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CBD & Statins: Can CBD Replace Statins as Cholesterol Medication?

Statins, a class of drugs that targets the liver’s cholesterol production to lower the overall cholesterol levels in the bloodstream does little to address the inherent problem.

Although doctors address these by recommending you make some changes in your lifestyle and habits, besides prescribing statins, we’re sure that has not been enough for you.

Perhaps, you’re so fed up with the side-effects of this potent drug that you’re looking for alternative ways to lower your cholesterol and prevent life-threatening diseases from developing.

According to some studies, statins can help patients only partially, but may also lead to more devastating problems at a later stage.

Statins & their Side-Effects

Despite being effective in curbing your overall blood cholesterol, statins can cause some severe damage to a patient’s health. They could lead to muscle damage, neurological problems, an increase in blood sugar, and occasional liver damage.

These are mainly due to the way statins work.

Remember, your body needs cholesterol, and NOT ALL cholesterol is BAD cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a waxy fatty acid found in almost all human cells. You need it to produce hormones, Vitamin D, bile (for digestion), and even carry out some brain functions.

While your liver produces only “good” cholesterol (known as high-density lipoproteins or HDL), it’s the food we consume that brings in most of the “bad” ones (i.e. low-density lipoproteins LDL).

Ironically, our body has a funny way of storing everything, which is available in abundance, for times when you may not have access to it.

So, when there’s an excess of cholesterol in your body, it gets stored in your arteries. While all good ones get used up for the regular bodily functions, it’s, unfortunately, the bad ones that get stored in your arteries as plaque.

Statins don’t directly remove plaque. It simply blocks the enzyme (3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl or HMG) that produces cholesterol, thus halting its production and lowering the total cholesterol available in your bloodstream. Then, your body is forced to reabsorb the built-up cholesterol from your arteries.

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Years of studies mostly indicate that “positively influencing HDL-Cholesterol levels may lead to a decrease in cardiovascular mortality”. However, some recent studies have denied the correlation between LDL cholesterol rise and cardiovascular diseases.

Nevertheless, owing to the hazards of prolonged statin-use, patients often turn to alternative therapies, including natural ones, like Cannabidiol, to manage their symptoms or the side-effects of statins.

CBD is a cannabis extract that has proven to be quite effective in helping people manage their symptoms, but with none of the adverse effects associated with the plant.

Can CBD Effectively Replace Statins

CBD is known for many therapeutic effects on the body. However, not many direct studies are available to prove CBD can remove plaque and lower blood cholesterol levels.

Nevertheless, here are a few studies and their deductions:

  • Researchers of a May 2020 study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, led by Hector L Lopez, concluded that CBD can effectively boost HDL levels due to its indirect control over certain receptors in the brain. This process was seen to lower the LDL levels in overweight, but otherwise healthy individuals, within six weeks, even with a normal diet.
  • According to a 2016 study, published in the Molecular Cell Biochemistry, CBD helps convert unhealthy white fats into healthy brown ones by “browning of lipids” in the body, thus preventing obesity.
  • According to a 2016 study, published in the Diabetes Care of the American Diabetes Association, CBD can regulate insulin production and sugar metabolism to boost the body’s capacity to “brown” unhealthy fats.
  • Another 2013 study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, indicated that CBD oil “reduces the cardiovascular response to various types of stress”, thus reducing the risk of a heart attack and other cardiac diseases, and indirectly regulates cholesterol content in the blood.

Besides addressing the cholesterol factor, CBD has also been seen to promote heart health. Here are a few studies that suggest that CBD has cardio-protective properties:

