Does CBD Affect Heart Rate? We Review the Science and Conduct Our Own Experiments to Find Out
It’s well known that THC increases heart rate and blood pressure, and that this is likely related to THC’s anxiety and psychosis-inducing effect. But what about CBD, THC’s cannabinoid cousin? CBD has an opposite effect on anxiety, psychosis, and brain function as THC: it reduces anxiety, strengthens brain connections, and reduces symptoms of psychosis.
Could it reduce heart rate as well?
There are several studies that explore CBD’s effect on heart rate, and we go over them thoroughly in this article. But we decided that wasn’t enough, and we put the science to the test on our favorite guinea pigs (us).
I tested CBD’s effect on my resting heart rate, my heart rate after cardio, and my heart rate after a (particularly extreme) sauna session. Keep reading to find out the results.
Does CBD affect heart rate?
Yes, CBD may reduce heart rate under stressful conditions, but the evidence is mixed on whether CBD has any effect on heart rate in non-stressful conditions.
What the science says
Here’s a review of all the major studies conducted on CBD and heart rate:
- In one 2009 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology , rats were subjected to stressful conditions that increased their blood pressure and heart rate. After being given a dose of CBD, their heart rate and blood pressure decreased.
- In this 2017 randomized, double-blind, placed controlled clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ,CBD was found to reduce blood pressure in healthy male participants but increase heart rate compared to the placebo group.
- In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology , participants were given either a large dose of CBD prior to a public speaking event or a placebo. The researchers reported lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels for the CBD group.
So, the two studies which applied CBD in stressful conditions (one in rats and one in humans) both found reduced blood pressure and heart rate, but the study which applied CBD in non-stressful situations found only a reduction in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate.
Does CBD only affect heart rate in stressful conditions?
This suggests that CBD may only reduce heart rate if heart rate has otherwise been increased by stressful conditions. This makes sense because increased heart rate and blood pressure is a result of autonomic arousal, aka the “fight or flight” response that is activated upon stress. Autonomic arousal is also the mechanism behind anxiety and panic attacks, and CBD is well-known as an effective anxiety reliever: one 2019 study in The Permanente Journa l and another in the Journal of Neurotherapeutics both found that CBD reduced anxiety.
So, CBD anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects are likely related to its potential ability to reduce heart rate.
CBD and THC: two very different cannabinoids
It’s important to note that, while CBD and THC are both derivatives of cannabis, when it comes to acute cardiovascular function they appear to have opposite effects: THC increases autonomic arousal, whereas CBD reduces it; CBD may reduce heart rate, but THC is known to increase heart rate.
This key difference in the two cannabinoids — in how they affect the nervous system — explains why one, THC, is associated with increased anxiety and psychosis, while the other, CBD, is associated with the opposite.
The difference also provides further reason to believe that CBD and THC may function best in combination, especially given the substantial evidence indicating that CBD may reduce negative side-effects of THC (including on brain function). For instance, in this September 2019 study just conducted by the University of Western Ontario , they found that CBD blocked the psychiatric side-effects of THC. PhD candidate and head researcher Roger Hudson explained that “ CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behaviour and addictive-like behaviour caused by the THC.”
What about CBD’s overall effect on the cardiovascular system?
As with CBD’s effect on heart rate, this is a very open question. Bottom line is: we don’t know, because little research has been done on CBD’s effect on the cardiovascular system.
Large studies on marijuana use and cardiovascular function have found little definitive evidence of a positive or negative effect, and since CBD has much less of an impact on the cardiovascular system than THC it’s reasonable to assume that CBD has minimal impact on cardiovascular health overall.
But there’s more to it than that, and two recent studies have indicated that CBD may in fact have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
Two studies: CBD reduces heart inflammation
In this 2013 review of several studies published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology , CBD was found to positively influence white blood cell survival and migration related to heart disease. The researchers concluded that “ A common theme throughout these studies is the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of CBD. In the heart, in vivo CBD treatment protects against ischaemia-reperfusion damage and against cardiomyopathy associated with diabetes.”
