep
  • Managing your stress

If these can’t control your high cholesterol levels, then your doctor may prescribe the following medications:

  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors like ezetimibe
  • Statins like lovastatin and simvastatin
  • Bile acid sequestrants like colestipol
  • Fibrates like Lopid
  • Bempedoic acid
  • Antihypertensive and antidiabetic drugs may also be prescribed if you’re diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes.

While these medications help reduce high cholesterol levels, they also produce side effects like:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain or soreness
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with short-term memory

Long-term side effects of these drugs may also increase your risk of developing diabetes mellitus type 2 and liver damage.

Recent years have seen tremendous growth in the CBD market. We use CBD not only to maintain a healthy body and mind but to control symptoms as well. CBD also produces beneficial effects that may help lower cholesterol levels and improve its associated health risks.

Before we discuss the effects of CBD on hypercholesterolemia, let’s first go over the role of the endocannabinoid system in controlling cholesterol.

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Management of Cholesterol Levels

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system that plays an important protective role in our body. It helps maintain balance by regulating many physiological functions such as pain, inflammation, memory, fear, sleep, pleasure, mood, emotions, appetite, hunger, and even metabolism, etc.

The ECS is made up of three components:

  • The endogenous cannabinoids that activate the cannabinoid receptors
  • The cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1R and CB2R)
  • The enzymes that break down the endogenous cannabinoids

The CB1R is abundant in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as well as in the peripheral tissues. The CB2R, on the other hand, is mostly located on the immune cells. 

Under normal healthy conditions, the ECS helps modulate our physiological functions and responses to stimuli, resulting in symptom control. Its activation also results in reduced inflammation.

However, chronic medical problems like high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and diabetes damage the ECS, resulting in its dysregulation. Instead of maintaining balance, ECS dysregulation contributes to the worsening of health problems, including high cholesterol levels.

In hypercholesterolemia, cholesterol buildup damages the blood vessel walls. It also sets off an inflammatory response that attracts more immune cells to the site. The more immune cells that go to the damaged blood vessel, the narrower the blood vessel becomes as more debris accumulates. If a chunk breaks off, it could travel to other parts of the body as a blood clot and cause a stroke or a heart attack.

How Does CBD Benefit People with High Cholesterol Levels?

CBD Works in Endocannabinoid System

Cannabidiol or CBD is just one of over a hundred types of cannabinoids. A non-psychoactive compound, CBD doesn’t bind very well to the CB1R but can directly activate the CB2R. CBD can also stimulate other receptors that help reduce high cholesterol levels and associated risks.

Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin resistance links high blood sugar levels with high cholesterol levels. The cells become less sensitive and responsive to insulin (the hormone that carries glucose into the cell for energy conversion), resulting in the accumulation of sugar in the blood and changes in cholesterol levels. The good cholesterol level decreases, allowing the bad cholesterol and triglycerides (fat) to build up and cause fatty deposits or plaques along the blood vessel wall. High cholesterol levels also contribute to the development of diabetes.

A study published in the Diabetes Care Journal notes that CBD decreases resistin levels. Resistin is a compound produced by fat cells and immune cells. It increases insulin resistance and cellular inflammation. CBD also increases gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) levels. GIP is a compound that stimulates the pancreas to produce and secrete insulin.

Reduces Inflammation of the Blood Vessel Walls

Fatty plaques cause narrowing and hardening of the blood vessel walls, resulting in injury. The presence of these small injuries attracts immune cells to the site. As they flock to the site, they also get trapped by the fatty plaques. Instead of helping the blood vessel walls heal, the immune cells contribute more to the damage, further weakening the walls.

As the plaque grows, it increases the risk of blood clot formations. These can block the blood vessel or get dislodged and travel to other parts of the body, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

When CBD binds to the CB2R, it produces a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. CBD triggers the cell death of these abnormal immune cells, preventing them from sending signals that attract more immune cells to the site. Additionally, CBD also protects the blood vessels from the damages caused by high sugar levels, which make immune cells adhere more to the plaques.

Reduces High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the pressure of blood against the blood vessel wall becomes higher than normal (greater than 120/80 mmHg). Many factors cause hypertension, including high salt, sugar, and cholesterol levels. These get deposited along the walls of the blood vessels, causing them to harden and become narrower. Hard and narrow blood vessels make it difficult for blood to flow freely, increasing the blood pressure against the walls.

A study published in the Journal of Hypertension shows that CBD dilates the blood vessel walls. It effectively reduced high blood pressure in patients dealing with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and overweight. The same study also found that CBD reduces hypertension caused by stress.

Reduces Stress

You may not know this but stress (especially chronic stress) affects your cholesterol level. Stress causes your cells to release excitatory chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals increase your fasting blood sugar level and affect your normal cholesterol level.

