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How does medicinal cannabis act on atherosclerosis?

Updated: Feb 8, 2023


Did you know that adults over 40 years old of have a 50% chance of developing atherosclerosis and that THC is a possible therapeutic agent against this condition? Keep on reading!


Our blood vessels are in charge of transporting oxygen and essential nutrients to our organs and tissues, so they can fulfill their purpose in the best way possible. However, there are conditions that can affect this process, such as the case of atherosclerosis, where an atheroma plaque on the arteries is formed as a result of the alteration of cholesterol levels and complex inflammatory cascades.



As the plaque grows, it clogs the arteries, making it more difficult transporting oxygen and nutrients through the blood, which can bring serious consequences for the patient, such as:


· Angina

· Coronary disease

· Peripheral Vascular Disease


If the plaque breaks, a blood clot can be formed which can block the arteries completely or migrate to other parts of the body, causing a heart attack, cerebrovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, disability and even death.


Because of this, the treatment aims to slow down the progression and its devastating consequences. In most cases, it is suggested to change diets and habits, but the efforts to develop an effective and complementary therapy continues, like the investigation of the endocannabinoid system and medicinal cannabis for this condition, for example.


Effects of THC on atherosclerosis


THC is a phytocannabinoid of the medicinal cannabis plant, known (and many times avoided) for its psychoactive effects. Nevertheless, thanks to multiple investigations today, we know that it can act as anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, antiemetic and antitumor.


Also, live studies have shown that it has potential antiatherosclerotic properties. In animal models, THC inhibits the progression of already formed atherosclerotic injuries, and this interaction is associated with a lesser proliferation and secretion of factors and inflammatory cells, stabilizing the atheroma plaque.


It is worth noting that these effects were proven by using a lower dose of THC than what is normally expected with psychotropic effects.


Other cannabinoids on atherosclerosis


Although the main evidence is regarding THC, this is not the only cannabinoid that has shown to be related with slowing down the progression of atherosclerosis.


Other live study with a mouse model has demonstrated that CB1 receptors measure intrinsic protective signs, which counteract pro-inflammatory responses in the colon, so those cannabinoids that are agonists for this receptor would be involved.


Secondly, in another model, the effects of the CB2 agonists in cutaneous inflammation were evaluated, in which a decrease in inflammatory process has been observed.


Without taking into account, of course, multiple studies that have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, CBG and CBN, which can provide a protective and stabilizer effect over the atheroma plaque, diminishing inflammation and thus, its symptoms and the possibility of developing medical consequences.


In conclusion…

Atherosclerosis constitutes a worldwide public health problem that’s becoming more frequent. It is estimated that 70% of the population develops this disease that cannot be reversed, it can only lower the risks by integrating healthy lifestyle choices.


It is therefore that the scientific evidence suggesting a possible therapeutic effect of cannabis, specially THC,over atherosclerosis, is a very relevant fact in medicine. More studies are necessary to understand in an objective manner how the endocannabinoid system and THC works and the factors that lead to this condition.

Sources:

Sabine Steffens [2006]. Cannabinoid receptors in atherosclerosis. doi.org/10.1097/01.mol.0000245257.17764.b2


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