By Dr. Kimberly Free, ND
Cardiovascular or Heart Disease and its complications are the leading cause of death in the world today. Atherosclerosis, a progressive condition where arterial damage occurs in the walls of the blood vessels resulting in narrowing of the arteries and a subsequent decrease in blood flow, affects all organs and tissues of the body. This decrease in blood flow is called Ischemia and it is dangerous because it causes a shortage of oxygen, glucose, and other essential nutrients to flow to the cells and tissues, most importantly to the Heart, Brain, and Kidneys.
Inflammation, specifically chronic inflammation, is the originating factor in most cardiovascular diseases and chronic pain states. Systemic inflammation in the body is caused by poor diet and nutrition, infection, endothelial damage, diabetes, obesity and nicotine consumption. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels or ‘blood sugars’ along with ingesting therapeutic amounts of essential fatty acids like Omega 3’s found in Flax, Fish and Krill oil assist the body in keeping inflammation and the immune response in balance. A diet rich in antioxidants like those found in fresh berries, vegetables and greens also balances the inflammatory response.
Looking to the Endocannabinoid System, research has shown that it is the activation of the CB₂ receptor that limits the body’s inflammatory response. The CB₂ receptor is found on circulating blood immune system cells, in the spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia, on the heart muscle and metabolic cells of the heart, on the nerves of the small and large intestine, on the cells of the liver, pancreas and bones, and also on the cells lining the blood vessels throughout the body. Activation of the CB₂ receptor inhibits plaque formation in the arteries by decreasing adhesion of platelets, proliferation, and fibrotic remodeling. Consequently, activation of the CB₁ receptor causes a decrease in blood pressure and affects myocardial conductivity causing tachycardia or fast, racing heartbeat. This results in a promotion of the stress response, the release of reactive oxygen species, and an increase in systemic inflammation.
The phytocannabinoids CBD, THCV and CBC have all demonstrated activity at the CB₂ receptor site, and the ability to balance the inflammatory and immune system response. CBD standing for Cannabidiol balances blood glucose levels and increases cellular sensitivity to insulin. It improves the metabolism by increasing myocyte (heart muscle cell) survival, and improving mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are our cells ‘powerhouses’ manufacturing the chemical energy used by the entire body. Cannabidiol is a more potent antioxidant than vitamins A and E. It increases dopamine activity, helping to balance the pain response and serves as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, balancing the mood and digestive functions. Cannabidiol preserves hippocampal cell function and acetylcholine levels, helping us to maintain our short term memory and our ability to learn new things. It is neuroprotective and has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
THCV or Tetrahydrocannabivarin is also a potent anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that THCV has the ability to reduce appetite and food intake and is being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes and obesity. THCV also enhances 5-HT or serotonin receptor activation, decreasing symptoms of psychosis. Due to this effect, it is currently being researched as a treatment for schizophrenia and PTSD. CBC or Cannabichromene is a potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Research is demonstrating its ability to promote bone and neuron cell growth.
The phytocannabinoids of the Cannabis plant are proving to be potent anti-inflammatory and supportive healing agents for numerous health care conditions. Along with the Omega 3 fatty acids, research is proving they are regenerative food for both the Brain and Heart.