  • According to a 2010 study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, CBD can prevent cardiac arrests and other diseases caused by weakened heart muscles in diabetic patients.
  • A 2015 controlled trial on rabbits, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, concluded that CBD has cardio-protective properties that can prevent heart attacks, as well as lower their intensity and frequency.
  • A 2020 study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, activation of CB2 receptors can “have (a) beneficial immunomodulatory impact and exert cardiovascular protection”. CBD is known to indirectly interact with the CB2 receptor, via the 5-HT3A receptor in the brain.
  • According to a 2019 study, published in the Recent Advances in Cannabinoid Physiology and Pathology, CBD holds promise for cardiovascular diseases since cannabinoids “not only therapeutically interfere with the vasculature”…but “also affect the heart as target organ”.
  • A 2019 study, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, also suggests that endocannabinoids have cardioprotective agents. CBD’s activation of the “peripheral CB1/CB2 receptors may be the new therapeutic approach to address…cardiac diseases”.
  • A 2019 paper, published in the Recent Advances in Cannabinoid Physiology and Pathology, points out that CBD causes blood vessels to relax (vasorelaxant), allowing more blood to flow through them, easing the stress on the heart, thus establishing a close link between cardiovascular diseases and the endocannabinoid system.

From these findings, we can deduce that the endocannabinoids could be the future of cardiovascular therapies or at least assist in alleviating some of the critical symptoms associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Besides, stress and anxiety, which often aggravate such physical issues, can be addressed by CBD as well.

Will CBD Interact with Statins When Taken Together?

The extent of CBD-Statin interaction is still not very clear. Nevertheless, it’s been observed that CBD inhibits some of the liver enzymes required to break down statins. This may lead to an unnatural increase in the concentration of statins in the bloodstream, leading to a toxic amount of the medication to accumulate in the bloodstream.

With prolonged use, this could mean more health hazards for the patient, including an intensification of the statins’ side-effects.

Here are what we know:

  1. Statins are metabolized by the liver’s Cytochrome P450 group of liver enzymes. Some of the types of statins and the isoenzymes that help in their breakdown are indicated below:
  1. Studies indicate the CBD inhibits CYP3A enzymes, especially CYP3A4 and CYP3A5, as well as CYP2C9 and CYP2C19
  2. Even though CBD, taken alone is considered safe, its prolonged use can interfere with the normal functioning of these isoenzymes, thus lowering the blood statin clearance rate.
  3. This leads to higher concentrations of the drug remaining in the bloodstream, causing more severe side-effects than what could normally be expected from using statins alone.

Since direct evidence of CBD-Statin interactions are few, the above facts point to a potential health risk for patients, whose bodies are already weakened by cholesterol depositing in their arteries or are developing cardiovascular diseases.

Nevertheless, here are a few citations that we managed to get our hands on in this connection:

  • According to the March 2020 edition of the Pharmacist’s Guide to CBD oil, CBD, being a strong CYP3A4 inhibitor, can potentially decrease statins’ efficacy.
  • In another 2020 study, published in CMAJ, it was found that CBD levels may also increase or decrease owing to the effects of certain drugs, which could, in turn, alter the way it impacts other drugs in the bloodstream.
  • A July 2019 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, CBD has “a complex pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile” like any other medication, with the “potential to interact with other drugs and medical conditions”. The research has listed statins as one of the classes of drugs that can interact with CBD in the body.

As far as anecdotal evidence goes, discussions on public forums have indicated that significant effects of interactions have only been seen in rare cases of chronic usage of both chemical compounds in very high doses.

If you notice any visible drug interactions, you must stop CBD or alter the statin dose to prevent any unnecessary health risk. No matter what, this shouldn’t be attempted at home, i.e. without direct supervision by a certified medical practitioner.

Ray of Hope: Scientists Raise Patent Request for Combo-Drug

A recent request for a patent of a combination drug, raised by pharmacological inventors James Smeeding and Mathew Sherwood, has kindled hope among many cholesterol patients. The request was for a pharmaceutical composition, containing both a statin and a cannabinoid. This would mean getting the best of both worlds!

The researchers pointed out that using phytocannabinoids could boost the human endocannabinoid system’s efficiency.

Considering that the pharmacologists must have compared the risk-benefit ratio of possible interaction between the two chemical compounds, we may infer that the potential risks are low.

Nevertheless, since the patent is still pending clearance from the authorities, who have the findings of their research, we would conclude by saying that more clinical trials into CBD-statin interactions are required to know for certain.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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