The second 2016 study published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine CBD reduced markers of inflammation in individuals with autoimmune myocarditis, a condition which causes inflammation of the heart.
So, while it’s far too early to determine how exactly CBD influences cardiovascular function, there is promising evidence that CBD’s known anti-inflammatory properties apply to the heart as well, and that CBD can potentially reduce heart-related inflammation.
The CBD heart rate experiment
So, there’s the hard science on how CBD affects heart rate. Now, for the fun part: I put it to the test. To measure my heart rate I used a FitBit, and for each test I took 40 mg of NuLeaf Naturals organic full-spectrum CBD oil.
Given that the science indicates different results in different conditions, we tested CBD’s effect on my heart rate in three different conditions: resting, during exercise, and after a sauna session.
Test 1: Resting heart rate
This is the simplest test we conducted: each day over a period of three days, at the same time (2:00 PM) each day, we measured my heart rate without CBD, and then I took a 40mg dose of NuLeaf Naturals organic full-spectrum CBD oil, we waited 30 minutes, and we measured my heart rate again. We then took the average of all three measurements. Here are the results:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Average|
As you can see, I did experience a modest reduction in heart rate after taking the CBD, though the reduction wasn’t consistent and it wasn’t outside the normal variation in my heart rate.
Test 2: Heart rate while exercising
For this test, I ran for 20 minutes on a treadmill at a constant rate (5mph), got off the treadmill and measured my heart rate, then took a dose of CBD, waited 30 minutes, got back on the treadmill at the same rate for the same time (20 mins) and measured my heart rate again. As with the first test, we did this three times over three days and took the average of all three.
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Average|
Again, we found a relatively small reduction in heart rate, though this reduction was consistent across all three days.
Test 3: Heart rate after sauna
This test was a bit more complicated. I’m a regular sauna user, and fewer things jack your heart rate up more than the sauna. I was curious if CBD would have any effect on how quickly my heart rate returned to normal after a sauna session.
Here’s the test: I did a 20 minute sauna session at 200 degrees (brutal) without CBD then measured my heart rate immediately after getting out, and then again every three minutes to determine how long it returned to normal. The next day I repeated the same process but with CBD.
|Immediately after sauna||3 minutes after sauna||6 minutes after||9 minutes after||12 minutes after|
The results for this one are interesting: my heart rate was higher immediately after getting out with CBD, but fell faster with the CBD and reached a lower point 9 minutes after.
None of the results of my experiments were SUPER eye-catching, but as you can see from the charts I did experience a modest but noticeable reduction in heart rate after taking CBD across all three experiments. However, these tests also were all under non-stressful conditions: even the ones involving cardio and sauna ultimately aren’t a great test of the “fight or flight” response. The increased heart rate and blood pressure during physical activity is a physical adaptation that’s different from the increase you’d see with anxiety.
A better test, and one that I will try to conjure up over the next few weeks, is testing my heart rate under anxiety-inducing conditions, and then testing with CBD under the same conditions to see if there’s any difference. Stay tuned, folks!
FAQ on CBD and Heart Rate
Does CBD affect heart rate medication?
Actually, CBD is metabolized by the same liver enzymes as 60% of medications on the market, so it can block these enzymes and allow more of the medication into your system. If you are on any medications, including heart rate medication, discuss CBD with your doctor before using.
Does CBD increase your heart rate?
One study we reviewed did record an increase in heart rate after consumption of CBD (though the blood pressure of the participants was lowered). However, other studies (and our own experiments) indicate that CBD is more likely to decrease heart rate.
Does vaping CBD increase heart rate?
Vaping CBD does allow you to consume more concentrated doses of CBD, which may have more of an affect on heart rate than other methods. But the evidence indicates that even at more potent doses CBD is more likely to decrease than increase your heart rate.
I Took CBD Oil Every Day for My Anxiety—Here’s What Went Down
Dana Myers, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and life coach based in Philadelphia. She has a special interest in how race, sex, gender, ethnicity, social status and competencies impact those in marginalized communities and aims to help her clients find purpose and peace in life.