CBD helps decrease stress by acting on the serotonin receptor. This receptor helps control your reaction to stress. This CBD effect also relieves anxiety and depression, both of which contribute to chronic stress.

Reduces Appetite and Weight

Being overweight increases your risk of developing high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and hypertension. It also makes you more vulnerable to heart attacks, stroke, and respiratory problems.

Studies suggest that CBD may be an effective agent for weight loss. Compared to THC which binds well to the CB1R, CBD acts more like an antagonist to this receptor. It stimulates the receptor’s allosteric site, a site different from the receptor’s active site which THC binds to. Instead of increasing appetite as THC does, CBD suppresses appetite and weakens food cravings.

Reduces Nicotine Consumption

Nicotine alters your normal cholesterol levels. It decreases the levels of your good cholesterol and increases your bad cholesterol levels. Nicotine also constricts the blood vessel walls, contributes to fatty plaque development, and thickens the blood.

CBD may help with nicotine addiction. It can dampen your cravings for nicotine, and it can also help reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. According to one randomized controlled trial, CBD helped reduce tobacco consumption by about 40%.

Is CBD Safe?

The World Health Organization states that CBD has a relatively good safety profile. Not only is it non-psychoactive but non-toxic and non-addictive as well.

There may be some minor side effects such as eye and mouth dryness, change in bowel movements, drowsiness, and even fatigue, but these are usually well-tolerated by CBD users. These side effects also disappear once the body gets used to CBD.

Where to Buy CBD?

You can buy hemp-derived CBD products in health stores, dispensaries, and online CBD shops. There’s no age limit to buy hemp-derived CBD, nor are there any possession restrictions. You also don’t need to obtain a doctor’s recommendation to buy hemp-derived CBD.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the use of industrial hemp and all its parts, provided its THC level doesn’t exceed 0.3%. This includes not just its flowers, leaves, stems, seeds but its cannabinoids, derivatives, extracts, acids, isomers, etc. as well.

As for marijuana-derived CBD products, these are only available in states that legalized medical cannabis. Marijuana (any cannabis plant that has more than 0.3% THC) remains illegal on a federal level.

Before buying CBD, always check your state’s cannabis laws.

What are the Factors to Look for When Buying CBD?

CBD Oil Bottles in a Trolley

CBD’s popularity made it easier for us to buy CBD products. You’ll find different CBD brands with varying potencies and flavors.

Because CBD has now become a part of many people’s health routines, its popularity has also made us more vulnerable to scammers offering substandard products.

To avoid mistakes when buying CBD oil products, be mindful of these factors.

Types of CBD

There are three types of CBD:

  • CBD isolate which contains only pure CBD
  • Broad-spectrum CBD oil which has CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil which has CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and THC

All are great products, but if you’re after a more potent effect, choose full-spectrum CBD oil. The addition of THC makes the product stronger since THC amplifies the beneficial effects of the other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Forms of CBD

The most common forms of CBD include:

  • Sublingual CBD (oils and tinctures)
  • Inhalable CBD (flowers, concentrates, and vapes)
  • Edibles (brownies, chocolate, candies, gummies)
  • Topicals (lotions, creams, balms, ointments)
  • Suppositories

Sublingual, inhalable, topical, and suppository CBD products offer fast onset of effects (less than 30 minutes). CBD is quickly absorbed by the cells and goes directly into the bloodstream.

The effects of edibles, on the other hand, may take some time (about 30 minutes to 1.5 hours) since CBD passes through the digestive organs and the liver. However, its effects last longer since CBD stays in the system for a longer period.

CBD Source

Choose CBD sourced from organically grown hemp and extracted using a safe and clean method like the supercritical CO2 extraction process. These reduce the risk of contamination caused by artificial pesticides and pathogenic microbes.

Again, check your state’s cannabis laws before buying marijuana-derived CBD.

Laboratory Test Results

Stay away from CBD products that don’t have any certificate of analysis. Legitimate CBD producers send product samples to certified third parties for testing. These laboratory tests check for the presence of residual solvents, heavy metals, toxic residues, harmful pesticides, pathogens (bacteria and fungus), etc.

These tests also make sure that the products contain their stated potency by checking their cannabinoid profile and levels.

Product Reviews

You’ll know you have a good CBD product by the number of positive reviews it received. These reviews help you get a good idea of the product’s effects (and side effects, if any).

How Do You Find the Best CBD Dose?

CBD Oil Bottle with CBD Chemical Formula

The best doses for:

  • General health and mild symptoms – use low-strength CBD or 1 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of your body weight
  • Moderate symptoms – use medium-strength CBD or 3 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of your body weight
  • Severe symptoms – use high-strength CBD or 6 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of your body weight

For example, you bought 1500 mg of CBD in a 30 mL bottle. First, divide 1500 by 30. This gives you about 50 mg of CBD per one full dropper. Because one dropper has about 20 drops, then one drop gives you about 2.5 mg of CBD.

