Can CBD Help With Cholesterol?

  • A 2016 animal study reported that CBD reduced the obese subjects’ total cholesterol levels by 25%(1). The authors also observed an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as the good cholesterol.
  • A study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals reported that CBD might have properties that could help treat stroke(2), a complication that may result from excessive low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol)(3).
  • Another study found that CBD has cardioprotective properties that might be useful in treating cardiovascular disorders(4). High bad cholesterol levels increase an individual’s risk of developing certain cardiovascular diseases(5). 
  • Studies have shown CBD’s purported benefits on the complications that could arise from an imbalance in an individual’s cholesterol levels. Still, evidence on the phytocompound’s effects on cholesterol is lacking. 

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

The Pros

  • 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.

The Cons

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

It is important to ask for a trusted physician’s advice before using any CBD product and never self-diagnose or self-treat.


  1. 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. 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
  3. High Cholesterol. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Prevent-Stroke/High%20cholesterol
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 2). High Cholesterol Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/facts.htm
  7. 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
  8. Ibid.
  9. High Cholesterol. op. cit. 
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. Jadoon, K.A. op. cit. 
  13. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  14. Sakurai, M., Stamler, J., Miura, K., Brown, I. J., Nakagawa, H., Elliott, P., Ueshima, H., Chan, Q., Tzoulaki, I., Dyer, A. R., Okayama, A., Zhao, L., & INTERMAP Research Group (2011). Relationship of dietary cholesterol to blood pressure: the INTERMAP study. Journal of hypertension, 29(2), 222–228. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0b013e32834069a5
  15. Durst, Ronen & Danenberg, Haim & Gallily, Ruth & Mechoulam, Raphael & Meir, Keren & Grad, Etty & Beeri, Ronen & Pugatsch, Thea & Tarsish, Elizabet & Lotan, Chaim. (2007). Cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent, protects against myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury. American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology. 293. H3602-7. 10.1152/ajpheart.00098.2007.
  16. Avci, E., Dolapoglu, A., & Akgun, D. E. (2018). Role of Cholesterol as a Risk Factor in Cardiovascular Diseases. Cholesterol – Good, Bad and the Heart, N/D. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.76357
  17. Hayakawa, K. op. cit. 
  18. Hayakawa, K., Irie, K., Sano, K., Watanabe, T., Higuchi, S., Enoki, M., Nakano, T., Harada, K., Ishikane, S., Ikeda, T., Fujioka, M., Orito, K., Iwasaki, K., Mishima, K., & Fujiwara, M. (2009). Therapeutic Time Window of Cannabidiol Treatment on Delayed Ischemic Damage via High-Mobility Group Box1-Inhibiting Mechanism. Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 32(9), 1538–1544. https://doi.org/10.1248/bpb.32.1538
  19. Jadoon, K. A., Tan, G. D., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2017). A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study. JCI insight, 2(12), e93760. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.93760
  20. Feng, Y., Chen, F., Yin, T., Xia, Q., Liu, Y., Huang, G., Zhang, J., Oyen, R., & Ni, Y. (2015). Pharmacologic Effects of Cannabidiol on Acute Reperfused Myocardial Infarction in Rabbits. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, 66(4), 354–363. https://doi.org/10.1097/fjc.0000000000000287
  21. Heart attack. (2020, June 16). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-attack/symptoms-causes/syc-20373106
  22. Stanley, C. P. op. Cit.
  23. Iffland, K. op. Cit.
  24. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, January 14). FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-cannabis-research-and-drug-approval-process
  25. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, March 5). What to Know About Products Containing Cannabis and CBD. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis
  26. Mann, S., Beedie, C., & Jimenez, A. (2014). Differential effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training and combined exercise modalities on cholesterol and the lipid profile: review, synthesis and recommendations. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 44(2), 211–221. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5
  27. Skulas-Ray, A. C., Wilson, P. W. F., Harris, W. S., Brinton, E. A., Kris-Etherton, P. M., Richter, C. K., Jacobson, T. A., Engler, M. B., Miller, M., Robinson, J. G., Blum, C. B., Rodriguez-Leyva, D., de Ferranti, S. D., & Welty, F. K. (2019). Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Management of Hypertriglyceridemia: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 140(12), N/D. https://doi.org/10.1161/cir.0000000000000709
  28. Leizer, Cary & Ribnicky, David & Poulev, Alexander & Dushenkov, Vyacheslav & Raskin, Ilya. (2000). The Composition of Hemp Seed Oil and Its Potential as an Important Source of Nutrition. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods. 2. 35-53. 10.1300/J133v02n04_04.
  29. Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, et al. . Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Curr Drug Saf. 2011;6:237–249
  30. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. (2020, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
  31. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (2020, June 30). Medical Marijuana Laws. NORML. https://norml.org/laws/medical-laws/

 

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