Michelle Regalado is a seasoned editor, fact-checker, and content strategist with expertise in women’s lifestyle news.
When I first learned about CBD oil, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. My mind immediately turned to weed and the unnerving experiences I’d had with heightened anxiety in college. For me, a person who’s already predisposed to overthinking, marijuana, no matter what the form, would typically put my mind into overdrive and result in a common yet dreaded side effect: Paranoia. But, let’s back up a bit. What even is CBD?
What is CBD?
A bit of online digging led me to realize that the active ingredient in Charlotte’s Web Everyday Plus Hemp Oil, the product I’d been offered to test, was the chemical compound CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. Unlike THC, the other crucial compound in hemp and marijuana plants, CBD (when derived from the hemp plant) does not produce the psychoactive effects that make you feel “high”; instead, emerging science has hinted that CBD may actually ease anxiety, and therefore, makes you less likely to freak out.
For example, one study comparing the effects of THC and CBD found that, while THC increased anxiety by activating the neurotransmitters involved in the “fight or flight” response, CBD actually repressed autonomic arousal—or the nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD may be ideal for people looking to relax and unwind.
While the science behind CBD’s effectiveness for treating anxiety, pain, and insomnia is still in its infancy, Charlotte Figi’s inspiring story sounds promising. Figi, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare and resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was placed on hospice care and given a “do not resuscitate” order when her parents, desperate and frustrated with pharmaceutical medication, considered medical marijuana; specifically, a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Charlotte is now nearly seizure-free since she began supplementing with Charlotte Web’s CBD oil, which the brand named after Figi.
Legal and Safety Things To Know About CBD
The current CBD industry is like the internet’s early years. the Wild West. Legally, speaking, a Harvard Medical School blog post reads, “All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it.” With heightened interest around CBD, it’s important to note that because CBD is currently unregulated, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting (whether that’s a tincture—commonly referred to as CBD oil, which is often combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil—topical products like creams and balms, sprays, or capsules), despite product labels and brand promises, the blog post further reads. It’s also important to note that people experience CBD differently. For the most part, the National Institute of Medicine says that while most people can tolerate CBD, side effects do exist. They might include dry mouth, drowsiness, and reduced appetite, among others.
That said, those interested in exploring the potential benefits of CBD should consult with their doctor (especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or currently taking medication) and be mindful of your dosage, writes Consumer Reports. And before you buy, Megan Villa, co-founder of the hemp-focused website and shop Svn Space, told Shape magazine to seek out a certificate of analysis. “Ask for a COA for the batch number of the product you have, since these products are made in batches,” she said. “You need to match the batch number to the COA that pertains to it.” Then, scan the report for potency (i.e. does the number of milligrams of CBD that the product label touts match the lab report?), contaminants and pesticides, and mold (which should live under the “Microbiological Testing” part of the report). Go a step further and note whether the testing lab is GMP (Good Manufacturing Principles) certified, and whether the lab is registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shape magazine also suggests purchasing CBD products made from domestically-grown hemp, and reading up on the difference between full- and broad-spectrum and CBD isolate.
With that, I threw caution to the wind and asked for a sample. Here’s what happened—including what it feels like—when I took one full dropper of Charlotte’s Web’s Everyday Plus Hemp Oil in the mint chocolate flavor every morning for seven days.
My First Impression
It was actually a bad bout of jet lag after a trip to California that inspired me to finally test out the CBD oil (I’ll admit that my weed-based reservations kept me from trying it for the first few months). Knowing that the oil had also helped people with sleep issues, I squeezed one full dropper of the Everyday Plus oil onto my tongue, per the instructions, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, I was surprised by how subtle the effect was. While I expected a hazy nodding-off effect similar to melatonin’s, the oil simply relaxed my body ever so slightly—my heart stopped pounding against my chest, my legs stopped kicking beneath my sheets, my mind stopped racing. I wasn’t sure if it was the oil or the late hour, but eventually, physical relaxation gave way to mental relaxation, and I drifted off to sleep.