Let’s say you weigh 150 pounds and want to use it for moderate symptoms, then divide 150 by 10, giving you 15. Multiply 15 by 3, and this gives you 45. This means you need 45 mg of CBD or 18 drops for your moderate symptoms.

You can also lower your starting dose to avoid side effects. Just listen to how your body responds to CBD and adjust the dose accordingly.

If side effects occur, then lower the dose. If there’s no improvement even after three to five days,  you can increase it a little bit. Using the low-and-slow pattern, you’ll soon find a dose that works for your health problems.

Don’t just rely on CBD to help lower your high cholesterol levels. Going on a healthy diet and exercise program as well as smoking cessation help a lot in managing your abnormal cholesterol levels.

Final Thoughts — Can CBD Help with Your High Cholesterol Levels?

Can you take CBD for your high cholesterol levels?

Yes, CBD has many properties that may help reduce your cholesterol levels. It helps improve several factors that increase your bad cholesterol levels like blood sugar, stress, appetite, weight, and nicotine. At the same time, CBD also helps reduce risks associated with high cholesterol levels like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, etc.

CBD is safe and can be added to your daily health regimen. If you’re going to use CBD for high cholesterol levels, we recommend seeing your primary care physician. Your doctor can help you come up with a good CBD plan for your medical problems.

Do you use CBD for cholesterol problems? How has it helped you so far? Let us know in the comment section below.

References Used in This Article:

  1. Alfulaij, N., Meiners, F., Michalek, J., Small-Howard, A. L., Turner, H. C., & Stokes, A. J. (2018). Cannabinoids, the Heart of the Matter. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(14), e009099. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.118.009099 [1]
  2. Stokes, K. Y., Cooper, D., Tailor, A., & Granger, D. N. (2002). Hypercholesterolemia promotes inflammation and microvascular dysfunction: role of nitric oxide and superoxide. Free radical biology & medicine, 33(8), 1026–1036. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0891-5849(02)01015-8
  3. Parhofer K. G. (2015). Interaction between Glucose and Lipid Metabolism: More than Diabetic Dyslipidemia. Diabetes & metabolism journal, 39(5), 353–362. https://doi.org/10.4093/dmj.2015.39.5.353
  4. Jadoon, K. A., Ratcliffe, S. H., Barrett, D. A., Thomas, E. L., Stott, C., Bell, J. D., O’Sullivan, S. E., & Tan, G. D. (2016). Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes care, 39(10), 1777–1786. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc16-0650 [2]
  5. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is cholesterol and how does arteriosclerosis develop? 2013 Aug 14 [Updated 2017 Sep 7]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279327/ [3]
  6. 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
  7. Dalal, J. J., Padmanabhan, T. N., Jain, P., Patil, S., Vasnawala, H., & Gulati, A. (2012). LIPITENSION: Interplay between dyslipidemia and hypertension. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 16(2), 240–245. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.93742 [4]
  8. Baranowska-Kuczko, M., Kozłowska, H., Kloza, M., Sadowska, O., Kozłowski, M., Kusaczuk, M., Kasacka, I., & Malinowska, B. (2020). Vasodilatory effects of cannabidiol in human pulmonary and rat small mesenteric arteries: modification by hypertension and the potential pharmacological opportunities. Journal of hypertension, 38(5), 896–911. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000002333
  9. Maduka, I. C., Neboh, E. E., & Ufelle, S. A. (2015). The relationship between serum cortisol, adrenaline, blood glucose and lipid profile of undergraduate students under examination stress. African health sciences, 15(1), 131–136. https://doi.org/10.4314/ahs.v15i1.18
  10. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  11. Klop, B., Elte, J. W., & Cabezas, M. C. (2013). Dyslipidemia in obesity: mechanisms and potential targets. Nutrients, 5(4), 1218–1240. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5041218
  12. Morgan, C. J., Freeman, T. P., Schafer, G. L., & Curran, H. V. (2010). Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(9), 1879–1885. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2010.58
  13. Krupski W. C. (1991). The peripheral vascular consequences of smoking. Annals of vascular surgery, 5(3), 291–304. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02329389
  14. Morgan, C. J., Das, R. K., Joye, A., Curran, H. V., & Kamboj, S. K. (2013). Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Addictive behaviors, 38(9), 2433–2436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.03.011 [5]
  15. CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report Expert Committee on Drug Dependence Fortieth Meeting Geneva, 4–7 June 2018. Available from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  16. H.R.2 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. (2018, December 20). https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *