By Pat Anson, PNN Editor
Medical cannabis is being used to treat dozens of health conditions, from chronic pain, muscle spasms and nausea to hepatitis, HIV and glaucoma. Now we’re learning that cannabis may also be a useful treatment for high blood pressure.
A small study conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel found that cannabis significantly reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in older adults with hypertension. The study, recently published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, is believed to be the first to document the cardiovascular benefits of cannabis.
“Older adults are the fastest growing group of medical cannabis users, yet evidence on cardiovascular safety for this population is scarce,” said lead author Dr. Ran Abuhasira of BGU and Soroka University’s Cannabis Clinical Research Institute. “This study is part of our ongoing effort to provide clinical research on the actual physiological effects of cannabis over time.”
Twenty-six patients aged 60 and older either smoked cannabis or ingested it through oils, while their blood pressure, heart rate, and body measurements were monitored. After three months of cannabis therapy, their mean 24-hour systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced by 5.0 mmHg and 4.5 mmHg, respectively. Blood pressure was lowest three hours after ingesting cannabis and at night.
Researchers believe that pain relief, the primary reason most patients use medical cannabis, may have contributed to lowered blood pressure.
Previous studies by BGU researchers found that cannabis significantly reduced pain in older adults living with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions. Most patients also said their quality of life improved.
A growing number of seniors are discovering the medical benefits of cannabis. A recent survey of patients at a geriatric clinic in Southern California found that over half were using cannabis on a daily or weekly basis, usually to treat pain, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression. Although medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they used cannabis for the first time as older adults.