Reflecting the next morning, I was most surprised by the fact that I never felt “high” in any way—there was never a moment of It’s kicking in; I can feel it now like with pain medications or even anti-anxiety drugs. Considering it takes time, consistency, and the right dosage to experience the full effect, I continued taking the oil once a day for the next six days. Here’s what went down.
It Made Me Less Anxious and Edgy
Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go.
While normally I’d be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go. In some ways, I feel more like myself. With that said, I’ve still experienced some social anxiety when meeting new groups of people—I’d be interested to see what taking the full recommended dose would do.
I’m More Focused At Work
I work well under pressure, but being extremely busy at work has almost made me less productive—I’m constantly distracted by email, Slack, and the people around me, to the point where getting my work done becomes difficult. This week, however, I’ve found it easier to put my blinders on, block out all distractions (especially social distractions), and focus on one task at a time. I think this is partly related to the lessened anxiety—I feel more frazzled and off task when my anxiety is running high. It almost feels like a newfound sense of clarity and calm that enables me to focus.
I’m Falling Asleep Faster
I assume this is also a side effect of feeling less anxious, but I seem to fall asleep faster; within the 20-30-minute range rather than my normal 45 minutes to one hour (or longer). Not only do I seem to be skipping or at least shortening the whole tossing-and-turning phase of my sleep cycle, but I’m able to snap out of the overthinking that often keeps me up at night. Of course, there’s no telling whether a big life event would disrupt this newfound bliss, but I’d like to think it’s helped on a day-to-day basis.
My Experience With CBD
Would I say that CBD oil has fundamentally changed my life? No. But per the Charlotte’s Web website, this is the typical first experience. “Anyone who has ever started a new vitamin or supplement routine knows the short answer to how long it takes to kick in is—’it depends.’ For many newcomers, they’re not sure what to imagine, or some anticipate a huge change right away. For most of us, though, dietary supplements take time.”
With that said, I’m definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil and to possibly up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that it’s an all-natural product that’s responsibly grown on family farms in Colorado. Something that’s safe, legal, requires no prescription, and makes me less anxious, less scatterbrained, and more focused? I’m definitely on board.
Explore the World of CBD
Looking to learn more about CBD? These are some of my favorite products to help get you started.
For those new to CBD, Charlotte’s Web recommends this hemp oil. Containing 17mg of CBD per 1mL serving, this CBD oil is also U.S. Hemp Authority Certified. Choose from four different flavors including Lemon Twist, Mint Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Olive Oil.
Go deep on the subject of CBD with this book that includes case studies, interviews with doctors, an overview of the latest cannabis research, and how scientists are exploring cannabis for various medical uses. There is also an explainer about the difference between CBD products made from industrial hemp versus in a lab, and products made from the whole marijuana plant.
Charlotte’s Web inaugural CBD oil product comes in two flavors; Olive Oil and Mint Chocolate. It’s also its most potent. According to its website, its Original Formula Hemp Extract Oil comes with 50mg CBD per mL.
Gretchen Lidicker puts a lifestyle spin on the world of CBD as the author draws on the “knowledge of leaders in the health and wellness world” to explain why CBD has become a top beauty and wellness trend for top athletes and celebrities. The book also includes recipes and recommendations for how to choose a top-quality CBD product.
This travel-friendly roll-on is packed with CBD and fragrant essential oils, including lavender, bergamot, and chamomile, for an easy de-stress quick fix. The result? “That elusive feeling of wakeful calm,” reads the Sagely Naturals website.
With this book, CBD is explained from A to Z and breaks down the good, bad, and ugly of a fledgling industry that is poised for rapid growth. CBD: 101 Things You Need to Know About CBD Oil covers what it is, why people take it, who it’s for (and who it isn’t for), its myriad forms, and more.
Lord Jones’ High CBD Formula Body Oil combines CBD with organic avocado, jojoba and safflower oils for smooth, hydrated skin. Each bottle has 100mg of CBD.
Charlotte’s Web’s Extra Strength Capsules feature 25 mg of CBD per capsule. The website offers capsules as a convenient and precise way to take CBD—on the go, stash them in your gym bag, pocket, etc.
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041